I was seven-years-old the first time I ever became acquainted with the “I” word.
It had been close to a week, and I was having trouble falling asleep at night. Concerned, my mother took me to the pediatrician who informed her I had insomnia. I can vividly recall him asking me, “Has anything been worrying you lately?”
As it turns out, the answer was yes. Even at a young age, I had problems turning off my monkey mind. Nearly 30 years later, and not a whole lot has changed. As a result, I know insomnia well.
Over the years, I have tried a variety of over-the-counter and prescription remedies. However, the most effective remedy I have found has been a regular yoga practice. While I cannot say that this has completely eliminated my insomnia, it certainly has been a much more infrequent visitor.
Another tip I found is to cut out all screen time—computers, smart phone, TV—at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
I usually do the below routine right 10 minutes before I crawl into bed.
Sit up on a blanket or towel for more support. Close the eyes and notice the natural rhythm of the breath. Check in with the mind and just notice the thoughts in your head rather than try to replace them or make them go away. (This is usually always counterproductive.) Slowly open the eyes and make your way down to the floor in pose number two.
2. Balasana/child’s pose.
Place the head all the way to the floor. Allow the arms to come by the sides and breath for at least five minutes here. (Sometimes, I like to set a timer to make sure I am staying for at least that long.) Imagine all the negative thoughts, anxiety, and worry rolling off of you like water off a duck and onto the earth. Check in with the breath frequently and often. If any particular thought or worry is causing a lot of anxiety, try to breath through it. From here, slowly make your way to the hands and knees and set up for the next pose.
3. Cat/cow pose.
Start in cat by curling the back towards the sky like a frightened Halloween cat and then come into the cow pose by coming back to a tabletop position and dropping the belly towards the ground. Spent at least three to four breaths in each pose. Keep the elbows bent and the neck soft. Look over each shoulder in the cow pose if you so desire. (While the purpose here is to stretch the spine, you are not preparing yourself for a vigorous series. Think rest and relaxation and go slower than you usually do in these poses.)
Find a spot at the wall or prop the legs up the side of the bed if you do not have the wall space. Allow the legs to rest completely on the wall or bed. Close the eyes and count backwards from the number 20. Visualize each number in your head as you count down. Once you reach zero, take an additional three breaths here before rolling on to your side. Slowly, make your way into the bed.
5. Journal it out.
If you are still having problems falling asleep 30 minutes so after this series, then try the tried and true journal method. Spend five to 10 minutes writing out any fears, worries or concerns that may be plaguing you. You don’t have to write in full sentences or even go back later and read what you wrote. At the end of the exercise, put away your writing out sight and head back to bed.
In conclusion, insomnia can be a pain to deal with, but there are effective ways to deal with it. If chronic insomnia is a problem, then seek medical help. However, before you reach for the pills—herbal or prescription—try the above sequence and tips and see if they make a difference.
Hopefully, they will allow for a good night’s sleep to be a reality and not just a wishful dream.
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Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Nenad Druzic/Pixoto