We spend about a third of our lives sleeping, and as we all know, sleep is absolutely necessary to human life and health.
However, nothing can ruin a good night’s sleep quite like having a nightmare. Bad dreams can wake us up in a cold sweat, with us unwilling to go back to sleep for fear of seeing the same images recur.
Although there is no exact science to pleasant dreaming – sometimes the nightmares are inevitable, and can even make us aware of an unconscious issue we need to address – here are a few things you can try to give yourself the best possible chance for uplifting dreams and a peaceful, soothing sleep.
Meditation has the power to relieve stress, enhance the quality of your sleep and encourage better dreams by ridding your mind of negative and anxious thoughts, and bringing you into the present moment. Even just five or ten minutes before bedtime can help you shed the worries of the day, center yourself, and get you ready for restful sleep.
Simply sit or lay in a comfortable position, perhaps with some soft background music and maybe your favorite incense, focus on your breathing, and clear your mind. Repeating a mantra can help some people enter and maintain an aware, meditative state.
One common mantra, from the Theravada Buddhist tradition is, “May I be well, may all be well.” Or, you can choose any mantra you wish – just keep it short, simple and meaningful to you. As you meditate, let all the thoughts that swarm through your mind pass through, and exit your mind as you exhale.
Meditating before bed can help you deal with your stresses and conflicts while you are awake, so your unconscious mind does not have to process them in the form of unpleasant dreams.
The main thing to remember when choosing foods to promote quality sleep and dreams is that a clean diet of whole foods, including a variety of nutrient-rich proteins, fruits and veggies, goes a long way. If you are hungry, or your body is deficient in certain nutrients, your sleep and dream cycles will likely suffer along with other areas of your health.
That said, there are certain foods that help to promote relaxation and deeper sleep. Foods that contain tryptophan are great choices for your evening meal. Tryptophan is an amino acid that aids in the body’s production of serotonin, the “feel good” hormone that boosts your mood, promotes relaxation and encourages a good night’s rest.
Some foods that contain tryptophan are raw nuts, bananas, turkey, chicken, eggs (always choose organic free range for optimal health) and grass-fed dairy products. Make sure your evening meal is not too heavy though, so your digestive system is not working overtime during the night.
One great bedtime trick to try is to drink a glass of organic tart cherry juice before you hit the sack. Cherry juice contains tryptophan, and is also a natural source of melatonin, the hormone that responds to darkness and signals your brain that it is time to sleep. The anthocyanins in cherries have been found to enhance the effectiveness of tryptophan in the body, and tart Montmorency cherries have been shown to be most effective for enhancing sleep.
To enjoy the best sleep possible, avoid caffeine in the afternoon. Also, processed and junk foods are a no-no, as the range of chemicals and preservatives that they contain may lead to sleep disturbances, as well as a wide range of other health issues. Sugar is another thing to avoid; besides being a gateway to obesity, diabetes and heart disease, its effect on blood sugar levels can keep you tossing and turning.
Maintaining a regular exercise routine is a wonderful recipe for the optimal well-being of your body and mind, and also for sound sleep. Cardiovascular exercise – any activity that gets your heart going – provides a rush of endorphins that can relieve stress and boost your overall mood.
It is best to work out early in the day – and at the very least three hours before you go to bed – because exercise also gives you a great rush of energy that your body needs time to wind down from.
One method is to do your cardio exercise in the morning, or as early in the afternoon as possible, mix in a bit of strength training (which is also vital to overall health) and perhaps go for a relaxing walk early in the evening.
For added relaxation, try adding a soothing yoga or tai chi routine. Aim to exercise at least half an hour a day, four times a week, and mix it up so that you are having fun while doing it!
Not only will all that movement relieve stress and prepare your body and mind for a much-needed rest, the feeling of accomplishment you will get knowing that you are working hard to get your body and mind in an optimal state will surely have you going to sleep with a smile.
Rose: Roses have been valued since ancient times for their aromatherapy properties, which include elevating mood, fostering hormonal balance, steadying the breath and relieving symptoms of anxiety and depression. This familiar, sweet scent has also has been associated with aphrodisiac properties, and encouraging positive dreams.
To use, simply add a drop of pure rose oil to a base oil such as organic, extra-virgin coconut oil, and rub on pressure points such as the wrist and temples before bed. Rub the oil mixture between your palms, bring them to your face, and take some time just breathing in and enjoying the aroma.
Note: As there are a lot of imposter products, make sure that your rose essential oil comes from a source you trust. It is a bit pricey, but just a drop goes a long way if you mix it with a base oil.
Frankincense: Frankincense essential oil, which hails from the resin of the frankincense tree, was prized highly by numerous ancient cultures, including the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Persians and Hebrews. It was often utilized within spiritual ceremonies, as its aroma is tied to helping to overcome obstacles, including mental and emotional blockages.
The woody aroma of frankincense has an uplifting effect on the nervous system, and can both relax the mind and melt away tension. It is a great choice for use during meditation, and when used in an essential oil diffuser, can turn any room into a meditative space.
Frankincense essential oil should always be diluted in a base oil, and once again, we recommend organic coconut oil, although organic olive oil and grapeseed oil also work. The diluted oil is great for use in a massage, especially for a foot massage thanks to the grounding properties of frankincense. Or, you could choose to apply it to your neck, wrists and temples, breathe in the aroma, and invite the sweet dreams to come your way.
Note: As with all essential oils, consult a medical professional before use if you are pregnant, nursing or have a health condition. Also be sure to check with your health professional of choice before using on children.
If you are having challenges with nightmares, or even if you aren’t, try one or more of these suggestions to improve your shut-eye.
-The Alternative Daily