How to Fall Asleep, Naturally
By Dr. R.E. Freedman
Sleep is an important factor in the recovery process of intrusive anxiety. When one is plagued with exhausting symptoms of anxiety, they often find it difficult to fall asleep at night. A racing mind may become very active at the end of the day, especially when silence provides the perfect stage for worries to surface. It's not difficult to turn off a racing mind once you understand what is required to fall into a good night's rest. The bonus is you will awaken feeling calmer in the morning and more able to enjoy your day.
Regimen for Falling Asleep
The process for falling asleep at night begins in the morning hours of the day. When you awaken it is time to begin your natural regimen which will result in a sound and deep sleep at night. This is predicated upon what you do during the day and the nutrition you ingest all day long.
Science of Nutrition and Sleep: Amino acids are the precursor to Serotonin (the feel good chemical in the brain). To build amino acids one must eat a lean protein (chicken, fish, meat, dairy, etc.) with every meal and snack. To release the Serotonin, in order to feel sleepy at bedtime, it's suggested to eat a complex carbohydrate (toast, bagel, dry cereal, etc.) without a protein at this time. Result: A sleepy, calm and simple way to fall into a sound night's rest.
Exercise: The body craves movement during the day and this ensures a good night's sleep and a simple way to easily fall into sleep. Outdoor exercise is preferable because fresh air is stimulating and sunlight (even on cloudy days) boosts Serotonin in the brain. It is always brighter outdoors that indoors and this contributes to Serotonin building in the brain. Small children fall asleep as soon as their head touches down on their pillow because they play outdoors during the day. As adults we forget to "go outside and play," spending too much time at our desks, in front of computers. Take a break, early in the day and walk outdoors. Warning: It can be addictive, because you will feel better and sleep more soundly at night.
Lighting: Lighting plays a large role in feeling sleepy by bedtime. The sun goes down and the bright lights go on in our homes, malls and streets. This interferes with the body's production of Melatonin, which in turn interferes with our ability to fall asleep. Early evening is the time to turn down the lights. Allow the body to adjust to night and it will naturally begin producing more Melatonin, giving you the naturally sleepy sensation. Also, if you awaken during the night, don't reach for the bathroom overhead light, which will instantly cut off the production of Melatonin? Try a softer light to keep the sleepy sensations going without much interruption.
Bedroom Environment: The bedroom should become a cozy and calm place that naturally induces a relaxed sensation in both mind and body. A cooler temperature should prevail in the bedroom because the body temperature falls just before falling asleep. This is why we recommend cracking the window a bit to allow this process to take place within a cooler environment.
Mindset: Your mindset is everything when going to bed at night. If you worry all day long about falling asleep at night, you might be training your brain to worry, which is counterproductive to relaxation and sleep. Being completely relaxed is about letting go. It's the absence of "trying" to do anything. In fact, giving yourself permission not to sleep will actually ensure you falling to sleep much more rapidly. It's a paradox and an old trick that works incredibly well.
Listening: In order to cancel out the noise in your head, caused by a racing mind, you might want to focus on outside sounds. We all have experienced those far away sounds, way in the distance, that surround the home and filter in if we pay attention. Birds, trees rustling, a train in the distance, rain on the roof and all the other sounds of nature and even the city. This takes your mind out of your inward thoughts and gives it something neutral to focus upon. This neutrality is perfect for letting go and dozing into sleep.
Learning to value and protect your sleep makes it a healthier and more nurturing experience. With a few simple changes, sleeping well becomes your new habit. This is a behavior that is worth engaging in and will bring you extraordinary benefits. It's the pure and natural approach to feeling stronger, aids in eliminating intrusive anxiety and provides an experience that continues to build a stronger mind and body. Your body, your mind and your entire sense of well-being will benefit in a myriad of ways. You'll not only find that it's easier to fall asleep but look forward to your new regimen of rest and relaxation
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