NUTRITION: TIPS FOR THE BEST SLEEP OF YOUR LIFE
This past Sunday, aka Daylight Savings, inspired me to write this post as I've heard these past few days a lot of people complaining about lack of sleep and the inability to stay asleep and get themselves to fall asleep quickly. Here are some in depth tips and tricks that I hope help promote a restful, peaceful and life changing sleep. Don't be discouraged if you can't put all of these practices into action, this is NOT about perfection, but attempting to try new healthy habits and practices. I hope this helps!
1.Challenge your own unhelpful beliefs about sleep: you have a number of unhelpful beliefs about sleep. The best way to unravel these beliefs is to keep a thought diary the next time you don’t get ‘a good night’s sleep’. Write down the typical thoughts you tend to have when you don’t feel you have had a good night’s sleep. If you practice this observation, you will quickly see how powerful some of these beliefs are, often causing you to feel very grumpy, disconnected, ineffective.
2. Stop time-watching: THIS is huge for me as I'm guilty of this! One of the most powerful beliefs we have around sleep is to do with time. If you find yourself counting how many hours sleep you are getting, now is the time to let this time-watching part of you go. Keep your alarm clock aka Phone for most of us out of sight, if you need one. When you enter the bedroom, note to yourself that you are entering into a timeless, magical zone. I know this is easier said than done...but through practice I believe it's possible by building a new healthy neural pathway.
3. Bring the magic back into sleep: you don’t need to believe in the Sandman or other fictional sleep-aids to reconnect with a sense of magic about sleep. Sleep is truly a magical place, where time stands still, and the possibilities of creation are infinite. Cultivate this sense of sleep as a magical realm by looking for magic in your dreams. If you struggle to remember your dreams, you might keep a dream journal.NOTE - it's good to keep a journal by your bed! (make lists, gratitude lists, dream log) But practice looking for the magic elements of your dreamworlds. As Albert Einstein said: “Logic will get you from a to z; imagination will get you everywhere.”
4. Create healthy rituals around sleep: one of the number one worst things you can do to ruin your night’s sleep is to be surfing the net before going to bed. There is a highly addictive quality to surfing the net, and because we are skimming over things, often without real focus, we don’t engage in anything deeply enough. Also, the blue-spectrum light of digital devices limits the production of melatonin (a sleep hormone). AGAIN easier said than done, but it's SO important to promote a restful sleep.
5. By contrast, when we read a good book, this allows our minds to enter deeply into another world, which is the perfect preparation for sleep. Whatever you find is a helpful bedtime ritual for you, whether reading a book, listening to radio, or watching a film, or tv show, just make it consistent. My personal recommendation for bedtime ritual is: i) have a long soak in the bath with no devices; ii) be in bed at the same time every night, apart from one night a week; iii) lower the lights and turn off all digital devices; iv) put some lavender oil on your pillow or wrists; v) read a good book (if you have a partner, engage in pillow talk – research has shown pillow talk strengthens relationships and supports sleep) vi) wake up at the same time every day, and don’t snooze! When you snooze you develop ‘sleep inertia’ where your body gets confused and you can carry on feeling half-asleep for upto four hours after you finally wake up.
6. Develop Sleep Discipline: many readers will be thinking that the rituals above are something you have heard many times before. If so, then we need to ask ourselves why we struggle to put these bedtime routines into practice? I believe that we all know deep down what conditions help us to sleep. But we consistently fail to put these routines into practice, because we get carried away on tides of excitement, especially with the internet’s promise of endless distraction. To become more disciplined with your sleep routines, ask yourself what you would prefer: to stay up flicking from one thing to another, or to wake up in the morning with a smile, knowing that your bedtime routine opened up a magical portal for your soul to travel into a delicious dreamworld. NUMBER 2 PLEASE!
7. Nurture your mind: when we can’t get to sleep we quickly get frustrated with our minds for not switching off when we want them too. But we all know that frustration just exacerbates our insomnia. Imagine your mind is that of a babys. If a baby was not sleeping, would you get angry with it, shout at it, make it look at a million different web-pages? Or would you rather nurture it, sing lullabies, gently rocking it, until it drifted off into a deep slumber? Just as you would nurture a baby, so should you nurture your own mind by cultivating self-compassion.
8. Meditation: It lierally brings your attention away from your stressed out, overthinking mind, into your bodily sensations. One simple way to do this is to do a body scan, where you bring your attention up and down your body, from your head to your toes and back. It is important that you notice when your thinking mind starts to want to label and describe the physical sensations. When it does this, gently bring your attention back to the pure physical sensations. With your attention on your physical sensations, and not on your thoughts, you will easily drift off. However, on the rare occasion this does not work, I recommend getting out of bed, finding a quiet corner, sitting down and keep gently bringing your awareness into your physical sensations. Each time you notice your thinking mind getting hooked again, gently bring back your attention into your body and your physical sensations.
9. Acceptance and gratitude: there is a very powerful psychological technique you can use when sleep is not finding you, but it comes with a great challenge. You have to give up on your desire to get to sleep. If you can let go of the part of you that is so desperately yearning for sleep, and instead invite a sense of radical acceptance for where you are in this moment of not sleeping, you will notice an immediate release of tension. With this release of tension, you create space to consider why you are grateful for being awake at this time. Write it down if it helps. I like to repeat acceptance and gratitude affirmations. Here are some examples for you (although I encourage you to weave your own magic into them): I am letting go of the need to control; I trust this moment is perfect and accept it unconditionally; I trust and surrender to the flow of life; I am grateful for this quiet time to myself; I am grateful just to be alive.
May your sleep bring you rest, joy, rejuvenation and bodily awareness and love. Sleep is literally life transforming. Such a simple and free tool; but one that gets pushed into the corner every single time.