By Kathi Casey.
Insomnia is rampant among those over 40. Are you wishing that someone had told you about this before you got here, so that you could have stocked up on your sleep in your 30’s? If you are one of the 20 million Americans who feel that it’s become “the norm” as well as a frequent topic of conversation at parties and events, that in this day and age it’s impossible for anyone over 40 to get a good night’s sleep, help is here!
All the experts tell us that we need 7 – 8 hours of sleep at night, but as my Guru used to say, our minds are like monkeys – actually, drunken monkeys – who’ve been given too much coffee – you get the idea. It’s difficult for most of us to turn down the volume switch on our minds and get the sleep that we need. Let’s take a look at the problems associated with not getting 8 hours of restful sleep each night and what you can do about it.
Firstly, sleep deprivation can raise your blood pressure and Americans already have plenty of that going around! Secondly, insomnia can also cause memory problems, weight gain and headaches. Thirdly, well, if those are not reasons enough to try some of my techniques, then perhaps you should be talking with Dr. Phil…
Have faith, there are easy techniques that work, and you don’t need a second mortgage on your home to pay for them. I’m sure one of these will help you find those zzz’s. These three tips have helped me and many of my clients.
This is my number one recommendation for all insomniacs. It’s a Yogic Breathing practice that calms your mind, relieves anxiety, can help put your brain into “sleep mode”, and also lowers your blood pressure. How’s that for multitasking!
Brahmari breath works by creating a vibration in the brain, specifically in the pituitary gland. The pituitary releases endorphins into the body and endorphins not only make us feel good, they also reduce harmful levels of stress hormones like cortisol. The pituitary gland is located above the roof of the mouth and directly between the ears at the very center of the skull, so the combination of blocking your ears while humming your exhale results in this vibration. You may feel a little silly at first, but you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the results!
Begin by sitting comfortably. Relax your shoulders, lengthen your spine all the way up through the neck, then raise your hands and place your pointer fingers or thumbs over the flaps which you can press to close off your ears when exhaling. Rest your tongue gently against the roof of your mouth with teeth slightly apart but lips closed (to avoid tensing your jaw). Close your eyes, inhale deeply, then, keeping your mouth closed, exhale making a humming noise, while blocking off your ears by pressing the little flaps closed.
Closing off your ears so the humming is heard inside the head is important. Try to make your humming exhale as long as possible and take deep inhalations between breaths. Making the exhale longer and longer each time, complete at least five rounds (5 complete inhalations and exhalations).
If you practice this before bed, you’ll enjoy a more restful sleep. Practicing this for three minutes several times a day, can significantly lower your blood pressure. (My technique was tested with good results by Sharon Glassman of the Huffington Post, with a group of brilliant, compassionate and typically sleep-challenged professional women.)
There are almost as many guided meditation audios and downloads on the market today as tea in China. With listening corners in every store and online, you can usually sample a track before purchasing. When you hear something that makes your body relax – even just a little, pick it up! Belleruth Naparstek has some really great recordings for anyone who may be facing surgery, dealing with cancer, or other illnesses.
Guided meditations are done sitting or lying comfortably with arms and legs relaxed, and eyes closed. The best of these guided meditations will talk you through a whole body relaxation exercise first and then take you off to never, never land. Now, it’s ok if you fall asleep during the meditation; it’s usually because your body knows that’s what it needs, so don’t worry or try to fight it if that happens. If you try the meditation during the day to relax yourself, simply set your watch alarm to gently wake you at the end of your 20 minutes. If you listen before bed, pleasant dreams! Here’s a link to one of my favorite guided meditations – a gift for my readers who want to sample my guided meditation.
Magnesium deficiencies have been linked to sleeping disorders, anxiety, irritability, and restless leg syndrome. Make sure your daily vitamins include the recommended 400 milligrams of Magnesium. Eating foods rich in magnesium like legumes, dark leafy green vegetables, wheat bran, almonds, cashews, blackstrap molasses, brewer’s yeast, and whole grains can help, but it’s difficult to get your daily requirement from food. Taking a supplement will help; I recommend Natural CALM by Natural Vitality. It’s available in any whole food or health food market.
Try these tips for yourself. You’ll have spent little or no money, have more energy and you won’t be nearly as grumpy!
Have a healthy day!
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