Updated: Feb 1
How to Fall Asleep
By Oran Aviv
Not being able to fall asleep or not being able to fall back to sleep can be very stressful. Here are some tips to help you to sleep.
After publishing 10 sleep tips to prevent insomnia in last week's blog Sleep Well – Part 1, I realized that there is so much to discuss about sleep, that I will need to write a 3rd blog on this subject, I am first going to add a few more important tips that might help us sleep better, and then discuss how to fall asleep or fall back to sleep.
Sleep Tip #11 – Food and Drink What you eat or drink at night might be keeping you awake.
Caffeine can keep us awake and it is not just found in coffee. Green teas, black teas and all teas that are not herbal and/or without caffeine may keep you from falling asleep. Colas with caffeine may do the same.
Chocolate also contains caffeine as well as sugar – both can affect your sleep. Think about the kids who become hyper after having too much sugar. That is not the state you want to be in before falling asleep!
Citrus fruits should also be avoided. They can increase your mental stimulation and give you more energy – not something you want before bed! For this reason I only take a vitamin C supplement in the morning.
A quick check on cocnsumerlab.com showed that other supplements may also cause insomnia:
“Some supplements, especially energy drinks, weight loss supplements, and cocoa products, as well as red yeast rice, garlic, policosanol, DHEA, chromium and high doses of vitamin D, vitamin b-12, potassium and coenzyme Q10 might interfere with sleep.”
Certain medications may also cause insomnia, so check all medications and supplements to see if they may be the cause of sleep issues.
Sleep Tip #12 – Scents and Lotions
Several years ago the aromatherapy oil burners became very popular, and many families were using essential oils like eucalyptus and peppermint to prevent respiratory issues, especially in the winter. Some would light the burner in the children’s’ bedrooms before they went to sleep, but these and other oils are stimulants and were preventing children from falling asleep!
According to my Aromatherapy An A-Z, by Patricia Davis, The essential oils that stimulate are Black Pepper, Eucalyptus, Peppermint, Geranium, Rosemary I would also avoid the essential oils made from citrus fruits like Orange, Lemon and Bergamot before going to sleep.
You might also be using a cream or lotion that contains oils or other ingredients that are keeping you awake at night. They may be ingredients that are stimulants, or you may not be reacting well to them.
It took me several weeks to realize that a new face cream I had bought, from a natural skincare company that I love, was keeping me up at night. I stopped using the product and slept better. While preparing for this blog series on sleep, I tried the night cream again – and I did not sleep well. I don’t know if it was from the thickness of the cream that affected my sleep or that it contained three types of Vitamin C.
If you find a sudden change in your sleep patterns, check if it may be from a new skincare product.
Sleep Tip # 13 – Jewelry and Watches If I forget to take off my earrings, I tend to sleep poorly. If I leave my watch on by mistake, I do not sleep well.
I don’t know the reason – maybe because pierced earrings are in the ear reflex of the head or maybe the earing pins poke me, but almost every time I forget to take off my earrings, I have a poor night’s sleep.
Certain types of metals in necklaces or bracelets may also cause irritation or affect sleep.
I wear a smart watch that besides measuring my runs and walks, also measures my pulse.
Many people wear these watches to bed to see how well they are sleeping, but I am sure having an electronic signal on the wrist all night long can not be that healthy and may also disrupt our sleep.
I sleep better without my watch on and I even make sure my watch and smart phone are not near me when I sleep. We are bombarded with so much electric and magnetic fields (EMF) radiation – that I prefer to give my body as much of a break as possible at night.
If you still are having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep – perhaps some of these tips will help.
Sleep Tip #14 – Bore Yourself
Have you ever read a book, perhaps for a class, that was so boring that you couldn’t keep your eyes open? Or perhaps you began an audio book that had a narrator with a very monotonic voice who ruined the audio version because you couldn’t concentrate on the story line?
These are the types of books that might help us fall asleep.
Reading can be helpful before going to sleep, because it gets us off our electronic devices and a novel can be one of fastest ways to escape from our present reality if we are going through a difficult time.
By reading a novel we can quickly enter the life of someone else and forget about some personal difficulties. It’s important, though, to choose a novel that does not over stimulate, so the story doesn’t keep us awake. I often find novels and even movies or TV shows making their way into my dreams and causing very unrestful sleep. I prefer the boring book.
I have several professional books on Anatomy by my bed. I love reading them during the day, but at night my brain can not focus on all the Latin terms and my eyes start to close.
I also have a couple of audio books that I used to fall asleep – mainly history books read by robotic sounding narrators. I have learned a bit about Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s husband - but I mainly listen to his life’s history to fall asleep.
Unfortunately when I bought my new phone, I did not realize that I can only use Blue Tooth earphones, so I don’t use this method anymore (Sorry Prince Albert.)
