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Helping Insomnia The Natural Way

Helping Insomnia The Natural Way
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BY KITT WALSH

Do the stresses of the day have you lying awake at night, staring at the ceiling? Are you scared to become dependent on sleep aids—prescription or over-the-counter—but you’ve got to get to work in the morning so you’ve got to get to sleep? Why not try some remedies that have been with us for centuries? Here’s how:

Have a routine: Try to go to bed at the same time every night (weekends too) and allow yourself at least 8 hours to sleep. Take a warm bath—scented with lavender essential oil (a known relaxant). Add little to dot your temples, under your nose, and on your pulse points. Rub some fragrant lotion on your feet and hands and slip in something soft and natural—silk in summer, flannel in winter. Buy the best sheets in a natural fabric (so it breathes and never gets clammy)like cotton or hemp and buy a comforter of a weight proper for the season and filled with down or feathers (unless you are allergic.) Comfort is important to good sleep.

Check your mattress: They do wear out and our bodies do change as we age. Invest in mattress that adjust to your body (it will help the aches and pains upon awakening too.) New pillows may also be in order.

Make a Dream Pillow: Into the pillowcase of the pillow under your head, put a homemade dream pillow. As your head moves during the night, it will crush the herbs within and release restful scents. (It’s said George Washington had one filled with hops—a herb known for its sedative effects. If it’s good enough for the father of our country, it’s worth a try ….)

Take two pieces of material 8x 8 (two washcloths will do). Stuff with dried organic herbs known for their sedative or relaxing action and fragrance like lavender flowers, rose petals, rosemary, mint, chamomile, sweet woodruff or (used by Norse wise-women to comfort fussy babies) dill—the name means “to lull.” If you are feeling witchy, stuff the fabric with mugwort, said to give dreams of the future or myrtle, said to make dreams come true. Sew three sides of the fabric together (outside in). Take a small muslin bag (any craft store has them) fill with a mixture of the herbs and close tightly. Turn the pillow inside out. Stuff the pillow 1/3 full of cotton squares or fiberfill, stuff in the sachet and center, fill remaining with cotton or fiberfill. Don’t overstuff with filling. It should lie flat. Fold remaining sides to make a seam and stitch closed.

Dried herbs and flowers tend to lose their fragrance quickly, so consider adding a natural preservative. Orris root and benzoin are suitable plant fixatives and are widely available. Orris root is obtained by sun-drying and peeling the fresh root of Iris florentina. After drying, the root is stored for two years to develop a delicate violet scent. Orris root is usually purchased in ground form. Benzoin is a gum from a shrub native to Java and Siam and is a common ingredient in incense. Cinnamon, myrrh and sandalwood also act as fragrant fixatives.

Add white noise: We used to be lulled to sleep by the sound on insects or the lowing of our animals. Now we are likely to hear traffic whizzing by or a television blaring. Ditch the TV in your room (reading before bed is better—opening and closing the book acts as a demarcation line between the day’s business and day’s end. (No thrillers or crime novels, please.) Use only a reading light and dim the rest of the lights in the room. Use a fan’s whirring to circulate the air and drown out other sounds or invest in a white noise machine to calm the mind. Consider a Zen Alarm Clock (Buddhist monks awaken to chimes.) Knowing you won’t be blasted out of bed by that damn alarm or blaring radio can help you sleep better.

Do A Little Stretching: Add deep yoga breaths. Calm your mind purposefully. Pull a Scarlett O’Hara on yourself and vow only to consider your work or personal problems tomorrow. Face troubles in the light of day only. Occupy your mind with a single syllable mantra chant (like “Om”.) Every time your mind drifts away from the syllable, sound it out again, rhythmically. Our minds really can only hold one thought at a time.

Drink milk and eat melatonin: Warm milk is still used all over Europe for insomnia, because it works. Why? The jury is still out, but if nothing else it relaxes you. The herb valerian is a natural sedative and melatonin (a hormone that regulates the wake/sleep cycle and other daily biorhythms) are both natural sleep aids. Take one to two capsules of valerian (found at any health food store) a half-hour before bedtime. Try sublingual melatonin tablets (placed under the tongue and allowed to dissolve) 0.25 to 0.3 mg for regular use (and make sure your room is completely dark.) Also say goodbye to caffeine and alcohol completely (or at least for three hours before bed). It’s best to eat lightly for your evening meal (and have it done by 8 pm or so to give yourself time to digest.)

Sweet Dreams!

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