But if you're like me, there are times when peaceful, restorative slumberseems to evade you. Have the stresses of the day sometimes kept you tossing and turning when you longed for sleep? Or, if you have chronic insomnia, does restful sleep seem like a only a dream?
Before reaching for chemical sleep aids that may cause side effects and create dependencies, try the natural relaxation effects of reflexology! You can easily give yourself and others a mini-reflexology session to help you shift gently into the sweet slumber you desire.
By stimulating reflex points on your feet, hands, face and ears, reflexology subtly impacts the whole body, affecting the organs and glands. A simple reflexology routine that works on just the feet can help you or a loved one to drift off to sleep naturally. There are nearly 15,000 nerves in your feet alone, one of many reasons that foot reflexology is so calming, soothing and effective.
Reflexologists use a map of the feet where all the organs, glands, and corresponding parts of the body are laid out. The toes reflect the head. The ridge beneath the toes on the top part of the ball of the foot is a natural shoulder or neck line. The ball of the foot reflects the chest. The arch mirrors the digestive organs, and the heel and ankles contain reflexes for the reproductive system. The inside curve of each foot (where we find the spinal reflex) corresponds to the actual curves of the spine.
Using the chart above, here's a 15-minute routine in four easy steps that you can incorporate into your bedtime ritual:
1. Relax the feet, one at a time, with simple relaxation techniques: pressing and squeezing, lightly slapping or gently kneading — whatever feels good. Finish by pressing and holding your thumb on the solar plexus point of each foot for 5-10 seconds each.
2. On the bottom of each foot, "walk" your thumb up from the base of the heel to each toe (imagine your thumb is a caterpillar inching its way up your foot), then press these reflex points with the outer edge of your thumb or tip of your forefinger:
- Head/brain (top of each toe) promotes clarity and positive thinking.
- Pituitary or "master gland" (center of big toe) stimulates/balances hormone secretions of all other glands.
- Pineal gland (outer side of big toe) secretes melatonin which controls our circadian rhythm/sleep cycle.
- Thyroid (base of big toe) balances metabolism.
- Neck/shoulders (ridge of toes) releases tension
- Chest/lungs (ball of foot) calms breathing.
- Solar plexus/diaphragm (under ball of foot in the center) encourages profound relaxation and peacefulness.
3. Apply the relaxation techniques again, and finish with another thumb press on the solar plexus point on both feet.
4. End with "breeze strokes" — lightly running your fingertips down the tops, bottoms and sides of each foot in a feathery motion, barely touching the skin. Repeat this several times. It is very soothing to the nerves.
Reflexology transports you into a state of deep relaxation where you are open to suggestions you give yourself. This is a good time for a pre-sleep affirmation such as, A kind and forgiving world sings me to a peaceful sleep.
Also count your blessings and appreciate all of the good times in your day. Envision how you would like your next day to be.
Your bedtime ritual can include a nurturing exchange of reflexology mini-sessions with your partner. You can even use these same techniques to help your child go to sleep more easily. Sweet dreams!
Graphic courtesy of the author