Over the past few years I’ve really had to work on what relaxes me and gets me to sleep. I had three weeks of free time after graduating from college before I went off on a 3 week trip around Europe and because I had no job prospects lined up after that, I was incredibly anxious and had a lot of trouble sleeping. I think there were three consecutive nights where I didn’t get more than 3 hours of sleep. I saw my doctor; I saw a psychologist; and I was prescribed Xanax to relax me and get to sleep.
Well, I went to Europe, made friends with the strangers I was traveling with, and had the time of my life. I took the Xanax every now and then to help me get to sleep after I returned to the states but not consistently.
Over the last few years I’ve dealt with sleeping issues (I basically just had issues falling asleep – I have an overactive mind) a number of different ways and have no issues anymore. It’s pretty awesome and I thought I’d write the ways I relax and/or fall asleep here:
1. Candles: They’re a really fantastic way to wind down more than falling asleep. My favorite scents are lavender and vanilla.
2. Meditation: I know you’re not supposed to fall asleep during meditation but I do use meditation MP3’s nightly to help myself to fall asleep. Gabrielle Bernstein has a quick (free) 5 minute MP3 that you can download on iTunes that’s pretty great and concentrates a lot on your breath, and I have another longer MP3 that my aunt sent me a year or so ago that’s a type of meditation called Yoga Nidra – that’s specifically for intense relaxation. It’s fantastic and I’m not sure I even know what the end of the MP3 sounds like because I always doze off before it’s over.
3. Lavender spray: I learned at my yoga studio last year that lavender promotes relaxation. This excited me, even if it maybe worked more because I thought it would relax me rather than it actually having any real effect on my relaxation (does that make sense?). So I bought a bottle from Bath and Body Works and spray it on my pillow and a bit on my wrist every night before I go to sleep.
4. Sleepytime Teas: I’m also obsessed with this tea. I love tea and drink 2-4 cups a day and I almost always drink this before I go to bed (especially on a Sunday night when my sleeping pattern has been a bit disrupted because of the weekend). Again, I’m not sure if it works because I think it should or it actually does, but it has elderflower and chamomile in it both of which are supposed to promote sleep. Celestial makes a few, and Trader Joe’s also makes one that’s pretty great.
5. Peppermint Tea: If you’re at work and need to de-stress (like me) but don’t want to fall asleep on you desk with the above tea, I’d recommend peppermint tea. Trader Joe’s candy cane green tea is a personal favorite of mine (although it’s seasonal you can find it year-round on ebay) but any peppermint tea will work. Peppermint is a natural anti-inflammatory. I also recently tried Yogi’s Stress-Relief Tea but it tastes similar to what I imagine ass would taste like so I wouldn’t recommend it first.
6. Music: In one of my yoga classes, there was a sub teacher who used a bunch of songs that I really liked already and I’ve made a playlist of songs that make me happy and bring relaxation (and yoga) to mind. Those songs include The Verve’s Bittersweet Symphony, Semisonic’s Closing Time, Weezer’s Only in Dreams, Eagle Eye Cherry’s Save Tonight, and Green Day’s Wake Me Up When September Ends (though I put the cast album version on the playlist because the harmonies make it more relaxing – to me at least), among others.
7. Yoga: Last but not least is yoga. I’ve been practicing for about two years and I started out doing a “winding down” podcast from YogaJournal (also available for free download on iTunes) which is specifically for for stretching and relaxing at the end of your day. It’s awesome. Restorative yoga is magnificent for relaxation too.
I haven’t take any kind of medication (prescribed or over-the-counter) in years because of the above natural remedies. I also bought a bunch of dried lavender and have placed it in a vase next to the couch in my apartment. I’m kind of obsessed with the scent of dried lavender now. During my almost-anxiety attacks last week I googled other things that promote relaxation and they included: Black tea, bananas, and sugar! Good to know for next time.
Full Disclosure: The night I wrote this I slept like total crap, despite yoga, meditation, and sleepytime tea so I felt like a total sham for having just written this. Tonight I’m double-bagging it.