There is a bit of tough-guy glory associated with getting little sleep, as if sleep is only for the slothenly. There’s some competitive edge to surviving on minimal rest, as if it makes us a bit cooler. Like; “Sleep is for babies! I only need 4 hours and I am fine”. I wonder how many coffees a day that person is having in order to function?
I could go through loads of research on the importance of sleep and it’s effect on our memory, mental health, longevity, etc… ever heard the term “Beauty sleep?” But I want to assume for a moment that you know all this. I want to assume also that you are aware of days when you get good sleep and you feel and look great and are more productive, and days when you get poor sleep and you feel and look not so great and are dragging and disoriented (Like me today as I edit this after having stayed up late to write it).
We here reading this blog- we are going for great.
So sleep is a natural beauty, health and vitality elixir. They say that it helps balance metabolism and can be key in healthy weight loss. Sleeping is perhaps the only time when your body can really detox… it’s like the cleaners come in at night and take out the garbage and re-set the system. And the deeper the sleep, the deeper the cleaning.
We make poorer choices regarding our habits when we are tired. We reach for sugars and caffeine to help keep us awake- as most of the modern world has de-valued the afternoon nap, we must cake and latte through our fatigue. And how much do you feel like exercising when you are exhausted? Not very much.
So with sleep, we have energy to do better for ourselves.
So say it. Say it to yourself now, “Sleep is good for me”
and then say “Good sleep is a priority for me”
So if you are not a natural deep and long sleeper, what is keeping you awake?
Could it be Coffee? Caffeine from any drink or chocolate has the ability to keep us buzzing for many hours after consumption* . For people with caffeine sensitivity, the caffeine can stay in the body for literally days.
Food? I have two friends, a couple who like to say that one of them eats pasta for a good nights sleep and the other eats pasta and stays up all night. Every body is different. What are the foods that sit in your stomach, or move slowly and noisily through your intestines keeping you and your bed buddy up? Are you eating too much too late? Or are you going to bed too hungry to sleep? This will have to do with your digestion and metabolism and you must trust your experiences through your experiments.
Pee-pee tea? This is such a trap for me as I love to drink tea in the evening, but if I overdo it, for sure around 3-4 AM I have a pressure in my kidneys that will not let me sleep through and I have to get up to pee, which basically disturbs some of the best hours of sleep.
Too much energy? Physical tension? Physically releasing energy and exhausting the body can have wonderful effects on people who have a hard time winding down at night. Be aware of how your body responds to sleep on a day with exercise vs. a day without.
An uncomfortable bed, a partner who snores, extreme temperatures, noises in the neighborhood… any number of reasons could be disturbing your precious sleep. But here is what could be potentially the biggest destroyer of a good nights sleep and your overall well-being:
The incessant chatter of your own mind.
When the world quiets down, and your busy schedule is over, and its just you settling into your quiet time, the mind can start to do a lot of processing. Often this leads us to habits that don’t support a healthy nights sleep. We may avoid going to bed in a natural way by instead just watching television until we fall asleep. We might lie in bed tossing and turning, worrying, unable to unwind. Sometimes we resort to taking some sort of medication to help knock us out.
I think every one of us has experienced this in our lives at some time, and it can make our relationship with sleep a strained one instead of a self-caring, nurturing, peace enhancing, healing, journey to distant lands delight.
My sleep took a critical turn for the better when I realised that my conscious mind was not my highest form of intelligence- and could not always be trusted and therefore I did not necessarily need to listen to it when it started to “Go off”.
I began to deal with my conscious chatter through self-awareness, meditation, therapy, mindfullness and all of that good stuff. (There is a beautiful book called “Marriage of the spirit” By Leslie Temple-Thurston that helps you work through polarised thinking that keeps us in all sorts of self-sabotaging loops.)
Those nights of laying awake in bed worrying were diminishing. But it really took a turn for the better when on one particularly neurotic night as I lay in a sleepless internal torture; I stopped myself. I checked in with myself, and this is what came up spontaneously:
I GO TO SLEEP TONIGHT NOT WITH FEAR FOR THE FUTURE OR ANTICIPATING PROBLEMS, NOT CREATING ALTERNATIVE REALITIES, NOR SEEKING JUSTIFICATIONS FOR THINGS I HAVE DONE NOR FEELING SHAME FOR ANY CHOICES I HAVE MADE.
I GO TO SLEEP WITH COMPLETE PEACE, OPENNESS AND RECEPTIVITY TO TRUTH.
I LAY DOWN NOW IN THE COURT OF MY SPIRIT GUIDES AND HIGHEST SELF AS THEY FILL MY AWARENESS WITH TRUTHS BEYOND MY ABILITIES TO SEE, BEYOND MY PERCEPTIONS.
I ENTER MY SLEEP WITH THIS INTENTION.
In other words- “Just sleep on it.”
Kind of like Rumi’s phrase from a poem “Out beyond ideas of right-doing and wrong –doing there is a field, I will meet you there”. Sleep became that field, a place of peace. A place, where in trust, things could be worked out on there own.
Creating rituals around sleep, rituals based on your highest health and happiness, can have a strong ripple effect on your life. Sleeping well one night is setting you up for the next day, and the next day, and the next, and that my friend is your whole life! Just one day at a time.
So if you are a troubled sleep, here is some homework:
Take the time to settle in to sleep. Eat the right foods in the evening. The ones you digest easily. Drink the right drinks: not caffeine and not too much alcohol; listen to the right music: uplifting, relaxing and not too sentimental; turn off your phone and your WiFi; tell your loved ones you love them; pet the dog; wash and massage your feet; spray lavender on your pillow; say thank you to whatever you credit the air you breathe to. End your day with determination and trust that things are working for you while you sleep- on a physical, mental and spiritual level. So relax, and let them.
So I am done writing now, It is past 11 PM, an unheard of hour for me to be up on a school night. I have been drinking just a cup of Valerian tea a magical herb that can be calming and sedative (based on your disposition). It helps me get a delicious sleep. And so as to not go to bed hungry I have snacked on a few slices of fermented buckwheat bread made by my friend and current visitor Stephanie Jeffs (The lovely lady behind Explore Raw). She has blogged the recipe, so I wont re-invent the wheel, here it is. buckwheat bread
Now go to sleep. x