Relaxation of mind and body are the all-important keys in a plan that can help even with long-time sleep problems.

TRANQUIL THOUGHTS

Sit down for half an hour before bedtime and let your mind relax. Let everything go. Go over some of the more pleasant events of the day. Do not watch a suspense movie on TV or read a crime thriller which gets your nerves on edge. Aim for tranquil thoughts.

READING

Many find that reading is conducive to sleep. A pleasant, innocuous book, magazine or paper (ideally, a boring one) will tend to lull you into a doze. It pre-disposes to relaxation, and this is what sleep is all about.

ACTIVITY

Some find a short burst of activity an excellent way to get rid of pent up tensions and emotional strains of the day. Taking the dog for a walk, doing a brisk jog or having even a leisurely walk can all be good. Some find it successful, others will not.

WARM BATH

This has been a long-time winner. The warmth of the water as you lie back and relax brings about a lovely sense of comfort, peace of mind and tranquillity of body. Do not have the water too hot. Stay in for anything up to 20 or 30 minutes, which can effectively condition you to pleasant drowsiness.

WARM DRINK

Once more, warmth is the keyword, but do not have beverages such as tea or coffee which contain caffeine. They tend to accelerate mental processes and keep you awake and alert. Milk and milk-based drinks are best.

The British Medical Journal published an in-depth survey on the relative merits of bedtime drinks and found those based on milk to be by far the most helpful. Do not become reliant on alcohol-based drinks for these have the same inherent disadvantages as drugs and are definitely out.

WARM BED

Naturally, a warm, comfortable bed is more conducive to sleep than a freezing cold one. So in cool months, it’s a good idea to first warm the bed with an electric blanket. In summer anything too hot may prevent you from sleeping.

RELAX YOUR BODY

Once in bed, total muscle relaxation will make sleep quicker and more successful. Preferably lie on your back. Then progressively relax every muscle group. Start with the toes then work up the legs from ankles, calves, knees, thighs and hips. Consciously let each group go loose and limp and floppy. Now move to the abdominal muscles; then to the chest, breathing deeply and relaxing even more completely as you exhale.

Fingers and hands, forearms and elbows, upper arms and shoulders should be relaxed consciously, as should the back muscles, neck muscles, and the scalp and facial area. Let them go loose, limp and floppy.

Total relaxation has to be worked at, but once you master the art, you find it is really quite easy. Sleep often comes partway through the process.

RELAX YOUR MIND

While relaxing the body, fill your mind with calm, tranquil thoughts of relaxation. Think of pleasurable occasions when you felt able to let everything go, maybe in sunny favorite spots such as on the beach, on a lawn, in a field, by the swimming pool. Whatever, wherever, it doesn’t matter, as long as it is significant to you. As these thoughts fill your mind, and as the body slowly relaxes, the whole system winds down and sleep takes over.

DEEP BREATHING

Take deep breaths while you are relaxing. Each time you breathe out, consciously allow the body to relax. As the blood fills with oxygen, you will probably find you are breathing deeper and more slowly, and often will slip automatically into sleep.

WHY DRUGS ARE OUT

Today, most doctors prefer their patients not to take sleeping drugs regularly. For a short time, after an illness or operation, they are helpful, but for long-term use, they are not a good idea. There are inherent risks in regular sedation, and these include making the brain less receptive.

With the simple measures suggested, you’ll have no need for pills because you’ll be enjoying the lovely freedom of natural sleep.


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