We seem to be cramming more and more things into our days and nights, often at the expense of our need for adequate rest.
Ours is a culture that soldiers on with little regard for replenishing ourselves through rest and sleep.
It generally takes us several hours to drift down through the levels to reach deep sleep, where our brain waves create the deepest physical rest and when our body does most of its healing and repair work. It's also where children do most of their growing. If we're physically, mentally or emotionally upset or in pain, we may not access our deep sleep level.
A good night's sleep makes any day seem more manageable. If you find it hard to get a good night's sleep, try the following suggestions..
You might need to follow all of the suggestions for at least a week before you begin to see the benefits of your efforts.
- Make an absolute commitment to yourself that you will not ‘think things through' in the middle of the night, as you know it's the most unproductive time for coming up with solutions to problems. If you can't sleep or can't get back to sleep, put a time limit on how long before you get up, make a cuppa, read something, or put in place some other strategy for not letting your mind run the show. Using one of the sleep practices mentioned below might be helpful. (Of course, you may be an exception – some people have periods of great clarity and productivity in the middle of the night. Listen to what is right for you, but do not settle for restless or tormented thinking).
- You might find sleeping with the window open to let in fresh air helpful, no matter what the season.
- Sleep in natural fibres such as cotton, wool or silk. Natural fibres allow your body to breathe. This applies to both your bedding and sleepwear.
- Avoid eating for at least one-and-a-half hours before going to sleep otherwise your body will be too busy with the process of digestion and your sleep will be disturbed.
- Avoid sugars (at all times) and other stimulants like coffee before sleeping – they make your nervous system jittery.
- Avoid doing anything too vigorous just before sleep, unless it involves making love. The chemicals of loving are conducive to peaceful sleep and going to sleep with a smile on your face leads to sweeter dreams! Otherwise do exercise earlier in the day as it mobilises your metabolism.
- Have a warm bath or shower before going to bed. This relaxes and soothes your body and distributes your blood to the peripheral capillaries. Make showering or bathing a ritual by imagining the day's stresses being washed from body and mind.
- Use a perfumed oil (such as lavender) to establish an association between that particular perfume and going to sleep.
- De-clutter your room to de-clutter yourself. For example, put fresh sheets on the bed, clear dressers or furniture of discarded clothing and put shoes away. Create a soothing sleeping environment.
- Using a herbal relaxant can be helpful. Herbs help to nourish your nervous system. Ask your pharmacist or health food store owner for a recommended formula.
- Have plenty of uncontaminated water in your diet and drink most of it in the earlier part of the day.
- Spend 10 minutes reviewing your day before you get into your night attire or bed. At that time, bring your body to rest in the present, then revisit conversations and activities, and make a note of anything forgotten or overlooked/misunderstood that needs revisiting tomorrow. Writing it down consciously enables you to switch off the mind more easily when you go to bed.
- Read something inspirational before you settle down to sleep, or perhaps keep a ‘blessing book' by your bed. Write down five things to be grateful for before you go to sleep. This trains the mind to identify and focus on the positive aspects of your life.
- Consider using a relaxation or ‘sleep practice' as you drift off to sleep, to keep the mind disciplined rather than randomly thinking. A relaxation practice will take you straight to your deep sleep level where you'll access your deepest healing rest
- Have a tape or CD ready to play if you wake during the night. If you do, go to the bathroom, go back to bed and start the tape or CD before your mind becomes active.
- Learn some relaxation techniques and practise them during the day to familiarise yourself with the experience of being physically relaxed.
- Create a sacred space for yourself where you can spend some quiet time and internally de-clutter yourself. It might be in a room or at a table or in a corner where you like to meditate, keep treasures from your walks, do your inspirational reading, and place fresh flowers, a peace candle, poetry, treasures from children in your life. Make it a place you can return to in your spirit to refresh, uplift and inspire yourself.
- Consider having a massage every week or two to assist your body to relax if you're going through an emotionally challenging time or your body is holding a lot of physical tension.
This is an edited extract from Your Life Matters by Petrea King, published by Random House. RRP $24.95
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