Discovering Your Natural Rhythm; Optimal Sleep and Relaxation for Urban Dwellers

Posted on July 31, 2011

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“Optimally, you should be able to fall asleep quickly, sleep soundly for at least 7 hours, and wake up feeling refreshed and energetic.”

Do you have difficulty sleeping or wake up feeling exhausted? Do you ever feel like your life is a treadmill – or like you can’t switch off your brain?
So many people, especially urbanites, feel disconnected, anxious, or depressed with no obvious cause.

THE URBAN CONDITION

One of the most common causes of this urban malaise is an unconscious failure to respect the natural rhythms required for the proper care of the human animal. So many of us have quietly succumbed to the incessant buzz of the city. The light, sound, and vibration are often inescapable. Then add the additional chosen stimulation of computers, caffeine, television, and cellphones. Without realizing it we are operating in an agitated, hyper-vigilant state, in which our nervous system and physiology operates at an abnormally aroused level. Unconsciously, our brains remain tuned to an unnaturally elevated frequency. All of this has numerous direct and indirect negative health and emotional effects.

There are normal, evolutionarily predetermined, patterns of activity and rest, stimulation and relaxation, that result in optimal physical and mental well-being. Longer lived and happier peoples around the world understand and respect these natural rhythms unconsciously as an integrated part of their culture. When these natural cycles are respected we are at our best, not only physically, but emotionally, creatively, and spiritually as well.

If I need to appeal to your vanity as well as your common sense, let me add that these habits also promote optimal body weight and a radiant complexion, not to mention improved sex drive and stamina.

THE OPTIMUM SLEEP CYCLE

Have you ever spent a few days in the country and been astounded at how well you slept? Or perhaps you remember that perfect, profound sleep you had as a child after a day at play?

A healthy sleep cycle is about respecting the natural rhythm of our body and mind, exposure to light and darkness at the right times, and limiting exposure to other stimuli like sound, electronics, stressful situations as the time to sleep approaches. Optimally, you should be able to fall asleep quickly, sleep soundly for at least 7 hours, and wake up feeling refreshed and energetic. Proper sleep relates to every aspect of health, happiness, and longevity.

HEALING BRAIN FREQUENCIES

Relaxation should be part of every day. True relaxation is a measurable brain state; Theta brain frequencies – or deep relaxation while still awake – is the brainstate which allows the best assimilation of nutrients, optimal body tissue repair, as well as the greatest reduction in the production of health-damaging stress-hormones. Most modern city dwellers do not spend nearly enough time in healing Theta brainstates.

Low-Theta is the brain frequency achieved more protractedly by experienced meditators and in conscious-dreaming during deeply relaxed states (not to be confused with lucid dreaming, which involves Delta frequencies – or true sleep). Spending more time in Low-Theta brainstate promotes creative, personal and spiritual insights that cannot be achieved in other brainstates. Most people spend little or no time in this state.

HEALTHY HABITS

Here are some tips that encourage both a healthy sleep cycle and spending more time in Theta-range brainstates before going to sleep and while waking up in the morning.

– Try to allow yourself some time in the morning to wake up slowly and mentally plan your day. At least 30 minutes without caffeine or electronic screens is essential.

– Be sure you are visually exposed to a few hours of bright light every day – sunlight is best. (Wear proper sun protection when appropriate.)

– Moderate exercise every day promotes proper sleep at night. Overtraining and excessive exercise can cause insomnia.

– Most types of physical intimacy promote good sleep. Massage, sexual intimacy, cuddling, and grooming are good examples.

– If you sleep alone, develop a habit of self-care and self-love such as self-massage with oil, a luxurious bath, or slow, mindful, tantric-style masturbation – with only your imagination to stimulate you. Developing the ability to love, soothe, and care for oneself is an important habit for overall well-being.

– The most important element of good sleep is a winding-down period at the end of the day. Tip: Keep electronic devices, computers, televisions, work materials, study materials, and all books except the one you are reading, OUT OF THE BEDROOM.

– Play and laugh everyday as much as possible.

– Alcohol, caffeine, and recreational drugs when abused or used at the wrong time, can disrupt your sleep and limit access to Theta brainstates while you are awake. Alcohol, as well as most common sleep aids, might make it easier to fall asleep, however they are now known to disrupt proper brain frequency patterns for healthful sleep.

– The wrong food or too much food for dinner or before bed can ruin your sleep. Intestinal gas, flatulence, or heartburn will also definitely affect your sleep. Change the type of food you are eating or get advice on suitable natural remedies to treat your specific digestive issues. Note: There are serious health concerns related to the frequent use of medications for the treatment of digestive symptoms. Natural treatments and dietary change will address the cause, not just the symptoms.

– Avoid eating a full meal right before going to sleep. Working to digest a meal all night keeps your sleep shallow and un-refreshing. If you must eat immediately before sleeping, eat only an egg sized serving of a dense protein – a handful of nuts is a great choice. For some people, this habit could actually encourage waking up feeling more refreshed and energized, due to it’s positive effects on stabilization of blood sugar through the night.

– Certain supplements may be appropriate for you, especially if these techniques do not optimize your sleep on their own. Popular sleep supplements, however, are some of the most misused and misunderstood natural health products on the market. It is absolutely essential that natural sleep aids are chosen for your individual situation, so the the supplement encourages your natural sleep cycle rather than taking over for it.

– If your job, studies, or lifestyle do not support the implementation of these habits, you may want to consider a major life change! The reality is that sometimes we may have to subject ourselves temporarily to an unhealthy lifestyle, to achieve a certain education or career goal. It is essential, however, to know when this imbalanced lifestyle will end. Don’t allow it to be your lifestyle on an indefinite basis.

– There are constitutional and energetic imbalances that may be the cause of sleep or mood disturbances. This is the basis of Chinese and Ayurvedic traditional medicine systems. (Insomnia, for example, is most commonly a result of excess Pitta/Yang or Vata energies which can be identified and subdued providing almost immediate results – without a sedative!) These imbalances may clear on their own or may require the help of a constitutional-energetic natural medicine practitioner.

SKILLED RELAXATION

Skilled relaxation goes one step further; it is the conscious and structured cultivation of low-Theta brainstates. This typically involves the use of a specific form that is used consistently to gradually teach the mind and body to enter a relaxed state more quickly and easily. This could involve traditional forms such as sitting meditation, or a form of your own design.

These suggestions are only some possibilities toward the resolution of sleep and mood disregulation. There may be many other causes and solutions. If you implement the habits discussed and do not see improvement, or your symptoms are severe, see a both a medical doctor AND a natural health practitioner if possible. Why both? Doctors are skilled diagnosticians and have access to testing that most natural practitioners do not. This will also rule out any serious illness. It is then your choice how to respond and what treatments to use. I believe that the right herbs, food, and behaviors offer the safest solutions most of the time and at the same time teach us something along the way.
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These are just a few key concepts for the development of a your personal ecology of mind and body. I help my clients refine and expand these skills, integrate life changes, and find balance. Health is natural.


return to PierreBlack.com
or book an appointment at 514-564-7847.

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