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Zzzzz! 5 remedies to sleep better

June 30, 2014 18:01 IST

Zzzzz! 5 remedies to sleep better

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Shameem Akhtar

Shameem Akthar, yogacharya trained with the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre, lists five quick-fix alternative therapies to help you deal with insomnia.

Insomnia has many causes. The most common among them being the following:

  • Working in shifts which messes up one's normal biological rhythms
  • Eating too close to sleep time or eating too heavily
  • Engaging in excessive physical activity just before sleep time, such as brisk-walking, running or doing other forms of stimulating activity
  • Doing creative or mentally demanding work just before sleeping
  • Acidity
  • Certain medications
  • Hormonal yo-yos
  • Working in front of computer screens or watching too much television (the flickering lights on these screens is said to interfere with pineal gland functions, one of which is to release the sleep hormone)
  • Working in the same area as where you sleep, confusing the mind and not allowing the body-mind complex to relax.

Clearly several of these causes are lifestyle oriented and the problem of sleep deprivation may be tackled just by adjusting or rectifying them.

Shameem Akthar, yogacharya trained with the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre, lists five quick-fix alternative therapies to help you deal with insomnia.

Also read: What your sleeping position says about your relationship

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Vaastu

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Most people are shocked when they realise that they have flouted this simple Vaastu philosophy on the direction in which they place their head, especially when they learn how scientific it is, related as it were to the electromagnetic field of the earth itself.

The pineal gland, involved with sleep hormones, is what helps migrating animals find their way around the world, over pathways they have never taken, by following the electromagnetic pull of the effect.

Vaastu suggests that this gland and its hormones are adversely affected when the head is placed to the north, because the mind becomes stimulated.

In fact, if you wish to do some intense mental work or study, or meditate, you would face north.

But to let go and relax, you must place your head to the south of the earth's magnet.

It is simple to locate this, using the inexpensive school magnetic compass you find at stationery shops. Try it and see how soundly you sleep!

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Mudra

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In the mudra therapy, you need to hold these hand gestures for 45 minutes to be effective.

One way of ensuring this is by using these mudras while meditating, or doing pranayama. You may also use them while commuting, watching television. However, the effectiveness of the mudra is enhanced when done with a meditative focus.

Here are two mudras that will help you fall deep asleep.(Vayu shaamak, destroying the air element hand gesture) is done by pressing down the index finger with the thumb, for each hand. This is used when insomnia is caused by excessive worrying and anxiety.

Prithvi vardhak (increasing the earth element hand gesture) is done by touching the tip of the ring finger with the tip of the thumb for each hand. This is used when insomnia is caused by physical weakness and sicknesses.

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Photographs: Shameem Akhtar
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Yogic trataka

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Keeping a candle flame at eye level on a stool at a spot where there is no wind movement, so you are sitting a few feet away, is to set the stage for yogic trataka.

Stare at the flame till you get the urge to blink.

Then do palming which is to rub the palms to get warmth between them, then placing them over closed eyelids for their soothing contact. Palming to be done as long as the staring is done.

Most people who are restless (which is what causes insomnia in the first place) will find this initially difficult. But continuing this for a minute or so will help settle the agitations of the mind.

This practice is advised before sleep time.

Avoid candle flame gazing if you are prone to fits; instead use a black dot fixed on a wall.

Avoid trataka if you have serious eye problems, like cataract and glaucoma.

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Photographs: Aikhan/Wikimedia Creative Commons
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Aromatherapy

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Aromatherapy is an amazingly simple way to beat most physical problems.

The exciting aspect about this therapy is that allows you control over your own healing.

Some essential oils you may use are neroli, Roman chamomile, marjoram, frankincense, juniper.

Unlike some other aroma oils which are very strong and have certain contraindications, these are all very safe. They are also commonly available.

You may use them in aroma diffuser, adding six drops or so in the water, before you light up the candle in the diffuser.

You can use it in your massages, by mixing a few drops of any one of these with carrier oils (coconut, olive, almond, or sunflower, for example) in a cup for a soothing body massage.

Use them in inhaler, or in foot massages too.

Remember never to use essential oils directly or too much. They must be diluted and used in a muted fashion.

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Photographs: Hugo.arg/Wikimedia Creative Commons

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Diet

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Not many people realise that managing one's diet could help them fall asleep easily. Avoid eating heavy dinners, or too close to the dinner time.

Also, some people forget to drink water during the day and make up for this by drinking a lot of water just before sleeping. It is no wonder they have to wake up several times to relieve themselves.

It is better to manage this so your sleep is not disrupted.

Having excessive sweet things -- including those with natural sugars like fruits or their juices -- towards night time will clearly cause blood sugar yo-yos that will in turn cause erratic sleep rhythm.

Light dinners will help the entire system wind down comfortably.

Avoid those proteins that will keep you awake, instead choose those which help you sleep like turkey or chicken.

Caffeine products, including in soft drinks, should also be avoided, to prevent the mental stimulation kicked in by these.

Some foods that are naturally relaxing are bottle gourds, lettuce and aniseed (as herbal tea).

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Photographs: Photo by Mark Dadswell/Getty Images
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