“Sleep is the best meditation.” ~ Dalai Lama
We need 7 to 8 hours of daily uninterrupted sleep to function optimally. Sleeping well is fundamental to reset the body and mind every day. After a good night’s sleep, we feel revitalized and our energy is replenished. If there are no health problems or specific conditions, our body functions improve and as a result, we usually look and feel good, focused and better equipped emotionally to face the challenges of each day.
Modern Western society glorifies performance, working around the clock and busy-ness. Success is measured in those terms. As a result, stress (which activates the sympathetic nervous system, the fight-or-flight response – a survival mechanism), long working hours, poor eating habits, a sedentary lifestyle, exposure to huge doses of information coming from all sides, and the incessant chatter of the mind make a natural process like sleep impossible to achieve.
The inability to fall asleep, waking up in the middle of the night or poor quality sleep result in an imbalance, a lack of energy and mental acuity, and have a profound effect in the mood.
Following, a list of 10 easy, doable things that will help you improve your sleep and get the rest you need.
10 steps towards better sleep:
1. A daily dose of exercise
Find some time each day to get your body moving, also if you are couch potato! Put on your sneakers and go for a short mindful walk, which is different from walking a few blocks to get to work or to do groceries (but also doesn’t hurt!).
2. Drink a calming tea
Caffeine (also present in certain types of drinks and foods such as chocolate) and alcohol can affect our rest patterns. Try instead the following
herbal tea blend (I call it “Sleeping Beauty”) to sip throughout the day.
“Sleeping Beauty” herbal tea:
- 3 parts chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla)
- 2 parts lemon balm (Melissa officinalis)
- 1 part rose buds (Rosa)
- ½ part lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
Mix the herbs, place in a teapot and add freshly boiled water. Let them sit for 10 minutes, strain and drink the liquid.
If you tend to waking up in the middle of the night to use the toilette, minimize the fluid intake before going to bed.
3. Use lavender oil
Mix 3 drops of organic lavender essential oil with a teaspoon of carrier oil like sweet almond, olive or coconut oil and rub your feet with it after showering and/or before going to bed. As a bonus, your feet will smell amazing and become smoother!
4. Create a small ritual to calm the senses
A short meditation can work wonders. Simply lie on the floor (or on your yoga mat) for 5 to 10 minutes, close your eyes and concentrate on your breath. Just observe how the air comes in and out through your nose. Every time your mind wanders (which is completely normal), return to the breath. If you prefer, you can listen to calm music or to a guided meditation. Use an eye pillow to complete the experience (check out my DIY tutorial!)
5. Avoid heavy meals too close to bed time
Help your body to digest and assimilate nutrients by eating healthy, lighter type of foods in the evening. If dinner is your “real food” time, eat earlier (which will also help you nailing step number 6!).
6. Go to bed early
To ensure around 7-8 hours of rest, avoid staying up late. If your lifestyle, job or current situation (you have a new baby, for example) allows it, become more in sync with nature and go to bed not too many hours after the sun went down. Even if it is half an hour earlier than the time you are used to going to bed, you’ll notice a difference.
7. Stretch your muscles
Just before going to bed give yourself a full body stretch. Standing or laying on your back, inhale and lift up your arms above your head, come on to your toes or point your feet and stretch as much as you can. Exhale, let go of all tension in your muscles and enjoy the effects!
8. Skip social media
Put aside devices before getting into bed. Scrolling down through Instagram and Facebook profiles may seem like an innocent and fun thing to do but these platforms are designed for users to stay in them for as long as possible. Not only you lose track of your valuable time but you’ll also be adding tons of inputs to your already overloaded mind before the resting time. Think of your evening as a transition between the activity of the day into the quietness of the night.
9. Reduce TV consumption
It can be tempting to lay on the couch and turn on the TV to “unwind”. Although watching moving images of any kind is a passive activity, it excites the mind and can create anxiety. Instead of mindlessly watching series or the news, try picking up a good book or magazine. Reading is active but will induce sleep much easier than vivid impressions of violence, for example.
10. Create a sacred space
Make your sleeping area a space dedicated to rest and replenish. Minimize noise and light in your sleeping room (get thicker curtains, try earplugs, etc). Keep it well aired and visually calming with few elements and light colours. A peaceful atmosphere will also have an effect on your sleeping quality.
The content of this article is not intended to substitute any professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.