3 Tips to Help You Turn Off Your Mind So You Can Sleep - Virtua, NJ

3 Tips to Help You Turn Off Your Mind So You Can Sleep

By Susan Desiderio, BA, LMT, Wellness Therapist—Virtua Community Engagement

A good night’s sleep is an essential part of your emotional and physical health, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Good sleep keeps your stress levels down and helps keep your immune system strong.

With these holistic tools, you can help induce relaxation so you can get a better night’s sleep.

Relax with a yoga pose

Start with one of the most basic yoga asanas (postures)—virparita karani or “legs up the wall.”

Combined with conscious breathing, this position promotes relaxation, improves circulation, soothes swollen or cramped feet and legs, stretches the hamstrings, and reduces headaches and anxiety.

And, it’s simple to practice:

  • Find an empty space on your wall and place a yoga mat perpendicular to it.
  • Sit down on the mat and bring your left or right side as close as possible to the wall, so your side body meets the wall.
  • Lie back onto your mat and gently place your legs up the wall. You can add a cushion underneath your tailbone for support.
  • Relax your arms by your side with your palms facing up. 

If you have low back, knee, or hip pain, here’s a modification:

  • Place a chair at the end of your mat so that it faces you, and put a folded towel on the seat.
  • Sit on the mat with your bottom close to the front of the chair.
  • Lie down on one side with your knees bent in a fetal position.
  • Scoot onto the center of the mat, and roll onto your back with bent knees so that your calves rest on the seat of the chair. Your thighs should be at a 90-degree angle to your shins.
  • Relax your arms at your sides with your palms facing up. 

Do this pose for three to five minutes at first, and work your way up to 10 minutes. 

Breathe in essential oils

For deeper relaxation during this posture, add one of these essential oils:

  • Lavender: This oil eases restlessness and agitation, treating insomnia and promoting deeper, longer sleep. Studies have shown lavender decreases heart rate and lowers blood pressure, which helps with relaxation and falling asleep.
  • Sandalwood: This oil has a soft, warm, soothing scent that eases sleep disturbances for people with colds or allergies.
  • Bergamot: This oil has a slightly spicy, floral, citrus-like fragrance that reduces psychological stress responses, lowers blood pressure, and lowers cortisol levels to promote better sleep. 

You can dab essential oil on your wrists or palms or on the soles of your feet. You also can mix a few drops with water and spritz the mixture onto your pillow and sheets. 

Shut off your brain with an eye pillow

Combining essential oils with a weighted eye pillow can take your relaxation to a deeper level. A weighted eye pillow shuts out light and stimulates the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is the main component of the parasympathetic nervous system that controls many crucial bodily functions, including mood control, immune response, digestion, and heart rate.

The light pressure of a weighted eye pillow triggers a reflex that lowers your heart rate and regulates your mood, which in turn allows you to enjoy a deep, restful sleep. In addition, eliminating light and other visual stimulus tells your brain that it’s time for your mind to be still.

Place an eye pillow over your eyes 10 minutes before bedtime to settle your racing mind and trigger the vagus nerve to tell the muscles from your face to your shoulders that it’s time to relax.

Set yourself up for good sleep

Finally, here are some other basic tips for getting a good night’s sleep: 

  • Don’t consume caffeine after 2 p.m.
  • Eat earlier in the evening.
  • Follow a ritual an hour before your bedtime such taking a warm bath, turning off all electrical devices, reading a simple, mindless book, cooling down your bedroom and preparing your bed. This helps you unplug and signals your brain to wind down.

Here’s to a good night’s sleep and to getting through this pandemic together.

Updated September 3, 2020

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