The last month or so has been a flurry of traveling, trying to overcome jetlag and the flu, and I have been sleeping much more than I usually do. We got back to Ontario late last night, after a magical long weekend in BC with my family, and I am so glad both my husbands and my ailments have healed and I can go back to embracing LIFE and not spending the majority of the day in bed.
I have some thoughts on sleeping to share with you.
My adorable brother.
Which comes first? Rising early or getting enough sleep?
For most of us, we are so concerned with getting enough sleep that we tend to put off waking up early till we feel like we have finally gotten enough sleep. And when we operate with this in mind, its hard to feel like we have ever gotten enough sleep.
From my personal experience, I believe it works better when it is switched the other way around.
If you start waking up early with the sun, and living your life with a certain level of activity, energy and alertness, then your your sleep will reorganize itself. Your body will give itself exactly what it needs.
Will power Vs Receptivity
You need will power to rise early, but you need receptivity to fall asleep. You can’t “will” yourself to sleep, though sometimes we may try. If there have been nights where you toss and turn in bed wondering why you can’t fall asleep, close your eyes shut, and desperately “try” to make yourself sleep, then you will know how fruitless this act is. If anything, it just adds stress, and prolongs when you actually do fall asleep even more!
This is because falling asleep is less about will power and more about receptivity – how receptive your system is to rest, relaxation and sleep.
You can’t will yourself into receptivity – so take care of the part you can take care of. Take care of rising with the sun. Take care of living each day as you want to live it, take care of creating what you wish to create. Receptivity will come.
Quality over quantity: How many hours should I sleep?
There have been some nights when I am particularly sleepy/tired/exhausted – I fall into such a deep sleep, that I actually wake up earlier than expected, feeling completely well rested. I would have imagined I had enough tiredness within me to sleep into the mid morning, and I surprise myself when I wake up early.
Thats when I understood that restfulness favours quality not quantity. Once a certain threshold of rest and relaxation was reached, my body got what it needed. It was ready to wake. It wasn’t about catching up on hours, it was about catching up on deep rest.
On a biological level, sleep is an important process. This is where your body rests, restores, rebuilds, recovers and rejuvenates. Depending on how you spend your waking hours, there will be a certain level of restoration that must occur while you sleep.
If you reach the right level of ease within your day to day life, there is less rebuilding to do at night, and then these processes can happen faster. It can happen in 4, 5, 6 hours, instead of 8, 9, 10.
But the problem is, we struggle with living with ease. We are stressed, anxious, rushed, worried, fearful. When we live in this state, we put our system through much more wear and tear. We feel we need to sleep more to restore all this dis-ease we are putting ourselves through.
8 hours of sleep a night?
It’s a widely popularized theory that you need 8 hours of sleep to be healthy, but I disagree. I think the number of hours you need to sleep depends on many things, including your level of activity throughout the day and the level of “ease” at which you live.
So I don’t think you need to have a certain number in your head. What you need is to reach a certain degree of restfulness and relaxation. If we put our focus on how we live when we are awake, if we make our days full of life, live with less stress and anxiousness, I believe our body will reorganize ourselves and it will be clear how much rest we need. Let your body decide.
Simple Sleep practices
In medicine, we call simple practices “sleep hygiene” which is how you optimize your environment and sleeping habits.
Here are some ideas that can help us get ready for a restful night of sleep. I’m sure you will now them all already, there’s nothing new here.
Winding down: At least 2 hours before bedtime, begin winding down and preparing your mind and body to be in a restful state.
Prepare for the next day: I find this one of be very helpful. I make my plans for the following day and prepare what I need to prepare for the morning. I take a moment to write down or mentally decide what needs to be done tomorrow. When I don’t do this, these things usually hang around in my mind and create a sense of anxiousness – so I like to take care of them, or at least make decisions on how they will be handled.
Create an ambient environment: Dim lighting, candles, soft music or silence, a cloud-like bed.
Avoid using electronics for an hour before bed: This is a tough one for me but I’m making a conscious effort to read before bed like I once used to (before I was introduced to TV shows, and before I realized I could watch them on my laptop. It was a much simpler time.)
A small death
Falling asleep is a small death, and you should treat it as such. There is no guarantee that we will wake up tomorrow morning.Where is the promise? And when we die, we don’t take anything with us. We don’t even take our hopes and dreams with us.
So when it is time for me to sleep, I try to put everything aside. I try to put aside my personality, my desires, my expectations, my fears, my worries.
Every time one of those things surfaces, I gently understand – that is not me.
Because I don’t want to fall asleep as a character from my life. I want to fall asleep like a living, breathing, part of life.
I have become able to put aside my thoughts, which was difficult for me for many years. But I have found a way to switch my thoughts on and off and I use that before I sleep. Every time a thought comes – off.
In the few minutes before sleep, I like to let my imagination play for some time. But these are visions, and never thoughts. These are new visions, never memories. Because thoughts and memories will bring my energy into my mind, and pushes sleep away. I call this “putting on my movie”. I say that to my husband “I’m just going to put on my movie now” hehe! I close my eyes, and look into the deep velvety black of my eyes. I let images form. New lands, objects, colours, patterns. As I said, I don’t replay events from my life, I don’t dwell in memory, I don’t have a thought commentary on what I see. I just let myself see. After a couple of minutes of this, I “turn the movie off.” I put everything aside, and I just sleep.
There isn’t anything I do or that I can tell you to glamorize sleep. I haven’t yet understood how to make it into a spiritual process – where my body is asleep, my mind is asleep, but my soul is awake. It’s still unexplored territory for me. so for now, I just sleep.
Now that we have talked about falling asleep, next, let’s talk about waking up early!
What about you? How do you sleep at night? What time do you go to sleep usually and how well do you sleep?