Lack of sleep makes me crazy. And a little hazy. And tired and grumpy. It's bad for the body, bad for the mind. It makes everything worse. Abundance of sleep, on the other hand, solves (almost) everything!
Ed Norton's character in Fight Club told: "With insomnia, nothing's real. Everything's far away. Everything is a copy of a copy of a copy. When you have insomnia, you're never really asleep, and you're never really awake." Hm, not an ideal state of affairs!
The more we need sleep, the more elusive it seems to become. Break the vicious circle, banish insomnia and get some sleep with the help of a few simple tricks:
My favourite pranayama technique for better sleep (and many other situations!) is the extended exhalation breathing. It helps to relax the nervous system, reduce sleep disturbances and ease stress and anxiety. It's as simple as it sounds: make your exhalations longer than your inhalations!
Sitting up or lying down, take a few moments to settle in with your breath. Relax your jaws and your shoulders. If sitting up, rest you hands on your thighs or in your lap, if lying down, place your hands on your belly. When you are settled and ready, start extending your exhalations until they are twice as long as your inhalations. I like to count to 3 on an inhale and to 6 on an exhale. The breathing should be comfortable -- not too fast and not so slow that you find yourself gasping for another breath at the end of the exhalation. Experiment with the speed and find the most optimal one for you at that particular time. Repeat 8-12 times and then return to your natural breathing rhythm.
In the words of Charlotte Brontë "a ruffled mind makes a restless pillow." 'Unruffle' by spending some time every day in meditation. In the morning, or in the evening, or both. Whichever suits you best. You don't need to do anything, you don't need to achieve anything. Just sit there as still as you can muster and focus on your breathing, paying particular attention to the gaps between the inbreath and the outbreath. And between the outbreath and the inbreath.
If thoughts come into your mind (yes, they will), let them come. Then let them go. Try not to engage with them. If visuals work for you, you can imagine your thoughts to be clouds floating across the sky (sounds a little cheesy but is very effective nevertheless!). If clouds are a little too naff for you, substitute with anything else moving, coming and going. Steam train rolling through the countryside. Rowing boat gliding down the river. That sort of thing. You want it to be a peaceful scene. Stay for at least a few minutes and as long as you can / have time for (I average somewhere between 10 - 15 minutes).
Have a hot bath just before bed! (My favourite thing, particularly when it's wet and cold. But any time really.) Start by setting the scene: As you run the bath, dim the lights or light a candle and add a few drops of lavender oil into your bath. You might want to add a splash of base oil too (I use pure almond oil), especially if you live in an area with hard water. Soak for 10-15 minutes and then go straight to bed, perhaps with a nice warm drink (made as the bath was running):
Camomile tea is always a great choice in the evening but for when you feel like something a little more special, a real hug in a cup, this is a great alternative: warm spiced almond milk. Soak a handful of almonds in a glass of water until soft, then blend well. Add chopped dates, some cardamom, fresh ginger and honey. Blend again until smooth. I let the Vitamix run on high speed for a couple of minutes to warm the milk up. But if that's not an option, you can just heat the milk on a stove (don't use a microwave if you can help it!). Enjoy!
Sweet dreams + happy new moon!