“Sleep is the best meditation.” ~Dalai Lama
“A man can do only what he can do. But if he does that each day he can sleep at night and do it again the next day.” ~ Albert Schweitzer
“Sleep is the golden chain that ties health and our bodies together.” ~ Thomas Dekker
Sleep is restorative. Sleep is refreshing. Sleep lowers your stress and sharpens your creativity. So why in the world is it so elusive??
Even after a gallon of sleepy time tea and an hour of no cell phone why is it we have trouble falling asleep? Why does it seem impossible to shut off our brains and quickly drift into sweet slumber? Why do we consistently wake up groggy and grouchy?
What is the solution?
As it happens, sleep is all in your mind. The more you can control and direct your mind the more amazing sleep you will get on a consistent basis.
Yoga is used to gain balance and control through the repetition of certain practices. Typically, these are bodily positions and breathing techniques aimed at clearing the mind and connecting with your body.
I am liberally using the term yoga here to describe three ways you can repeat some practices as a way to create a better outcome for you.
Many of us struggle with insomnia. And this struggle has some very detrimental consequences for the 3 million people who have trouble falling asleep or saying asleep.
So here are three ways to reign in your mind and direct it to deliver a great night’s sleep.
Wake up at the same time every day.
- Jet Lag – By switching around your sleep schedule you actually create the same conditions as traveling between time zones.
- Inconsistent Sleep Drive – When you sleep in to “catch up” on sleep you shorten the time your body has between waking and sleeping. By switching this around you throw off your natural sleep rhythm.
- Confusion – Your body likes routine. You know how cats can tell time? They always know exactly when it’s feeding time, even if there isn’t a clock in sight. Your body is like a cat – it thrives on routine. Going to bed and getting up at the same time every day allows your system to establish a strong routine.
Don’t go to bed until you are sleepy.
- Going to Bed Too Early – When you go to bed before you are tired you send mixed signals to your mind/body system. If you are not tired, then stay out of the bed. Sit in your most comfortable chair or on the couch until you are ready to fall asleep.
- Train Your Brain That Your Bed is For Sleeping – Eliminate all your extracurricular activities from your bed. (Well, ok, almost all.) You need to create a strong association between your bed and sleep. This association helps override other distractions and allows you to get to sleep faster. It’s like having a special place for your daily meditations. As soon as you sit in that chair or on that particular cushion your mind and body are crystal clear on why you are there and what you expect them to do.
- The Difference Between Tired and Sleepy – This is a crucial distinction. Tired has to do with feeling physically worn out. You can be tired after swimming the English Channel even though you are not sleepy. When I say wait until you are sleepy to go to bed I mean when your eyelids are droopy and want to close. That’s your body’s signal it is time to head to the land of nod.
Maintain a sleep bridge for about an hour before bedtime.
- Your Mind is Like a River – The faster your mind is racing the larger the bridge needs to be to span it from wakefulness to sleep. A sleep bridge is the time and activities you engage in to bridge this span.
- Switch from Problem-Solving Mode to Restfulness Mode – The first step is to wind down your problem-solving and begin shifting into a lighter mental mode. During this sleep bridge time you don’t want to be checking emails, making phone calls, or working on a project. This time is for winding down.
- Wind Down with Stuff That’s Interesting but not Mentally Taxing – Use this time to work puzzles, read fiction, watch TV, do yoga, meditate, or perhaps you have a hobby that relaxes you. The important piece is to actively engage your mind in something that allows it to drift and relax.
Sleep is so important for your overall health and well-being. I know it’s not sexy or flashy to set up a strict sleep routine but the benefits far outweigh the hassle factor. Take these steps to give yourself the amazing gift of a good night’s sleep – you will be astounded at the multitude of benefits you will receive in return.