Let's explore sleep from an energetic perspective; I'm talking about the energy systems of Hindu chakras and Traditional Chinese Medicine meridians, and how they help us understand our sleeping problems and provide insight into ways to support a good night's sleep.
For some, attempts at a good night's sleep can feel futile with long term insomnia or constant waking. For others, sleep is dependant on all things being well. Those of us who are parents might dream of the time when we get to sleep through the night.
Part One of this series will look at stress, the impact stress has on falling and staying asleep, and the importance of balanced chakras.
Part Two will offer insight into some of the reasons why you may be waking at the same time each night through the ancient wisdom of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Part Three will focus on techniques to support sleep for infants and toddlers, preschoolers and teenagers, and adults. By the end of this series you will have a better understanding of your sleep challenges and a range of natural healing techniques to try at home.
Part One: Sleep & stress - why you can't fall asleep at night
The demands of modern life mean many of us live a high stress lifestyle: conflict with colleagues, meeting deadlines, traffic, chasing children, emotional relationships or learning new skills. Your body is designed to deal with stress by releasing stress hormones through the adrenal glands. You may have heard of 'fight or flight' response - also known as 'survival mode'. It's OK to be in short phases of survival mode throughout the day, however we are not winding down at the end of the day.
Your body remains in survival mode and your adrenals don't switch off. You might not think that you are a stressed person but ask yourself – what do you do at the end of the day to tell your mind and body that all is well, you are safe, it’s time to relax and the day is done?
It is now time to fall asleep – what happens? Your mind is caught up in mental loops from the day, you have restless legs and can't lie still and you fight for sleep. Your mind needs to rest and be calm and your body needs time to rejuvenate and release hormones such as melatonin (responsible for our circadian rhythm) and serotonin (known as the 'happy hormone' as it makes us feel good). You have stopped listening to your body and taking care to balance the high stress times with relaxation and recovery. Now when you try to relax, you can’t.
Balancing the Base Chakra for stress
From a chakra perspective, being unable to relax is partly a Base Chakra problem. Your Base Chakra (or Root Chakra) penetrates the body through the adrenal glands. It stems down from your tail bone and outward toward the Earth like a pyramid. Each chakra has physical, emotional, mental and spiritual relevance. To balance your Base Chakra, contemplate the following concepts in your life:
- Are you secure within yourself ? Are you comfortable with being you?
- Do you feel physically safe?
- Are you financially stable?
- Do you try to control yourself, others and your environment?
- Is your family foundation a happy one?
Survival mode is a physiological protective response by the body. For example, if you were very stressed in a previous job then a new job may still trigger survival mode. By addressing the concerns of the Base Chakra and taking a few minutes each night to relax, you are teaching your body to switch off when needed and to feel secure to gently fall asleep at night.
Balancing the Crown Chakra for sleep
The Crown Chakra stems up from the highest point of you head and penetrates through the pineal gland which is responsible for our circadian (sleep-wake) rhythm. The pineal gland secretes melatonin and serotonin. The Crown Chakra is our spirituality and our connection to spirit. The main concerns of this chakra are:
- Our spirit path – are you living the life that is intended for you?
- Are you following your heart, doing what makes you happy and nourishing yourself?
- Are you listening to your Spirit's love, truth and wisdom (intuition or gut feeling) or does your ego mind speak louder?
If this speaks to you then you need to balance the Crown Chakra and to do this you need to find stillness and quiet in your life. Allow space for your Spirit to speak to you – this can come as a sense or feeling, as images or as a voice from your heart.
Meditation, visualisation, yoga, gentle walks in nature, reading or having a bath are simple starting points to balance both your Base and Crown chakras and to ultimately allow your Spirit to gently reside in your body for peaceful sleep.
In Part Two I will be discussing the exciting area of Traditional Chinese Medicine and how it can explain why you wake up at the same time each night!