The human body needs signals that it is time to relax and go to sleep.  The major one is the sun is setting, but this is not sufficient for everyone. Here are some other ways to tell your body to go to sleep.  Practice them regularly to increase the likelihood that you’ll get a good night’s sleep.  They work even if you are on night shift.
[toggle title=”Sleep Tips”]

1.  As best as you can, establish a sleep schedule by getting up at same time every day.  Set the brain’s alarm clock by exposing yourself to light in the morning when possible.

2.  Limit bedroom activities.  If reading, watching TV, cleaning M-16, etc., are activities associated with being awake, they can get in the way unless they help you wind down.  Otherwise, use the bed only for sleep and sex.

3.  Separate sleep from being awake – get up after more than twenty minutes of not being able to sleep.  Go to another room and do something dull.  Go back to bed when you feel drowsyDon’t use this time to worry or to solve problems.

4.  Regulate body heat by cooling off before bedtime.  We tend naturally to cool off at night.

5.  No caffeine (chocolate, coke, tea) after 2:00 pm or eliminate caffeine altogether.  Effects of caffeine can last hours later after consumption, even though you may not be aware of it.  Even if you’re able to get to sleep, the quality of your sleep may be affected.

6.  Avoid alcohol.  Drinking may help you get to sleep, but it disrupts your sleep later in the night.

7.  Screen out noise.  Make sure your room is comfortable with temperature and light level that are right for you. White noise in the background (DVD player) may assist you.

8.  Don’t nap in the daytime.

9.  Establish a bedtime routine to wind down.  (You probably do this with your children or did this as a child.)

10.  Don’t eat a large meal late in the day.

11.  Don’t face or watch the clock! Turn it away from you so you don’t calculate.

12.  Other recommendations:

 a. Regular exercises early in the day (more than three hours before bedtime).

 b. Warm milk or non-caffeinated tea about an hour before bedtime.

 c. Learn and use relaxation techniques – cassette tapes are helpful as is simply quieting your mind….this is a technique needing practice and time to be effective.[/toggle]


[toggle title=”Calm Yourself To Sleep”]If you focus on something as simple as your own breath, you can help eliminate the tossing and turning that often precedes a restless night’s sleep. Deep breathing helps your body unwind, relax and prepare for rest.

The following two techniques are modified from traditional yoga postures. Besides being a great form of physical exercise, yoga can also be a holistic sleeping aid. The controlled breathing that you’ll learn in these two exercises promotes deep relaxation, and can ease the mental strains that often block sound sleep.

1. Breathe yourself to sleep

2. Relax yourself to sleep

These techniques will help you become more aware of your breath and release tension from your body, so that you can get a deep, satisfying sleep.

Breathe Yourself to Sleep

A cup of warm chamomile tea, followed by the seated meditative posture, is a great way to clear your mind and prepare for sleep.

To get started:

Sit in a comfortable cross-legged position. If you have muscle or joint pain, you can sit on a firm chair, with your feet flat on the floor. You can also sit on the edge of your bed. Hold your back erect, chest pulled up and forward. Relax your shoulders, but try not to slouch.

If you’re seated on a bed or chair, rest your hands palms down on your thighs. If you’re seated on the floor, you can rest your hands comfortably on your thighs, palm side up, thumb and index fingers touching. You can also cradle them in front of you, one on top of the other in your lap.

Your chin should be parallel with the floor. Soften your facial muscles and let your mouth open slightly. Close your eyes.

Slowly, breathe in deeply through your nose to the count of five. Hold the breath for five counts. Exhale slowly through your nose, counting to five. You want to feel your stomach muscles contract and your chest expand on the inhalation. On the exhalation, use your stomach muscles to press out all of the air. Repeat this posture for six to eight breaths.


Relax Yourself to Sleep

Here is a modified yoga relaxation posture that you can do in your bed — you’ll be right where you want to be when you nod off.

To get started:

In bed, lie on your back with your legs comfortably far apart, feet turned out. Shift your arms away from your body, place your hands palm side up, fingers slightly curved. Close your eyes and concentrate on your breathing. Let your body sink into the bed. This should feel great after a long day.

Breathe in deeply through your nose; let your chest expand and your stomach contract. Feel the energy flowing into your body. As you exhale, press the breath slowly and evenly from your abdomen and chest and out through your nose. Use your stomach muscles, but don’t force or strain yourself. Do this for six to eight breaths. Once you have a steady and controlled rhythm, you’re ready to begin.

Focus your attention on the top of your head and release any pressures there. Slowly move to your forehead, your eyes and your mouth. Free any tension around your jaw, letting your mouth open slightly, if necessary. Maintain an even, deep and controlled breath. Take your time.

For each part of your body, do a complete deep inhalation and full exhalation before moving on. Take your time. Try not to rush each breath.

Your shoulders and upper back collect a lot of stress during the day, especially if you’re working at a computer. Focus on any neck and shoulder strain. Breathe in deeply. As you exhale, slowly release the tension that’s collected there.

Continue down your body, concentrating on your arms, abdomen, thighs, calves, lower legs and finally your feet. If you need to, slowly wiggle your fingers and toes to free any tension there. Keep your breathing even, and maintain a steady flow in and out. If you reach any points of particular stress, focus with your breath and release the tension on your exhalation.[/toggle]