Readers, please enjoy this guest blog post by Ann Todhunter Brode, author of the new Guide to Body Wisdom.
Exactly how we transit from wakefulness to sleep still remains a mystery. Whether you fall asleep the minute your head hits the pillow or toss around until you drift off, we don’t really know exactly how this happens. But, we do know what it takes to set the scenario and get the mind-body on board for a good night’s sleep.
Setting up a clean and comfortable place to sleep is important for your physical and energetic body. This means a quiet, darkened bedroom with plenty of fresh, cool air. Be sure you have a good mattress, ample pillows, and cozy covers to help your body let go and feel loved. And, a clear, uncluttered space certainly makes it easier to relax, drop down, and be held in the healing embrace of sleep.
Once the place is ready, you’ll want to get your body and mind ready. Basically, falling asleep is a passive endeavor. Rather than doing anything, you need to undo things…like physical tension, emotional aggravation, and the sticky web of a busy mind. As any insomniac will tell you, pursuing sleep is a futile endeavor. What you need are a few simple practices to help you let it all go and get in the zone where sleep can find you.
Going to sleep at night is totally different than getting up in the morning. At night, you’re closing up shop, quieting down, and letting go. Sleep experts suggest that we set aside at least thirty minutes to dim the lights and slow down before bedtime. This interlude is vital for unwinding the day and preparing for rest. This is not the time to turn on the news, have provocative conversations, read a technical document, or watch a disturbing movie. This is the time to meditate, do restorative yoga, read poetry, or listen to soothing music.
This is also the time to be mindful of your body. If you feel tension, let it melt into your gentle rhythmic breath. Feel the natural flow of inhale to exhale move the through every part of your body. If you run into tension that feels dense, locked down, or numb, don’t try to figure it out. Just be patient and let your body breath work on it. If emotional issues or logistical problems snag your mind, send them away on the next exhale. Create a lot of open space to breathe in the sweet, slow, drowsy air of sleep. When your body is relaxed and settled, it’s in the sleep zone and ready for bed.
Once you’re in bed, follow the five steps of good sleep hygiene (S.L.E.E.P.):
- Support (good bed and pillows)
- Let go (release tension to the movement of breath & pull of gravity)
- Exhale (fully)
- Expand (inhale)
- Pause—lingering in this peaceful place until sleep gathers you in and carries you away!
And, if you happen to awaken in the middle of the night, just remember how to S.L.E.E.P. again.
A free instructional video of the five-steps to S.L.E.E.P. can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r9spJ2p0rZk.
Our thanks to Ann for her guest post! For more from Ann Todhunter Brode, read her article “Sensible Intuition: How to Develop Good Body Sense and Use It Every Day.”