Hello friends. I hope everyone is taking good care of yourselves. Like so many of us, my screen time has increased significantly. I love the opportunity to connect with clients, family and friends via Zoom, but there is no denying a different quality of our online reactions that can simply feel exhausting and frankly a little stressful. Luckily, meditation can help with that:-)
While I will always advocate the benefits of meditation, primarily as a tool to soothe our nervous system, the truth is that sleep is the number one way our bodies recover from stress (followed by exercise and meditation). Like most people, I’ve had my fair share of sleepless nights. But one of the most immediate benefits I noticed once I started my daily meditation practice over 8 years ago was my ability to sleep more peacefully and consistently through the night.
One reason this happens is because as we take mindful moments or practice meditation throughout the day, we are giving our bodies a chance to recover from accumulated stress. In certain types of meditation, we enter a similar state of consciousness as sleep. That’s why alot of us feel sleepy when we meditate. It’s not that we are necessarily tired, but rather our bodies aren’t used to feeling that relaxed in an awakened state. The alternative is that if we don’t practice during the day, the moment our heads hit the pillow at night, it is often the first moment of pause and stillness we’ve had all day. So of course the stress comes flooding in as thoughts, emotions, and sometimes physical discomfort – thus, we can’t sleep. With this in mind, I find that good sleep hygiene is a way to keep our sleep account full and ultimately help us to recover stress throughout the day and adapt to change with more ease and resourcefulness. While I’m no sleep expert, I have discovered a few things that are helpful for setting up for the perfect snooze.
1. Wash away the day – We are energy magnets throughout the day – both the good vibes and the not so good. Taking a bath or shower is a great bedtime ritual.
Mindful tip: Whether washing your face or taking a shower or bath, take a moment to visualize the water clearing away the energy of the day and going down the drain. As you dry yourself off, take a few intentional cleansing + deep breaths.
2. Set a consistent bedtime + sleep ritual – The body loves a routine, so a consistent bedtime helps to regulate your body’s clock. Choose a ritual to help prepare your space and mark the act of entering the sleep zone. Some examples include: lighting a candle, enjoying a cup of tea, burning some incense, or playing relaxing music. I have a selection of scented sprays that are simply a combination of essential oils and water. I like to use the lavender or rose spray to both energetically clear and infuse a relaxing vibe.
Mindful tip: Treat yourself to your an intentional + visual “turn down” service. As you move the pillows, fold back the covers, etc, visualize yourself having an uninterrupted and peaceful night’s sleep.
3. Power down – No surprise that experts encourage us to power down in the evening. For me, I try to power down at least 2 hours before I intend to go to bed. But let’s be honest, it simply doesn’t always happen, so I try to at least choose the technologies where I can let the work day go (i.e.: my laptop, checking email, Facebook, etc). That way, if I just HAVE to watch one more episode of Tiger King before I go to bed or if I want to listen to a sleep story narrated by Matthew McConaughy or a guided meditation, then I am at least using the technology intentionally.
Mindful tip: Whether or not you are able to power down right before bedtime, try left nostril breathing (plug your right nostril and just breathe deeply through your left nostril for at least 5 breaths. The left nostril represents our yin, moon, female, energy and helps us to feel calm and relaxed.
4. Cool down – The suggested bedroom temperature should be between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit for optimal sleep. When lying in bed trying to snooze, your body temperature decreases to initiate sleep—and the proposed temperatures above can actually help facilitate this. If your room is cool, rather than warm, it will be much easier to shut your eyes for the night.
Mindful Tip: Use a hot water bottle at your feet or wearing socks. This will help dilate your blood vessels faster and push your internal thermostat to a more ideal setting.
5. Cultivate gratitude – Practicing gratitude in the evening is a great way to put our day into perspective. You can write it down or simply think it to yourself.
Mindful Tip: Write down or think of 3 things you are grateful for. I usually think of one thing I am grateful for about a loved one, one thing about someone I may be experiencing a challenging time with, and one thing for myself.
6. Save caffeine for mornings – Caffeine can last for 14 hours, so even that afternoon coffee can impact your sleep.
Mindful Tip: Try substituting that afternoon caffeine craving either with meditation, a brief walk, or some sparkling water. You can also practice right nostril breathing (similar to left nostril above). Plug your left nostril and just breathe deeply through your right nostril for at lest 5 breaths. The right nostril represents our yang, sun, male energy and helps us feel more energized.
7. Embrace a nap – While I come from a long line of nappers, I personally am hesitant because I feel it will impact my night time sleep. But when I’m feeling overwhelmed or especially stressed, the body lets me know that it needs a nap, and I’ve learned to listen.
Mindful Tip: Take a power nap. Studies show that 20 minutes can improve your performance and alertness without making you feel groggy or interfering with nighttime sleep. So set your timer and embrace the snooze.