Oh the magical power of sleep! Despite being the simplest, most natural thing we can do for our health, sleep is still one of the most underrated solutions to the myriad of health issues we face today in the modern world. In addition, we are facing an insomnia epidemic in the UK, with 22% of people reported to have trouble sleeping every night, and an additional 15% who have trouble sleeping at least once a week.
Sleep truly is our superpower, and not getting enough has a disastrous knock on effect for our health. Sleep regulates our mood, digestion, blood sugar, stress levels, hormones and appetite. It improves our cognitive function, promotes self healing in the body and lowers inflammation, the main bio marker for all forms of chronic disease.
An optimal amount of sleep is between 7 to 9 hours, and will depend on the individual. But for some, getting enough sleep is easier said than done. And even if you think you are doing the basics right, it may not be enough. If you are cutting down on your caffeine intake (stopping at 12 noon), going to bed at a reasonable hour, eating dinner at least 3 hours before bed and switching off your electronic devices at least 2 hours before bed, you have nailed the basics.
If you are still struggling, these out-of-the-box ideas may just be the key to a more peaceful, restful sleep.
Feng Shui Your Bedroom
Feng Shui is a practice that came from Ancient Chinese philosophy. Simply put, it is a way of arranging living and working spaces that create a free flow of chi, or energy. The practice goes very in depth, but just applying some of the simple tweaks can create profound changes in the way your home feels. Applying these principles to your bedroom are said to create a calming energy in the bedroom and assist with sleep.
Choose the Right Bed
According to Feng Shui, the material your bed is made from is of great importance. Wooden beds with wooden headboards are best, whereas metal beds are a no go. The wood element is more grounding and supportive, and therefore conducive to sleep. Whereas metal is conductive, meaning that you will be more susceptible to harmful frequencies from modern day electronics from disrupting your sleep.
Position your Bed Correctly
Feng Shui principles suggest that your bed should be positioned against a solid wall, rather than under a window or in the centre of the room. This creates a feeling of stability, which is optimal for sleep. Secondly, wherever your bed is positioned, you should be able to see the door, yet not be in direct alignment with it. When our bed faces a doorway, energy is said to move too quickly, which is unsettling for sleep.
Remove Clutter from Under your Bed
If you have tendency to keep things under your bed, you might want to consider and alternative storage place. Clutter is a no go in the Feng Shui world, and storing anything under your bed is said to be especially disruptive for the optimal flow of energy. Any type of ‘stuff’ stored under your bed while you sleep creates a sense of energetic chaos and unfinished business. If possible, take a minimalist approach by removing all clutter from your bedroom altogether.
Choose your Sleeping Position Carefully
Did you know that sleeping on your left hand side versus your right hand side can make a big difference to your quality of sleep? For many of us, the side we settle to sleep on is an engrained habit and can depend on how our bed is positioned and what side of the bed we sleep on. Yet simply by shifting this habit, you could experience a profound difference in how peacefully you sleepy.
Sleeping on the Left
From a biological perspective, the left side has been shown to be the best side to sleep on. Positioning yourself this way allows fro better digestion, better organ detoxification, as well as lymph drainage and better blood flow to the heart. Ayurvedic principles, however, suggest that sleeping on the right hand side is better.
Sleeping on the Right
According to Ayurveda, the right side of the body represents more active, masculine energies, while the left represents feminine, grounding energies. By sleeping on your right, your are suppressing the masculine and activating the feminine. In other words, stimulating Kapha and repressing Pitta. While sleeping on your left does the opposite.
So which side should you choose? A good way to decide is to check in with yourself before. If you’ve eaten a big meal just before bed, you’ll want to choose the left hand side. If you are going to bed with a neutral stomach, yet have racing thoughts, try falling asleep on your right.
Ultimately most people which switch sides multiple times in the night. But choosing a side as your starting point can be helpful in finding the initial call to slumber.
Aromatherapy for Sleep
The power of aromatherapy truly is boundless. Our sense of smell is so closely linked to our mood and emotions that we can effortless alter our state of mind simply by smelling specific essential oils.
Aromatherapy can help with sleep in two ways. Firstly, the actual therapeutic properties of specific essential oils have been shown to induce a calming effect on the brain. So simply by incorporating these oils into your bed time routine will help with relaxing the body and mind in preparation for sleep.
The second way is by creating a new habit for the brain. Our brain loves routine. It likes to know what’s coming in order to feel safe. Our sense of smell is most closely linked to the Limbic System, the part of our brain that controls emotions, memory and learning. This means that we can train our brain by linking a specific smell to a specific behaviour – sleep included.
The combination of habit and essential oils create a sleep inducing fusion that may just help you get a better night sleep.
Best Essential Oils for Sleep
Lavender is the most popular and most studied essential oil for sleep. It has been shown to reduce anxiety and promote a sedative effect, making it a perfect bedtime companion.
The floral scent of Rose Geranium promotes a sense of calm and wellbeing. Its stress relieving properties also make it a good oil for enhancing sleep.
Sandalwood may not be the first essential oil to come to mind when thinking of sleep, but this ancient oil has actually be used for millenia to combat anxiety and promote relaxation. The earthy, woody aroma is a beautiful bedtime addition that will lull you to a peaceful sleep.
How to use
There are many ways to incorporate essential oils into your bed time routine. Simply dab a tiny bit of oil on the soles of your feet and on each wrist, add a tiny drop to your pillow, burn oils in a diffuser or oil burner, or create your own room spray. Get creative and find out what works for you!
In many ways, sleep is more of an art than a science. And unfortunately, there is no one size fits all. The important thing is that if you are struggling with sleep, you learn to make it a priority. Without immediately resorting to pills. A good night’s sleep can change your perspective on the world. And that, in turn, can change everything.