Tossing and turning, night after night, can make a person feel desperate – willing to try anything and everything to get a good night’s rest. Those who have trouble falling or staying asleep know how taxing it can be on the mind and body. Sleep is vital to our wellbeing, and insomnia or sleep disorders can trigger a number of physical and mental health issues. Fortunately, there are many therapies that can positively affect your sleep.
Many sleep disorders are triggered by stress and the body's inability to wind down. Most adults will experience short-term (acute) insomnia at some point in their life. This typically lasts anywhere from a few days to a few weeks and is triggered by stress or a specific event. Unfortunately, this can lead to long-term (chronic insomnia) that lasts a month or longer. ‘
According to the Mayo Clinic, stress is the most common cause of chronic insomnia, followed by work schedule, poor sleep habits, and eating late in the evening. The good news is there are several therapies out there that can help you deal with underlying stress and help you fall much easier each time you lay on your millet pillow.
Although medications can serve a purpose, many people are more interested in a natural sleep aid to remedy their sleep troubles, and a therapy that helps with stress is a great place to start. Here are a few different types of therapies that can positively affect your sleep.
Do you play a particular type of music when you are working out? Do you play a different kind of music if you are studying, working or cooking? Music affects our mood and energy, and when used appropriately, it can even help you sleep.
A 2020 study published in Nature and Science of Sleep found “music therapy as a potential intervention for sleep improvement.” The researchers stated that using music as a therapeutic tool has been found to have a sedative effect. Just as certain rhythms and beats can create an energetic state, they can also make a person feel sleepy. They found that slow, repetitive rhythms can generate a feeling of safety which induced the brain’s sleep response. They concluded that music is therapeutic and in a clinical setting it is a viable option that is low-cost and free from side effects.
One trial that is currently underway is examining the use of music therapy to treat those with depression-related insomnia. In this trial one group will receive standard treatment, and the experimental group will listen to music for at least 30 minutes before bed for four weeks. The outcome of this exciting trial could help provide those with depression-related insomnia a natural and affordable treatment option that could be used in replace of or in addition to traditional treatment methods.
Music therapy is when music is used to achieve a clinical outcome such as improving sleep or reducing symptoms of depression. If used in a clinical setting with a therapist, it may involve playing music, singing, or listening. Generally, for sleep, it consists of listening to relaxing music before bed. For more information on what type of music to listen to, check out our blog post here.
Sleeping on a bed of bees may not sound as comfortable as your millet pillow, but it is believed to positively affect the quality of your sleep and reduce stress and anxiety. This alternative therapy goes by a few names, including bee bed therapy and ulleotherapy. It is used around the world but is especially popular in Russia, Canada, Japan, Ukraine, Korea, and China.
This therapy involves sleeping on a specially made box that contains beehives. Vladimir Megre described the experience like this: “I lie on the hive and felt micro-vibration. It was a feeling that buzzing wires and something slightly pushes in the back. Then I got dizzy from the smell of lime, buckwheat, propolis, and I fell asleep. I slept for ten minutes, but it felt like after a full night’s rest! All accumulated over a week fatigue was gone. Problems receded into the background”.
There are certain features of these beds that provide therapeutic effects. The first is the air they create. These beds are essentially a flat box made of wood that you lay on. On the side, there are unique ventilation holes. These ventilation holes will fill the room with ionized air, which is said to kill off microbes in the lungs and bronchi. It is also full of aromas that relax you, easing you into a sleepy state. As an experience for all the senses, you will feel the micro-vibration of busy buzzing bees beneath you. It acts as a vibe-massage that induces self-healing and positively affects the nervous, circulatory, and muscular systems. Finally, the sound of hundreds of bees humming can put you in a meditative trance that also helps you sleep.
Therapists recommend laying on the bee bed for at least an hour. It will put you in a state of deep relaxation similar to meditation that will reduce the anxiety and stress that may be causing your sleep troubles.
Reflexology involves applying pressure to specific areas of the hands and feet. It can provide a relaxing effect, alleviate stress, and is believed to have healing benefits. In addition, specific pressure points will help improve your quality of sleep.
A 2010 study provided 25 patients at a long-term care home with sleep troubles reflexology for five weeks. After five weeks of treatment, the study found that their sleep quality improved; however, these improvements diminished two weeks after their reflexology treatments had stopped.
You can visit a reflexologist who can treat insomnia and sleep disorders through acupressure, or you can do it on your own. To practice reflexology on yourself, get in a comfortable position by sitting on a zafu meditation cushion and then target the following pressure points.
- The three yin intersection.This acupressure point is located on the highest point of your ankle on the inside (closest to your other leg). To find it, start at the top of your foot and count four fingers widths up. Then, apply deep pressure behind your tibia (lower leg bone) and massage in an up and down motion with your hands. Do this for up to 5 seconds. Note, this is also used to induce labor, so don’t do this if you are currently pregnant.
- The wind pool.This point is located at the back of your neck and involves two points. To find them, feel for your mastoid bone behind your ears, then follow this to where your neck muscles meet your skull. Using your thumbs, apply deep pressure massaging the area in a circular motion.
- Spirit gate.This is a more accessible acupressure point if you have mobility issues. It is located on the inside of your wrist, just below your hand, under your pinkie finger. Feel for a hollow space in this area and gently massage it. Do this for two to three minutes, stopping to hold pressure. After you finish one hand, do the same to your other hand. This is also great to do in bed as you lay on your millet pillow.
You don’t need to be “good” at art to enjoy its therapeutic effects. Whether you're drawing, painting, or working with clay, creating art can put you into a meditative state. When you are flowing with creativity and remove the pressures of achieving a specific outcome, art can reduce stress and anxiety and help you sleep.
Artist and art therapist Shifali Nitu Mehra says, “As an art therapist, I first identify the issue and accordingly pick the clip art and formulate an art module. I let everyone have the freedom to pick the colors they like. Over time I see the choice of colours changing to brighter shades as my students begin to feel more confident of happier in general. This also translates into them sleeping well and keeping better health”.
You can enjoy the benefits of art therapy at home with an adult coloring book. Many coloring books have been created to help adults with various issues such as insomnia or going through chemotherapy. The act of coloring, picking the colors, and the feeling of creating something can help melt away stress and make you feel more relaxed. After dinner, instead of watching Netflix or scrolling through social media, put on some relaxing music and try coloring. By engaging in art therapy, you could significantly improve your quality of sleep!
Would you be willing to try these alternative therapies as a natural sleep aid? Would you sleep on a beehive or start painting with an art therapist? If these don’t sound appealing to you, there are many other options out there. Physical therapy, massage, and even fish therapy can have positive effects on your mind and body, helping you sleep.
If you want to fall asleep faster when you lay down on your millet pillow, why not spend some time on your zafu meditation cushion massaging the three yin intersection or dust off your coloring pencils and create some art. You’ve got nothing to lose, but lots of zzzz’s to gain!