Apparently the National Sleep Foundation is onto something. If the number of hits to my last post, Yoga Tools for Sleeping Well, are any indication, their statement that 65% of all Americans have trouble sleeping is bang-on.
So here are some more tools I've used along the way to become a slumbering, dreamy sleeper. I hope they help you, too.
1. Bring the outside in. Getting outside during the day is essential. And not just outside into a concrete jungle, but somewhere with green: lawn, trees, bushes, shrubs. Stand in the space and breathe it in. Study after study--including this one on how nature-viewing commuters feel calmer--has shown that nature soothes us. Plus, getting outside, and noticing the planet, helps to remind us that we're a very small part of this great big Om, helping us to recognize the real size of the stressor: Pretty tiny.
2. Burn the adrenaline and cortisol.There are varying opinions on whether the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol actually remain in our system after we've gotten stressed, or if they're just released every time our minds re-live the stressor. But everyone agrees exercise helps relieve them. Go for a jog, a power-walk, or do a power yoga, Kundalini yoga, a strong Hatha class, or anything else that draws you (Zumba, anyone?). Don't have time to get to the yoga studio? Try one of the videos at http://www.myyogaonline.com/.
3. Notice your mind. Yogic philosophy encourages us to see our mind as a tool, rather than our master--and to view our thoughts, no matter what they are, as just thoughts. Sometimes simply noticing our thoughts and labelling them as just thoughts, no matter how important our active mind wants us to believe they are, can help us find distance between our essential, peace-full, joy-full selves, and our busy mind. It might help to use the mantra "Noticing my thoughts" on the inhale, and "Letting them go" on the exhale.
4. Soothe your own asana. I love taking a 15-minute Viparita Karani in the evening. While in legs-up-the-wall pose, I cover myself with a blanket, put something soft and light over my eyes, and simply let myself be. I don't even deepen my breath, I just get out of the way of it, by simply noticing it. After a little bit, my breathing becomes deeper, longer, calmer.
5. Pranayama pointers. As a couple people pointed out in the last post, kapala bhatiis often used as an energizing breath. I find that people who have serious trouble sleeping love it and find it effective. But there are other pranayams that work well, too. Nadi Shodhana helps to balance our prana, bringing it evenly into both nadis (energy channels) spiraling on either side of our Sushumna channel (spine), and bringing our system into a state of equilibrium. Try it for 10 minutes, seated comfortably.
Happy sleeping, and Namaste