Here is a fun and meaningful "Nighttime Sleep Saver Ritual" (my own name for an exercise that I had put together for my mother).
My dear mother has RLS, and finds it very difficult to get consistent and deep, quality sleep. Her meds for her ailment do cause her to get sleepy, but they seem to wear off and she'll only be able to sleep a few hours at a time, after which she will wake up and be awake for an hour or two before being able to get back to sleep. This causes her to be quite fatigued and lethargic during the daylight hours. I wanted to put together a more natural approach (I didn't advise her to do anything different with her meds, that's not my place) that she might be able to experience to help her mind reach the sleep state and to hopefully give her some consistency (in terms of more progressive hours of sleep and ultimately less tiredness during the day).
Engaging Each One of the Senses
In putting together this "Nighttime Sleep Saver Ritual”, my aim was to engage as many of the senses as possible to accomplish a healthy sleep state. This may seem a little bit counter-intuitive, as one would generally not want their senses on high alert, but the ritual is actually very relaxing. Also, having a ritual to perform that becomes habitual seems to train the brain to affect the intended result after practiced for long enough.
So without any further ado, here is the "Nighttime Sleep Saver Ritual" that I created for my mother (if it helps anyone to use it, I'd be happy to hear of his or her successes as well with this approach).
1. Take a warm bath with Epsom salts (http://health.howstuffworks.com/skin-care/problems/treating/epsom-s...) (12-15 minutes). Epsom salts help to sooth and relax the muscles, while also helping the body to detoxify.
2. Get out of the bath and drink SleepyTime Tea (http://www.amazon.com/Celestial-Seasonings-Herb-Sleepytime-40-Count...). Many people swear by natural remedies such as herbal tea formulas for insomnia especially.
3. Perform PMR (http://stress.about.com/od/generaltechniques/ht/howtopmr.htm) (5 minutes). Even if you don’t have insomnia or other sleep disorder, it’s a great exercise to learn to relax your muscles to get to sleep quicker. What’s more, after practicing Progressive Muscle Relaxation enough times, you can get to the point where you then have the skills to “immediately” relax and not be on the typical “high alert” that many of us have problems with even during the day (anxious people we are).
4. Read (15 - 30 minutes)/Study calming scenery on Pinterest or Google/Bing Images (http://pinterest.com/notesy/nature-scenery-calming/, http://pinterest.com/melbajean/beautiful-scenery/) - take care not to watch images for more than 5 minutes or so, as blue light from your iPad/iPhone device affects sleep hormones. Reading something especially boring can be helpful. I find that it helps me to get into the sleep state even if I’m not really concentrating on the meaning of the words, but rather just “going through the motions”, in a manner of speaking. Exposing yourself to tranquility in the form of peaceful images can also help you reach the sleep state (much better than exposing yourself to the gruesome images you see on TV/News right before you go to sleep!).
5. Lavender or Lemon essential oil diffused in the room (on timer, so doesn't run all night) (http://www.amazon.com/doTerra-PZ-UA01MLC-Lotus-Essential-Diffuser/d...). Some natural scents (aromatherapy) are known to relax and to chemically help the brain to produce the sleep state. Just don’t leave your diffuser on all night so it accidentally wakes you up once you’ve achieved your cherished sleep state!
6. Sleep Sounds: http://texashighdef.net/w.html (on timer, so doesn't run all night). Some people prefer “white noise”, others like to hear rain. Some like waterfalls, the ocean waves, or even birds or other nature environment sounds. What is your pleasure? Soft music?
What Will Happen?
It will be interesting to find out if this can help my mother the way it is intended. I'll be curious to find out if any particular portion of this ritual is counterproductive (I do worry a little bit about the recommendation I had made about the calming images because of the blue light that emanates from the technological devices). However, many of the recommendations I simply put together knowing that at least there is some anecdotal evidence that they are helpful for some people. This particular ritual engages each of the 5 senses: Touch (bath and PMR), Taste (SleepyTime tea or equivalent), Sight (reading and calming images), Smell (the essential oils), and Sound (environmental sounds or soft, calming music). Let’s hope the combination of the several parts will do the trick to help her “sleep like a baby” once again!
By Amber Merton