When I did use earphones, I would use the audio book timer and put in only one ear pod, lightly in my ear on he side closest to the phone. I put my phone on the floor and put it on the lowest volume, so I had to really concentrate to hear the recording. That way when I fell asleep, the sound wouldn’t wake me. The ear pod would just fall out when I turned. I would only use this method to fall asleep and not read or listen to a book if I wake up in the middle of the night.
Sleep Tip #15 - Homeopathy
In a previous blog First Aid for Stomach Woes, Dr. Yvette Lever shared which homeopathic remedies can help for food poisoning.
I am so happy that I prepared a homeopathic first aid kit according to Dr. Lever’s recommended remedies when we recently travelled to India and Bhutan. I felt very queasy at the end of our first day in Bhutan, but a homeopathic remedy worked wonders! I asked Dr. Lever to share what homeopathic remedies can help with sleep issues. Check with your own homeopath, but Dr. Lever recommends using 30 C potency and to take a dose every 30-60 minutes. Here are Dr. Lever’s recommendations for homeopathic remedies for falling asleep:
Coffea tosta Is for general sleeplessness from racing thoughts and a brain that just won’t switch off. This remedy can be used if you are too wired up to fall asleep (e,g, from drinking coffee.) Also if you can’t sleep from excitement (e.g., a child the night before her birthday.)
Note: If you are a coffee drinker, you may need to take Coffea Tosta every 20 minutes, and it may take longer to work.
Nux vomica If you have overindulged and can’t sleep because your digestion is disordered. This is also for specific waking at 3 am and not being able to fall back asleep.
Gelsemium If you can’t sleep because of anticipation anxiety like before a test or a performance or general anxiety.
Aconite If you can’t sleep after a fright or shock. Specific for waking up at midnight to 1:00 am and not being able to fall asleep again.
Many thanks to Dr. Yvette Lever, who is a South African trained homoeopath and has specialized in family practice for people (and their pets) for over 25 years. She treats patients/families from all over the world by Zoom.
You can contact Dr. Lever at Yvettelever@gmail.com
Or through her FB page: https://www.facebook.com/IntuitiveHom
Sleep Tip #16 – Observe your Thoughts
If you find that you’re seemingly endless thoughts are keeping you awake, instead of trying to turn them off, learn to observe them. Eckhart Tolle, the author of The Power of Now suggests:
Close your eyes and say to yourself: "I wonder what my next thought is going to be." Then become very alert and wait for the next thought. Be like a cat watching a mouse hole. What thought is going to come out of the mouse hole?
When I’ve done this exercise, I soon realize that my thoughts have run away again. I notice what I thought about, try to smile of where my mind went to and then I return and wait for my next thought to take me away. This can repeat many times – but slowly, that small space of time between waiting for your next thought and until your thought takes you elsewhere, gets a little bit longer - from seconds to a minute and then more.. It’s a technique you need to practice, but it makes you look at your thoughts in a different way.
Sleep Tip #17 - Look up I don’t know where I learned this tip, but someone taught me that when you look up while your eyes are closed, you increase your alpha brain waves - which calm. I was not able to find any information about looking up with closed eyes – and was concerned to recommend this tip. Many thanks to my friend and colleague, Craniosacral Therapist Sari Lewis from Sari Hands who explained that by looking up both with open or closed eyes, we stimulate the vagus nerve (The vagus nerve helps our body counteract stress) Sari adds that often, this technique will make you yawn which is an indication that the vagus nerve received the input.
I have used this technique while lying on my back in bed and breathing gently in and out. Looking up with closed eyes, often connects me to a different, more relaxed state of mind.
Sleep Tip #18 – Get Rescued This remedy is good for a night or two when you can’t fall asleep, but it should not be used as a treatment for chronic sleep issues. Rescue remedy is a Bach Flower Remedy which according to their site is:
The original flower essences (remedies) discovered by Dr Bach in the 1930's to provide support in times of emotional demand traditionally used to relieve feelings of mild anxiety, nervous tension, stress, agitation and provide a sense of focus and calm.
I have used Rescue Remedy when I was very stressed – sometimes before a flight, when there was just too much going on at once and even before performing in a show. We actually all passed around a dropper of Rescue Remedy backstage before the curtain went up! It calmed us. I was taught to put 3-4 drops inside a glass of water and sip slowly. I found that slowly sipping also calmed me. Others just use the dropper to put a few drops on or under their tongue.
When my son was waiting to do his high school matriculation exam in music – he had to perform a piano recital in front of judges. Another student, who was waiting her turn, suddenly realized that 10 years of learning piano had all come down to this one recital. She freaked and went into a full panic attack. She was in such a state that she couldn't perform her recital. Her mother was with her, and I explained about Rescue Remedy (at that time I always carried it with me – I see I have calmed down in the last 12 years. :-) ) They decided to try the remedy and the student calmed down and was able to play her recital. There is also a Rescue Remedy especially made to sleep better called Night. You can either buy drops or a spray.
