How to cope with sleep problems is a common question. Sleep problems can have a negative impact on our emotional balance and health. Lack of sleep disturbs the metabolism which may lead to weight gain, memory loss, depression and overeating. Everyone has experienced sleeping problems at one time or another. This is normal and usually temporary. However, in my Ayurveda consultations I often hear clients complain about having troubles sleeping on a daily basis. This can have a negative effect on the health and mental well-being.
There are many causes of sleep deprivation. One major cause is stress. It can be mental stress or physical stress. You might find that there are not enough hours in the day to do all the things you need to do or you might find it difficult to say no and overload yourself with more work and responsibilities. Maybe you can’t disconnect from emails or your smart phone and constantly run on emergency mode. The constant need to stay connected and doing things is extremely stressful and affects all systems of the body including the nervous system.
Coffee and Sugar
Coffee and sugar can affect our sleep. Coffee and refined carbs, chocolate and sugary sweets wakes up our system. Some body types “get high” on coffee and sweet foods. When your body is “high”, you have awaken your fire energy. This is why you can’t fall asleep at night. If you toss and turn every night, the best thing would be to eliminate or avoid caffeine and sweet foods after 3pm.
Are you restless?
Being restless and always trying to “do something” and fix problems may very well cause sleeping problems. If you constantly worry about all the things you haven’t done yet or things you should do, emails you must write, you put tremendous stress onto your system. Do you give yourself time to completely relax when you have a day off? When you come home from work, do you allow yourself to just “be”? To be means “not to do” – not to check your phone, not to sit in front of a screen, not to turn on the TV but simply to sit down in silence, breathe deeply and let go of anything negative that might disturb your system. If you are running around all the time, your mind is running around too!
Are you living in the past?
The past is gone. This might sound very harsh but it is! You might have lost a loved one, you might be going through a break up or a divorce, you might go through a lot of emotions right now, and that is okay. Accept those emotions, allow yourself to be sad, cry and scream, but don’t hold on to them. Anxiety and depression are common causes of insomnia. Watch your mind and your thoughts. Clinging on to the past will take you nowhere. Telling yourself, “if I had done this”, or “if I had said that, maybe things would have been different…”, will not take you anywhere, but will only keep you awake all the night. Cry if you need to, stay in bed as long as you need, and then move on! Drink lavender tea or valerian tea before bedtime, it helps to calm down the nervous system and helps relive insomnia.
The more negative stress you put into your system the more it will affect your sleep. Sleep deprived people have a tendency to eat unhealthy, to suffer from addictions and have constant food cravings, especially cravings for sugary or salty foods. This is the body telling you – Hey, I am stressed!
The best thing to cure sleeping problems is to give yourself time to unwind and spend time alone. Make sure you find space to de-stress the mind every day. How do you do that? By practicing 10 min gentle Yoga before bed time or early evening, by listening to soothing de-stress music or guided meditation, go for silent walks or treat yourself to a relaxing Yoga retreat.
Practicing deep breathing is another wonderful way to de-stress the system and very helpful if you have sleep problems. Try to practice deep breathing every day between 3-10 min. You can also practice alternate nostril breathing which is great to de-stress the mind and body. You can do it with me here, it is just a 3 min practice that help your mind to calm down before bedtime:
Try not to worry too much. Life is here and now, not yesterday or tomorrow. Have patience, stay calm and positive, and sleep will come!