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The diet and lifestyle of modern people is the perfect recipe for sleepless nights. Our minds are in constant movement while our bodies sit sedentary. Our senses are constantly bombarded with stimulating and even disturbing sensations. Insomnia is an ever growing problem for millions of people around the world: “ …approximately 30% of a variety of adult samples drawn from different countries report one or more of the symptoms of insomnia.”
The Five Elements
The bread and butter of Tibetan Medicine boils down to a simple understanding of our universe being built by five elements:
The idea in Tibetan Medicine, similar to Ayurveda and Chinese Medicine, is that these five elements have some basic characteristics. This is easy to understand by observing our own environment. Wind is light and mobile. Earth is stable and heavy. Pretty basic, right? Wind is the element most commonly involved in insomnia. It controls our:
- breathing heart
- central nervous system
- the clarity of our senses
- the movement of our body and mind
- the expelling of impurities.
I Can’t Sleep! Why?
Being that the characteristic of wind is movement, too much movement is also the cause for it to become disturbed. Some common examples of this include:
- an overactive mind
- talking too much
- excessive physical activity
All of these are especially bad when on an empty stomach. An overactive mind can be caused by:
- work involving a high level of multi-tasking
- any high-stress situation in which the mind can’t settle
- mental/emotional trauma
- extremely exciting experiences
Talking too much, this pretty much speaks for itself, pun intended. Excessive physical activity is mostly an issue when on an empty stomach, but also if we induce excessive sweating or generally don’t have good nutrition. In essence, if life feels like a hurricane or tornado, we shouldn’t be surprised if we have symptoms of disturbed wind, and as a result, insomnia.
How to Fall Asleep Naturally
A wise man once said that the key to life is balance. Well maybe many wise men said that on several occasions. And according to traditional Tibetan Medicine they were all right. If movement is in excess, what do we need to balance it? Stability. What element is stable? Earth. Basically we need to get earthy to get to sleep.
Actually movement is just one of the characteristics of wind. It is also light, rough, and cool so we also need heavy, smooth and warm characteristics to antidote its effect when disturbed.
How to Fall Asleep Stabilizing Our Mind
The mind is the most important to work with when dealing with insomnia. It can also be the trickiest to deal with. When we lie sleepless at night, the mind just gets more and more anxious.
Tip #1 Govern your mind’s movements
The mind is no easy beast to tame. How do we learn to control it? Watch the thoughts, don’t get involved in them. It’s as simple as that. The more we can observe the movements of our thoughts and just allow them to come and go without following them, the more likely we will learn how to fall asleep. The moment we get engaged in the thought and give it importance, believe in it, the more we will get lost inside the sea of endless thoughts. It takes a certain amount of mindfulness, but with practice we can learn to govern our mind without it governing us. This is the first most important step to beat insomnia, however in most cases we must also work with our energy for this to succeed.
How to Fall Asleep by Controlling Our Energy
What is energy? This brings us back to the wind element. In essence we can say that the wind element is the energy of our body. Our second step is to access this energy as directly as possible. We can do this through the breath and through the senses.
Tip #2 Take complete, smooth and mindful breaths
Paying attention to and optimizing the breaths natural flow is the most powerful way to control the energy. Taking complete, smooth and mindful breaths is something we can do throughout the day to help control our mind and emotions. If we are suffering from insomnia it is very important to start paying attention to the breath. Before going to bed be sure to take a moment and bring your attention to your breathing. Take about 10 nice deep breaths, without forcing anything and just start to observe your breathing. As you lay down, go back to tip number one. When you notice your thoughts taking over take a complete and smooth breath. If you want to dive deeper into developing optimal breathing check out Yantra Yoga
Tip #3 Create a cozy, calm and pleasant atmosphere in the evening
When the sun goes down, time to follow its lead. Keep the lights dim, light a candle (in a fire proof candle holder!), turn off the screens and enjoy some pleasantry. If TV is in the cards, avoid scary movies, thrillers and violence. Romance and comedy are safer stories. Don’t over do it and be sure to turn it off at least 30 minutes before bed.