Sleep Tip #19 - Body Scan
In this body scan, while lying down in bed, we bring our attention to different parts of our body, noticing if an area is tight or relaxed. We slowly move from the head to the feet, checking in on the state of each section of our body. I find this a good way to check where I’m holding tension and I often fall asleep before getting half-way through the body scan.
It doesn’t matter if you are lying on your back or side, just concentrate on each area at a time. Take several full breathes in each area till you feel the specific body area get heavy into the mattress.
Begin with your head, feel the heaviness of your head on the pillow. Notice if your jaw is shut tight, or if perhaps you can release your jaw a bit even feel space between your lips. Next slowly start to concentrate on your shoulders. Feel the weight of your shoulders on the mattress. Are your shoulders tight, pulled up near your ears or are they relaxed? I’m always surprised, especially on cold nights, that my shoulders are very tight rising up to my ears. I release them and try to feel the heaviness of my shoulders on the mattress.
Next concentrate on your chest area. Feel your lungs fill up with air. Feel how your ribcage grows both in front and in back of you. Slowly let the air back out. Repeat a few times and feel the heaviness of this chest area on the mattress.
Move on to the abdomen. Breathe into this area and feel your abdomen grow big with the breath. Slowly allow the breath to go out. Repeat several times and feel this area become heavy on the mattress.
Continue to your hip area. Feel the heaviness of your hips on the mattress.
Repeat for your thighs, your lower leg and your feet. Then feel how heavy your whole body now is on the mattress. If anytime during this body scan your mind starts to wander, go back and continue from the last area you remember fully relaxing or begin again from the head.
Sleep Tip #20 - Reflexology
What is interesting, is that Reflexology clients often discover that better sleep is a side effect of a reflexology session! Many people feel more relaxed after a session and find they sleep better at night. Often reflexology can help balance the hormone system including melatonin, the important sleep hormone.
If you are having chronic sleep issues, reflexology may help. There are reflexologists all over the world. Look up the Reflexology Association in your country or state to receive a listing of certified reflexologists. You are also welcome to write to me. firstname.lastname@example.org I am on forums with wonderful reflexologists all over the world.
Hand Reflexology for Sleep
We are going to use the Solar Plexus reflex point on the hand, a great reflex for relaxation.
To find this reflex point, slide down with your finger of your opposite hand between the middle and ring finger - over the fleshy area on your palm. Right under the fleshy area is the Solar Plexus point, marked in red in this photo. (Don't worry there is a film clip too!)
© 2021from Hands-on Dementia for Caregivers
In this video I show at 3:40 how to find the Solar Plexus reflex point on the hand.
While lying down, gently place the thumb of your right hand on the solar plexus point of the left hand. You do not need to press the point, just place your thumb on the reflex. You can relax your hands on your body or bed depending if you are lying on your back or side.
Take 3 or more deep breaths through the nose and out the mouth to release any tension in your body. With each breath feel your body getting heavier.
The point of this exercise is to bring our body to a state of relaxation, so that our body gets the rest it needs, and our brain and immune system can work to keep us healthy even if we aren't able to fall asleep. Often this exercise will also lead to sleep, but for now just try to get to a relaxed state.
While keeping your thumb on the solar plexus of the opposite hand, breathe slowly in and breathe slowly out through your nose and count one in your head.
Repeat breathing slowly in and out and count 2
·Continue the slow breathing in and out till you get to 10
If anytime during this exercise, your thoughts wander and you begin thinking of something else, stop and begin from the count of one again.
If you can get all the way through 10 slow breaths while keeping your thumb on the solar plexus, without your thoughts wondering, repeat all the exercise on the other hand, beginning with the 3 or more deep breathes.
Each time your thoughts wander – maybe you remembered something you need to do, or something you are worried about, make a mental note of what you thought about. Imagine writing the thought on a chalk board, and then go back to counting from 1 again.
You might notice that each time you catch the thought and mentally write it on the “chalk board” that thought doesn’t return.
Remember this is not a sleeping pill. What we are trying to do is put our body in a sleep -like state. If we fall asleep that is a wonderful side effect.
Learn to enjoy this time when you are not asleep to relax your body and mind.
If you wake up in the middle of the night, avoid looking at the time, stay in bed, in the dark and try this exercise. We want to remind our body that we are supposed to be in bed all night.
Next week I will share with you the method I recently developed that has helped me when I wake up at night and can’t fall back asleep.
It combines both using the solar plexus reflex point and the body scan (sleep tip #19.) I suggest you practice both this week to understand the full method I will share next week. If any of these tips have been helpful, if you have any quesions or you have other sleep tips to share, please comment below or share on our facebook group Wishing everyone a good rest tonight!
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