Perhaps you can relate to this. When I miss out on a goods night’s sleep, I live, move and think from a place of scarcity rather than abundance. Let’s just say that when I miss my window of quality sleep I am impacted on every level, including spiritual. The research is sobering. Tens of millions of us are awake when we should be sleeping or falling asleep when we should be creating and shining.
Most cases of insomnia stem from issues surrounding stress — environmental, nutritional, emotional and spiritual. A lot of what keeps us from getting a good night sleep is the choices that we are making all day long. Have you ever noticed that watching the late night news while suppressing your heartache over world politics with Ben and Jerry’s ice cream and balancing your check book does not allow for a sound night’s sleep?! This, after asking yourself to perform multi-tasking miracles for the previous 16 hours, tethered to cell phones, voice and e-mails, negotiating with a plastic clown to give you a balanced meal through a drive thru window and wondering if an IV of Starbucks would be out of the question?!
You do have other choices. You can re-create balance and once again live with the natural rhythm that is innately yours to uncover and fully realize. Here’s how. First we need to be alright with the idea of being in the world and not of it. You do not have to subscribe to the all too pervasive “conspicuous consumption” model for living. In other words we all have choices when it comes to the things we choose to “consume.” The media (tv, newspaper, radio, magazines) that we allow into our thought atmosphere can disrupt sleep and personal balance. Many of the foods we eat (refined and empty calories) leave us unsatisfied, restless and “hungry” for more. We can establish balance and overall well-being by leveraging key practices that satisfy the spirit and nourish a healthy night’s sleep.
One way to experience greater quality of sleep is to create what I refer to as “bookends” in the beginning and the end of the day. Bookends can help to keep us mindful and centered with what truly nourishes mind, body, spirit, and sleep. Choose to begin and end each day with a personal practice for balance and peace. A morning meditation practice, even just for a few minutes, serves us and our sleep “chemistry” in a variety of ways. By establishing a healthier “belly breathing” pattern we can help support and build stress fighting neurotransmitters (our brains chemical messengers to our body) that help keep us in balance and allow us to better manage our “state” and the choices we make all day long. When we begin the day with an attitude of “Good morning God” rather than “Good God, its morning!” we tend towards more love for ourselves and others. Chronic stinkin’ thinkin’ can sabotage a good night’s rest.
Exercise is another powerful daytime energy and nighttime sleep elixir! Morning movement is one of the most important building blocks for restorative nighttime sleep. Pick your passion — pilates, yoga, walking, dancing, swimming — its all good. If you want to increase the likelihood of getting to sleep that evening take your movement outside since sunlight does even more to build healthy sleep chemistry.
During the day you can continually build healthy sleep chemistry by keeping your blood sugar in balance. Not skipping meals, avoiding “high drama” sugary junk foods and drinks and limiting your caffeine intake to a cup or two will assist the process. Build your beneficial sleep chemicals through choosing whole foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and leaner proteins from plant sources and fish. Notice each good choice you make and allow for personal gratitude and acknowledgement. A restful night sleep is supported by a peaceful mind, created and sustained by loving and affirmative thoughts.
Each night you can set the other “bookend” in place. Take a moment on your commute home to allow yourself to realize that you can begin moving from “doing” to “being.” Allow for your belly to breathe a relaxed and un-defended breath. When you arrive home you can release the days “doing” energy and allow for the “being” energy through a simple yoga pose that is helpful for re-creating balance and centeredness — Savasana or “corpse pose.” This can be done in your living room, hallway or your driveway if you cannot wait! Simply lie on your back with your arms open at your side, legs relaxed and eyes closed. Allow yourself to relax your breathing and your body into the supportive “earth” below you. Set the tone for peace and sleep by courageously choosing over television and reading something meaningful or spiritual. Give yourself the gift and pleasure of surrendering into a massage or your favorite massage chair to help move from doing to being and set a relaxed tone for a great nights sleep.
We can continue to look overly forward to the time of meditation during church each weekend to catch up on some missed sleep (disguised as deep contemplative prayer) or we can embrace the opportunity of creating supportive daily practices and mindfulness to help overcome our sleeplessness and allow for us to live our highest and most vital expression!
Begin today with acknowledging the power and peace that comes with sleeping well. Sleep is sustainable fuel that can support you on your journey to greater wholeness and holiness.
Dr. James Rouse is a naturopathic physician with extensive credentials in the wellness field including post-doctorate work in acupuncture, Chinese medicine and transpersonal psychology. He is a member of the Human Touch Health & Wellness Council and relaxes in his Human Touch Massage Chair daily.