If we find ourselves getting in any kind of energetic discussions in the evening its time to give it a rest. Gentle, playful conversation is a perfect alternative. Keep your body comfortably warm, but not too hot. Its time to make your own cozyville.
The idea is that if you want to learn how to fall asleep naturally, you should allow your senses to rest and get into a state of pleasant relaxation to the best of your ability. Everyone is different so follow your own inclinations in this regard.
How to Fall Asleep Nourishing Our Body
Tip #4 Sip on soup, it’s time for a nutritious dinner
If we want to beat insomnia it’s time to pay attention to dinner. Foods that are warm and nutritious do the trick here. Traditionally the Tibetan medical diet would call for lamb or beef soup having boiled the bones with spices such as garlic, onions, cardamom and nutmeg. However you can adapt this to your dietary needs or restrictions. The main point is that soup is warming and smooth, the perfect antidotes to the rough and cool nature of wind. It’s also easy to digest which is important in the evening. Fish or chicken are also fine. If you are vegetarian make sure that the soup has oil, garlic and onions and try to avoid beans and lentils which tend to be rough natured. Whatever you do, eat a hardy dinner, but make sure you give yourself ample time to digest before going to bed.
Tip #5 Make yourself a natural sleep tonic
There are tons of herbal medicines and natural remedies out there on the market. So many that it can make our head spin. Let’s not loose more sleep over decisions on what’s going to make us sleep better. In general its always best to play it safe and be gentle to our bodies. If we take herbal supplements of just one herb, it might help us sleep better, but can go on to create another problem somewhere else just the same as sleeping pills cause side effects.
If we want to learn how to fall asleep naturally we should start by using food products we already have in our own kitchen and that support our body to recover its naturally balanced condition.
Here are a couple traditional Tibetan natural remedies that you can prepare yourself:
1.Warm Wine or Whiskey Sleep Tonic
(if you regularly drink or have an alcohol problem skip to the next tonic)
Warm a 1/2 tsp of butter or ghee in a sauce pain. Grind a small amount of nutmeg and/or cardamom and allow it to gently simmer in. Add a small amount of aged wine or whiskey, about 1/4 cup of wine or one ounce of whiskey. Gently warm it up and add about 1/4 to 1/2 a tsp of maple syrup, molasses or honey. Drink before bed.
2. Spiced Warm Milk Sleep Tonic
Take one cup of milk and add 1/4 cup of water and a couple dashes of nutmeg and/or cardamom. Bring it to a boil and let it simmer until 1/4 cup cooks off. Add maple syrup/honey or molasses to taste. This is best to drink about one hour after dinner and not directly before bed.
Tip #6 Use sesame oil, warmth and massage to treat your wind points
Buy yourself some good quality sesame oil (not toasted!). Every evening about an hour before bed massage it into the soles of your feet, the palm of your hands, the center of your chest and around the entire base of your neck including the jugular notch and c7 (the large vertebrae protruding at the base of your neck), and if you don’t mind the oil in your hair, at the crown of your head where the hair spirals. Rub your hands together vigorously and warm each of those points at least three times. Check out my post about how to deal with anxiety naturally with wind points
for a more thorough explanation.
Summary on How to Fall Asleep Naturally
The first step is to not stress about it. When we notice insomnia seep in we should:
1. Watch our thoughts as we go to bed
2. Breath with mindfulness
3. Create a cozy atmosphere
4. Eat nutritious dinners
5. Use household spices and ingredients to make a traditional Tibetan sleep tonic.
6. Apply warmth and oil to your wind points.
Keep in mind that for you to learn how to fall asleep naturally it will take time and consistency. We are trying to bring our natural balance back, not just suppress symptoms. Feel free to ask any questions in the comments below or contact us for a health consultation
to make a more personalized plan.
, 08/15/2007, Insomnia: Definition, Prevalence, Etiology, and Consequences, PubMed, 3(5 Suppl): S7–S10, PMC1978319