Embrace Darkness - How to Sleep
I have a few questions for you;
Do you wake up every morning feeling refreshed?
Do you wake up at the same time?
Do you fall asleep within 30 minutes?
If you answer NO to one or more of these questions, you may be in sleep debt - the cumulative effect of not getting enough sleep.
Let me explain why good sleep is so important and provide some recent (and age-old) tips for better sleeping patterns.
We are in the middle of a sleep deprivation epidemic, we have too many distractions and live in a culture where ‘sleep is for wimps’.
According to scientists at Oxford University, this emerging problem is thought to cost the British economy £40bn a year. Simply, if you are not getting enough sleep, you are not as productive.
Ayurveda and Routine
My grandmother told me that the sleep you get before midnight counts as double! An old wives’ tale maybe, but Ayurveda, the 4,000-year-old medical system (the oldest known health care system meaning the science of life) advocates a strict routine of bed by 10pm, up at 6am.
I cannot urge you strongly enough to try this for 1 week and keep a diary tracking your energy levels and your digestion.
My grandmother also insisted on quiet time before bed; no TV, a hot drink after a bath, and a soothing story. Does that sound like something you could only do on holiday or a retreat?
You need to let your mind know, a good hour beforehand, that you are slowing down and getting ready to sleep – it needs some warning. If the last thing you do is read an irritating work email before turning the lights out, your mind will not settle for some time.
Think of a car travelling at 80mph. If you slam the breaks on your body keeps moving forwards at speed. It’s the same with your body and mind – you cannot expect them to come to a grinding halt and fall asleep.
Other tips from Ayurveda and your grandmother:
Eat your evening meal by 7pm. If you go to bed full, your parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for ‘rest-and-digest’, will keep working on that curry and red wine instead of supporting essential growth and repair.
No screens – at all – after 9pm. Leave your phone on charge in another room, buy a battery/wind up alarm clock, and tell those close to you to ring on the landline if there’s an emergency.
A hot bath and/or a warm milky drink will have a soporific effect.
Make sure your bedroom is very dark and remove all electrical items (you can have a lamp). Bedrooms are for sleeping and sex.
Traveling and Jetlag
SLEEP by Nick Littlehales encourages you to map your personal sleep in 45/90min cycles. If you travel a great deal, have young children or work shifts, his approach to counting how many cycles of sleep you get in a week can be really helpful. It also means you can and should nap.
Back to Granny dosing in the chair. For some of us (not all), a short nap in the afternoon can improve performance without interfering with night-time sleep. Google, the World Health Organisation and other large organisations are taking this seriously by installing sleep pods for their employees to rest in!
Sleep scientist Matthew Walker, author of ‘Why We Sleep’ hopes that improved resting habits that have emerged during the Covid-19 pandemic can be incorporated into our future life. Could companies adjust their working patterns, for example, to help employees sleep better, he asks.
Walker says more sleep equals more productivity, and yet we are getting fewer hours and working/commuting more. It is a myth that less sleep equals more productivity - people utilise fewer healthcare resources when they're better slept. This could mean manifold consequences at work.
Visualisation for Insomnia
Flop your feet out sideways, palms upwards, and release muscles – especially the big, powerful ones like the buttocks, thighs, and jaw.
Lie in bed on your back, close your eyes.
Flop your feet out sideways, palms upwards, and release muscles – especially the big, powerful ones like the buttocks, thighs and jaw.
Notice your free breath, don’t do anything with it, just breathe naturally through your nose.
Imagine the INHALE coming in through the LEFT nostril and the EXHALE leaving through the RIGHT nostril.
When your mind wanders off (it will) keep bringing its’ attention back to the breath – in left, out right.
One final quick tip to get your circadian rhythms working better – get outside first thing in the morning!
If any of these tips work for you, let me know!
Sleep well, Lisa.