We all know that we need to sleep, and that we feel fabulous after a relaxed, restful and good night of sleep. Our bodies restore during the night and good sleep enables us to be at our best the day after! However, for most, this does not happen often enough. Many today struggle with going to bed early enough, falling asleep once in bed, staying asleep throughout the night or not feeling rested when waking up!
Ancient Buddhist wisdom
According to ancient Tibetan Buddhist wisdom, the mind needs three things in order to be healthy;
1. Get enough sleep. The brains ability to function on the cognitive level (that impacts concentration) are severely impaired when we have not slept enough. This means we make decisions that are not optimal, we struggle to focus, our productivity decreases as well as our ability to see things in a positive (and therefore more realistic) way.
2. Concentrate on one thing for at least 1 hour a day. That means, if you are doing one task, just do that task. Multitasking is not helpful for a healthy, focused and peaceful mind.
3. Do at least one thing that involves complete relaxation for at least 10 minutes a day. Consciously do nothing in other words. My favourite way to do this is Yoga Nidra (guided relaxation), but simply staring out the window with no distraction, allowing the mind to drift, can be equally beneficial.
2500 years ago, philosophers and sages were saying that getting enough sleep was essential to maintaining a healthy mind.
The science has finally caught up and it’s great that people like Matthew Walker, author of Why we Sleep has written extensively on the subject and brought the conversation to life in a modern and relevant way.
A few of the reasons that many of us experience such difficulties today is partly driven by our heightened levels of stress, the lack of movement or exercise during the day, lack of fresh air (particularly in nature), excessive use of electronics, bad eating habits and not being more connected to our inner signals! It is holistic problem, so improving sleep is not only impacted of what you do during the evening, but also how you live your day.
Here are some tips to get you started on a journey having more mornings leaping out of bed feeling completely restored.
Try to incorporate your favorites into your routine of ‘self-care’ for at least five weeks to make it into a long-lasting healthy habit!
Take care of yourself throughout the day. It is not only the evening that counts. The more you take care of yourself throughout the day, the more your body will restore itself during night-time.
Limit the intake of caffeine (if you are affected). It takes up to 7 hours for your body to process only half of the caffeine, so consider at what time you have your last cup of coffee or tea. Keep in mind that decaf has less caffeine but it still has caffeine!
Exercise at least 20 minutes a day, ideally in fresh air. This can be a quick walk outside during a break at work or an at home yoga session. Yoga has been proven to lower blood pressure, regulate hormonal imbalances, calm the nervous system and stimulate the ‘Rest and Restore’ (autonomic nervous system) – all ideal for better sleep!
Avoid complex carbohydrates and sugary, processed food as much as possible, particularly in the evening and for dinner. Complex carbohydrates have the same reaction within your body as eating refined sugar!
Limit alcohol intake or eliminate it completely to see the effect this can have on your body, mind and sleep. Alcohol dehydrates the body and you might wake up to drink something during the night – therefore interrupting sleep. It is also a stimulant. Whilst it will first act as a sedative, and likely to put you to sleep, it can then act as a stimulant that will keep you awake at night (if you do wake up). Also, your sleep is more likely to be less restful as a result.
Take CBD about 1 to 2 hours before you plan to go to bed. You can take it with an evening tea, such as chamomile, lavender, or Rooibos.
Keep a consistent bedtime routine every day to signal to your body that ‘now it’s time to calm down’. Timing is essential. The recommended amount of sleep needed for the average person is between 7 to 8 hours each night. This will vary depending on the person, however, so please refer to your own body and needs.
If you want to improve your sleep and feel more rested when you wake up, irrespective of those hours it has been shown that regular sleeping patterns support the process of falling asleep and waking up rested. For example, commit to going to bed every evening the same time at 10pm and waking up every morning the same time at 6am. No snoozing! It will be tough the first few days, but stick with it!
Turn off your electronics. Turn off and avoid screen time (including television) 45 minutes before you want to go to sleep. Your mind will continue processing the information obtained during this time and it will be more difficult for your mind to relax into a restful sleep. You may also continue seeing vivid dreams of the information you have processed shortly before sleeping.
Light a few candles. They help to create a relaxing atmosphere and also allow for your ‘yellow’ light lamps to be turned off! Just remember to blow them out before going to bed.
Make sure your bedroom is tidy and your bed is inviting. Tuck away all unnecessary pillows and blankets. Make this your sanctuary, so invest in a bed, sheets and pillows that you truly look forward to sleeping in!
Be prepared. Have a shower or take a bath. You can use calming essential oils (e.g. lavender) in the water if taking a bath or directly on your skin.
Read a book if you aren’t able to fall asleep immediately. Avoid the phone if possible or better yet – put it on ‘sleep mode’ between the hours you are supposed to be sleeping! Do not lie in bed stressing about not being able to fall asleep. Get up and do something to get your mind thinking about something else and then try again. The stress is most likely what is keeping you up anyway!
Sweet dreams 🌙
Written by Cherryl Duncan
Cherryl is a passionate entrepreneur that has been raising consciousness and mindfulness to the masses. She left a career in advertising to pursue more authentic goals of self-investigation, which led her to living in ashrams in India, studying with famous yoga teachers in New York, and Tibetan Buddhism with Western monks, attending Shamanic rituals in Brazil and other pursuits that still keep her dedicated to the path of Self Mastery and the pursuit of a living a life most wholly. Cherryl now provides advise to those in need through her business, the Conscious Lab, an online studio for meditation, yoga and mindful living (incl. sleep programs).