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Illusive sleep?

Sleeping In The Forest

- Mary Oliver

I thought the earth remembered me, she took me back so tenderly, arranging her dark skirts, her pockets full of lichens and seeds. I slept as never before, a stone on the riverbed, nothing between me and the white fire of the stars but my thoughts, and they floated light as moths among the branches of the perfect trees. All night I heard the small kingdoms breathing around me, the insects, and the birds who do their work in the darkness. All night I rose and fell, as if in water, grappling with a luminous doom. By morning I had vanished at least a dozen times into something better.

- Mary Oliver

Why is it such a struggle to sleep in such bliss as Mary Oliver describes in her poem? Getting to sleep, staying asleep, having peaceful dreams, waking up refreshed? Such a lot of important body and mind repair happens during sleep time. The brain shrinks a bit and cerebrospinal fluids wash down and out the toxins. But many of us struggle to get to sleep, stay asleep and to wake refreshed and ready to go.

Following are a few tips to help your sleep routine. (Did you know acupuncture can also help in these areas?)

Physical environment impediments:

  • Ensure you have a comfortable physical environment that is not too hot or cold.

  • Avoid too much alcohol or caffeine.

  • Watch out for disruptive pets and snoring bed partners ;)

  • Sleep apnea and snoring. See your doctor. Acupuncture can help with tonifying the muscles that need to keep the throat area open, and can also relax the mind ( Nabarro, P., 2012)

  • Uncomfortable mattress

Sufficient Helpful Nutrients (see

  • Selenium: you just need a trace. Try a couple of Brazil nuts an hour before bed. They have the highest concentration of selenium of any food.

  • Magnesium: Make sure you get enough green leafy vegetables, especially spinach but avocados and almonds have it too

  • Calcium: also in dark, leafy greens and fish.

  • Carbohydrates have tryptophan and serotonin: yams and whole grains

  • Vitamin D is in sunlight and oily fish or check with your doctor to see if you need a supplement

  • Potassium is in avocados and spinach along with magnesium so you can get a “two fer”

  • Tryptophan helps make serotonin and is in fish, eggs and dairy

Sleep Routine

  • Help your brain wind down by shutting down electronic activity an hour before bed. The stimulation from the light and action of action of TV, Facebook and social medial pump up your brain’s dopamine “reward” center. Instead, read a bit

  • Eat lightly in the evening and not too late....prior to 7pm if at all possible. Preferance to easy to digest foods and not too much hard to digest protein.

  • Have some soothing Sleepytime tea, or Chamomile tea with lavendar at least 1-2 hours before bed

  • Take a soothing Epsom salt bath with Lavender an hour before bed

  • Use squishy ear plugs to block external noise and bring your attention inward.

  • Some people like eye cover

Mental Agitation and Worry.

  • Guided meditations and sounds. Any number are available on YouTube. Try Tara Brach's sleep mediation

  • Calming Breathing:

  • Try breathing in softly and slowly counting to 10 and starting over. Just keep going. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5....10. And again 1, 2, 3, ..10.

  • Notice your breath coming in and out of your nostrils. Try to sense the air passing by your upper lip as the breath comes in and out.

  • Qi Gong for insomnia (Montakab, 2012):

  • Lie in a supine position with your knees bent to your chest. Pull your knees in tightly, breathing normally. Hold this position for a count of 60 seconds. Then straighten your legs and relax your arms and hands by your sides. If you are still awake, try the next bullet......

  • Still from a supine position, stretch your arms above your head while inhaling. Then while exhaling, bring your hands down to your chest and massage your chest down to your abdomen with the palms of your hands in small slow circles. Rela

Do you Wake up up thinking about things you need to do?.

  • If you wake up thinking about things you need to do or remember, keep a pad and pen by your bed and jot down a quick note so you don't have to keep remembering. You don't really even need to see much...just jot down a few key words. You can try putting a note in your smart phone...but only if it doesn't grab your attention and the light wake you up.


Montakab, H. (2012) Acupuncture for Insomnia: Sleep and Dreams in Chinese Medicine 1st Edition, Kindle Edition

Nabarro, P. A. (2012). Acupuncture in obstructive sleep apnea/hypopnea syndrome: a case report with fifteen months of follow-up. Sleep Science, 5(4), 145-148.

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