How to get better sleep without medication
It seems the older we get the more allusive a good nights rest becomes. Many are plagued with anxiety, a restless mind, body aches and pains or other obstacles that prevent a peaceful drifting off to slumber. Over the years I have discovered a few tricks that have helped me overcome serious sleep deprivation that you might find helpful as well. These tips go beyond the usual recommendations you will find on WebMD or other sites that tell you to eat healthy, turn off electronics and exercise. These tips are over and above the mundane medical advice so I won’t bore you with those details here.
Put your monkey mind to work
Perhaps the most beneficial tip I have for you is to give your monkey mind a job to do with specific tasks and timelines. This sounds crazy but hear me out. Anyone who has attempted to meditate has this annoying little voice that interrupts the quiet with arbitrary memories, reminders and other distractions. We call this our monkey mind.
It is no different when we lay down at the end of the day; the monkey mind kicks into over drive reminding us of all the stuff we need to do the next day, all the troubles we are facing and so on. I started keeping a notebook on my nightstand and jotted down a make shift “to-do-list” before bed each night. If I thought of anything during the night, I would simply add it to my list. This seemed to help quite a bit at calming the internal alarm that triggered every time I started dozing off.
Embrace the monkey mind as a friend & personal assistant
I wondered why that was effective and how I could take it to the next level. I pondered what mechanism was triggering those thoughts and why. And then it hit me, the darn monkey mind! Think about it, you have this built in side kick that is a natural part of you that is grossly under utilized. It is like the internal child who is bored out of their mind and constantly told to shut up or go away. Gradually I started befriending this inner voice and giving it simple tasks. At first it was simple things such as “remind me to buy milk when I am at the store later” or “Don’t let me forget to get gas when I hit 1/4 tank”. Later it became more complex and at night I could tell this little inner voice that it wasn’t the appropriate time to remind me of such things and to try again in the morning after my alarm wakes me.
This was a game changer on so many levels! I honestly believe this was the original personal assistant – Alexa and Siri have nothing on this bad boy! Once you start embracing this concept, you will find all sorts of uses for this and your quality of sleep and meditation will benefit greatly.
Chakra meditation with progressive muscle relaxation
Speaking of meditation, a great way to drift off once you have quieted the internal dialogue is to do a simple chakra meditation with progressive muscle relaxation. You can do this with or without mudras. I lay down comfortably in bed for this exercise and set an intension that I am relaxing and preparing my body and energetic body for rest. This is a great way to keep your chakras in balance and tune in to your body for disturbances or potential issues. You may or may not make it through all of them and that is more than ok – its kinda the goal here.
I start by focusing on my feet (we have minor chakras here, as well as below our feet technically). I visualize the energy centers and intend for them to come into balance and harmony. I imagine/feel energy flowing in and out with each breath and consciously relax the muscles in my legs as I move slowly up to my base chakra relaxing more deeply as I go. You can visualize the colors and associated themes and properties for each energy center. The lower chakras seem to give us the most trouble when it comes to rest but some have trouble with the upper chakras as well. Many of us have neglected our lower chakras choosing to focus entirely on the glamourous upper chakras for their higher vibration and connection to Spirit. This is a bad idea and can throw your whole system off kilter which is even more reason to practice this as your bed time ritual.
These practices are beneficial whether you fall asleep or not
As you move higher up the body, don’t forget to include the minor chakras in your hands. If you set the appropriate intension, it won’t matter if you drift off midway through the exercise. You may find that your body and energy centers carry on the practice on autopilot while you sleep. If you do make it all the way through and are still awake don’t fret! This practice is rejuvenating and can provide many restful benefits without you officially falling a sleep.