While attending language school in Japan about 5 years ago, there was a Korean girl in class who never failed to be sleeping throughout the entire day. She was a case of the classic insomniac. Then there were the serial sleepers who spent much of their time working part-time, arriving for lessons just so they could have attendance marked and, ironically, sleep through the entire class! For the rest of us non-suffers of insomnia, causes preventing us hitting the sack at the right time may be more subtle than these examples. Occasionally, bouts of sleeplessness do seem to suddenly take their toll on us though not quite as unexplained as we might think it to be. And often, we seldom pause to think what our sleeplessness reflects about ourselves.
”But I haven’t done anything yet! I’m just getting started at…”
Sometimes we never go to bed before 12 because we just haven’t seemed to accomplish much during the day. Examine your lifestyle habits. Are you constantly in a cycle of late sleeping and late rising? Then perhaps your body hasn’t had the opportunity to wake up and be fully active during daylight hours. Do you have a regular exercise regime? If being sedentary is the norm for you, no wonder your body gives you signals that it hasn’t been tired out enough to wind down properly. An hour’s worth of vigorous exercise , especially yoga, which helps to calm and focus the mind while toning the physical body, might do the trick. I find that I always sleep better when I’ve done yoga during the day, be it a more intensive Hatha class or soothing Yin class.
Also for us students, are we keeping awake late into the night despite the holidays? Staying up for the sake of assignments may have made late sleeping a bad habit and bad habits die hard. But sometimes rather than a matter of bad habit, is our late sleeping more an effect of NOT having the mental and physical stimulation demanded during the school term? Perhaps we may better channel our spare energy in pursuit of something challenging and of our interest, which could not only prevent our brain cells from deteriorating (no more complaining about mind rot during the hols!) but wear us out to have an ample good night’s rest. PLUS always a sense of achievement at the end of the day 🙂
Perhaps you’re terribly worn out. You’re tired and want to go to bed, but your mind won’t let you! If there is nothing in particular keeping you preoccupied in your thoughts that may be preventing you from sleeping, try using simple techniques to calm the mind. I like to use either of the following:
- Focusing on your in and out-breaths – something like the counting sheep method, I simply keep count of my in-breath and multiply the count of my out-breath by 1.5 times. The specific count doesn’t matter very much so long as your out-breath is always longer than your in-breath. So for example, breathing in to a count of 4, breathe out to a count of 6. You may extend the number of counts as your lung capacity improves. This is an example of the mind-body connection. Breathing slowly and calmly helps relax and soothe the mind, allowing you to enter a focus state of relaxation ideal for a good night’s rest.
- Sending Consciousness to Different Parts of the Body – this is a technique I picked up from yoga class which was used by a yoga teacher during Savasana. This technique helps prevent the mind from wandering onto distracting thoughts and keep focused on the present. In Savasana, or dead man’s pose, breath calmly in and out noticing the changes to your body as you do so. Your lungs and ribcage expand as you breathe in and contract and sink to the floor as you breathe out. Observe and appreciate every detail. Then when you are ready, keep completely still as you visualise the feeling on the right side of your body, as though you are about to do something with it but remain completely still. You can do this with your shoulders, upper arms, wrist, fingers, thighs, calves.. every part of the body. Then move on to the left side. This is an excellent way of directing your consciousness inwards away from your external thoughts, and effectively puts me to sleep sometimes midway during Savasana! If you are still awake when you are finish, notice your mental state and entire physical body. Note any thoughts or emotions that may arise and let them go without focusing on them, remaining in the calm state you are in.
Whew! That’s it for sleeping difficulties part one. More causes in part two including some interesting Ayurvedic tidbits about Doshas and energy patterns that may help explain why we experience sleeping difficulties.
On to today’s quick lunch recipe and the ingredient that’s recently become one of my favorite foods: (move over soba noodles, here comes) Kombu Noodles!
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30-minute Quick Kombu Noodles
I’ve only discovered kombu noodles recently when an aunt gave some to my Mom. These are made of only 2 ingredients: kombu and unbleached flour, and come in dried form shaped as discs. Similar but not quite the same as soba noodles, these are thicker and boil up much firmer and springier, which I prefer, since soba can turn out gluey sometimes. I made a stir-fry with the ingredients I had in my fridge, and threw in the cooked noodles in the last minute with some reserved boiling liquid, much like how you would prepare pasta. This is dead simple and you can use whatever vegetables you prefer. Just change the seasoning to suit your preference!
- 1 serving kombu noodles
- 1/2 to 1 large bell pepper
- 1/2 small tomato
- 3 Shiitake mushrooms
- 5-7 leaves of basil
- garlic (or I like to use ginger)
- 1 red chilli (optional for some heat), sliced
- salt, black pepper, EVOO, squeeze of lemon
Start by cooking the noodles. Bring a pot of water to the boil. Salt the water if preferred (trust me this always make the noodles taste better) and slip a disc of noodles in. Bring to a boil and let cook for about 8-10 minutes, checking at 8 for doneness. Reserve some of liquid for the stir-fry. For the stir-fry, heat a pan and start cooking the garlic or ginger. Next, add the chilli to infuse the oil. Now add all the vegetables and basil, frying on med-high heat for about 5-10 minutes until depending on your textural preference. I like my bell peppers still crunchy and mushrooms plump and less shriveled. I also prefer lightly cooking the tomato so put them only in the last minute. season with salt and pepper. Then add reserve liquid from cooking the noodles (about 1/4 to 1/2 cup for wetness). Note that if your cooking liquid is salted, use less salt in the stir-fry. Once done, add the cooked noodles and mix for a minute. Plate dish, add squeeze of lemon, drizzle of EVOO and additional pepper if liked!