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  • Writer's pictureRoberta Whitney Hughes

Unlock Better Sleep with Self Regulation & Meditation

Updated: Mar 30, 2023

At the age of 25, I became a mom for the first time. I was also fresh out of college, working my first full time job, and soon to become a military spouse. When I think back to this time in my life, I can remember how frenzied the energy felt. Each day, I did my best to balance it all. Typically I felt defeated and unsuccessful when my head finally met the pillow at night. Oftentimes, I was so exhausted by the time I got into bed that my mind began to race and sleep became a struggle. There were nights I remember pleading for sleep to wash over me, but also feeling this strong pulse of energy moving through my whole body. This is the feeling I have come to know as “wired and tired.”

Do you ever feel so exhausted that you are unable to get a good night’s sleep? You’re not alone. Poor sleep is one of the most common issues plaguing people today, and it can have a serious impact on our health and well-being. Fortunately, there are strategies that can help you achieve more restful sleep. One of these strategies is learning how to regulate your nervous system.

Understanding Your Nervous System

Think of the autonomic nervous system as the complete circle in this symbol. It works to bring balance and healthy function to all of your internal organs. Just like the symbol shows, the ANS has two parts:

Sympathetic Nervous System- This system is all about stimulation and quick response. It is often referred to as the Fight, Flight, or Flee system.

Parasympathetic Nervous System- This system is all about calm and rejuvenation. It is often referred to as the Rest and Digest system.

If we look back at the scenario I described at the beginning of this blog, my activity level combined with the stress of being a new mom, working, and preparing to move out of state had my nervous system in a constant state of stimulation. Add in the uncertainty of when my new baby would need to eat, have a diaper change, or want to be held (and not feeling skilled in any of these areas), the stimulation was even greater. From the moment I woke up until the time I tried to fall asleep, I was in a constant state of stimulation. My sympathetic nervous system was consistently in charge.

During this period of time, I did little to nourish my parasympathetic nervous system. Instead, I stayed in motion, did my best to manage, and believed things would get better once life could settle down a bit. It wasn’t long before I learned that life wasn’t going to settle down. With this realization also came the thought that I would need to make changes if I wanted to feel differently during the day and sleep better at night. And so my journey began… I started finding creative ways to find moments to slow down and rest during the course of each day. Unbeknownst to me at the time, I was doing things to nourish and support my parasympathetic nervous system. As the support became more consistent, my nervous system began to regulate. Soon I was sleeping well and feeling better able to cope with the stress that was sure to come in the course of a day.

Five Simple Ways to Regulate Your Nervous System

  • Mindfulness- A mindfulness practice helps you develop self-awareness, which is needed to recognize the places and activities in your life that are creating a lack of balance between the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system.

  • Movement- While high-intensity exercise may relieve stress, it may also release more cortisol and keep your sympathetic nervous active. Try slower forms of exercise like Yin Yoga, gentle yoga, restorative yoga, thai chi, or Pilates at least once or twice a week to nourish your parasympathetic nervous system.

  • Guided Meditation- A guided meditation gives your brain a focal point so that thoughts subside and you can bring your mind to a place of calm. Yoga Nidra, a form of guided meditation, will guide you into a place of deep rest, teaching your parasympathetic nervous system how to activate again.

  • Watch the Sunrise or Sunset- The infrared light offered at this time of day is healing for the body. It also ignites the parasympathetic nervous system and brings the body and mind to a place of calm.

  • Digital Downtime- Screens are a stimulant and keep the sympathetic nervous system actively engaged. Unplug and spend time in nature, take a bath, or read a book to give your sympathetic nervous system and break. Unplugging will help your parasympathetic nervous system become stronger so you can enjoy rest when you are at the end of your day seeking sleep.

If you’d like to explore activities that will help you regulate your nervous system and improve your sleep quality, I invite you to try this short guided meditation. Here at Peaceful Living, Roberta offers 1:1 coaching sessions to help you regulate your nervous system allowing you to get better rest naturally! If you have any questions, feel free to reach out anytime – we look forward to hearing from you soon!

Roberta Hughes is a certified meditation, Pilates, and yoga instructor and the owner of PeaceFull Living, which specializes in helping individuals with personal growth and self-care. Roberta provides customized guidance so students can make the most of their practice and reach their unique goals. She also offers a complimentary Discovery Call to help new students identify their goals and choose the best program for their needs. If you're looking for personalized instruction from an experienced yoga teacher, contact Roberta today through the PeaceFull Living website.

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