Sleep is one of the key components of a healthy integrated life. It is as necessary to the body/mind as food, water, air and love. Sleep offers the body time to repair and the mind time to sort, sift, dream and create. It should be natural and easy to achieve but for many of us, unfortunately, it is not. A whole host of factors get in the way of deep, restorative sleep, including stress, physical pain, environmental and ingested stimulants … we all can add our unique problems and vices to the list.
Some factors we can eliminate – like drinking caffeine before bedtime – while others are harder to manage – like stress in the workplace. But each of us can find a “sleep protocol” that at least will help put us on the right path to good rest. I, personally, have a very sensitive system and even slight changes in environment or my state of being can alter the quality of my sleep, so I am constantly altering my protocol to help facilitate my rest. I do not hyper-focus on it – that only exacerbates the problem – but am concertedly aware of my sleep needs.
Here are some things that have helped me in my quest for improved quality (and quantity) of sleep. I invite you to try them:
- Ask yourself how much sleep you truly need. Studies show that, on average, 7 to 8 hours is optimal. For me – I function at my best when I have 9 hours.
- Once you discover what time you need to be in bed to feel your best, begin preparing for the event a half hour before entry, so to speak.
- If caffeine affects you, eliminate it any time prior to dinner. 3 pm is my cutoff. This I have learned by simply being aware.
- Avoid eating heavily before going to bed. Digestion naturally slows and metabolism changes when you sleep so no food 2 hours or more prior is best, unless you are diabetic (and hopefully you have your food protocol in place for that). If you need to take food with nighttime medications, make it small-portioned and relatively bland (i.e. toast, a couple of crackers).
- Try using a good calcium/magnesium supplement ½ hour before sleep. It helps relax the body. Play with the dosage to see what works for you. But note that using too much can cause loose bowls.
- Prepare your sleep space beforehand. Have the proper coverage on the bed so you will not be too hot or too cold. Spray lavender on your pillow. Use the “right” pillow that supports your neck and head to suit your comfort.
- Play soft, soothing music during your preparations. Consider using a white noise machine to help you fall asleep (the sound of a whirring fan works very well for this, too).
- Do a meditation, pray or write in your journal to release the day’s worries and rid yourself of any energy that does not serve your highest good. Take several long, even, deep, belly breaths in the process.
- Sitting on the side of the bed, stretch your limbs a little: ankle rolls, neck rolls, shoulder squeezes. This brings extra blood flow to those joints and can help relieve nighttime pain.
- A dark room is connected to melatonin production, which aids sleep. If you deal with streetlights or morning light coming in, try wearing a sleep mask.
- Studies say that using your bed only for sleep basically trains your body into a good sleep habit. This means no reading in bed, especially on an electronic device (the light interferes with melatonin production as noted above). However, personally, I find that a few minutes of relaxed reading (paper book only) – no mystery or intrigue novel, no brain-stimulating how-to books – helps take my mind off the day. Now when it comes to sex, I offer no comment (smiley face here) … you decide if it benefits your sleep.
Plus, a Bonus Tip!
If you wake during the night, situate yourself in a comfortable position and take 3 long, deep breaths: inhale to the count of 10; hold for 3; exhale to the count of 10. Relax; repeat if needed. If you are awake for more that a ½ hour, get up, walk around, take a sip of water, go to the bathroom, do another energy releasing meditation, then go back to bed. Do your 3 long, deep breaths and let yourself relax.
Try this protocol in its entirety, or add what you think might work for you.
If nighttime sleep is still illusive, a couple of catnaps (10 minutes or so) or a 30-minute rest during the day (Use your lunch break if you have to!) can be enough to give your system a boost to make it though the day.
Finding our way to good sleep is a trial and error business. Don’t be discouraged. Keep working at it in a mindful way.
Blessings for a good night’s sleep, Plynn