The health benefits of sleep have been amply proven by our medical community, yet many of us find that sleep eludes us. We lie down on our comfortable bed only to find that there is no comfortable position and that ergonomic pillow might as well be stuff with rocks.
Thoughts race through our heads. “What if I don’t pass that big exam?” “That darned (boss, spouse, child, pet, neighbor – fill in the blank), I’m so tired of…” “If I wait to pay the rent, I could buy some extra groceries…no then, I couldn’t pay the rent. What if I put off the water bill…”
Even positive thoughts can block falling asleep. “I’m so excited! Big day tomorrow!”
“It’s gonna be my birthday…” “My favorite person comes home tomorrow!”
Meditation offers a way to calm down those thoughts, to relax and invite the drowsiness that will lead to peaceful sleep. But don’t get out your meditation mat or your portable shrine just yet. Instead, indulge in a bedtime ritual that separates your sleep time from
your waking time. Use planned sleep time activities to develop a state of readiness for
sleep. Not every suggestion on this list will work for you, but find those that do.
Exercise releases endorphins that help block pain and lift your mood. While a full workout just before bed would be more likely to wake you up than help you sleep, some gentle exercise just to get the stiffness of sitting at a desk or to relax muscles can help.
A light snack
This does not mean indulging in a heavy meal right before bed, but some people have a hard time falling asleep with an empty stomach. Warmed milk with a dash of cinnamon or vanilla, some crackers, or even a cup of chamomile tea and a dish of cereal can be comforting at the end of a long day.
Make a formal ritual of getting ready for sleep
Turn off the television, put the telephone on voicemail, turn off the computer.
Turn off bright, glaring lights and switch to a night light. A grey salt lamp makes an understated glow that enables navigation, but does not intrude.
Brush your teeth, take a relaxing bath, get a drink of water and make that last trip to the bathroom. You will feel better and have fewer physical discomforts to interrupt you while you try to go to sleep.
Meditation for Sleeping
Usually directions for meditation say not to fall asleep. But this is the one exception because the purpose for meditating is to go to sleep. Therefore, lie down in prone meditation position on your bed – which is not the usual place for waking meditation. This signals to your body, as do your other bedtime rituals, that now is sleeping time. Next, either prerecord directions for yourself, use a guided sleep meditation audio tape or simply use your own meditation thoughts, but include these steps in your meditation for sleep:
Tell yourself that you are falling asleep now, and that you will wake up at the appointed time, feeling refreshed and ready for a new day.
Focus your thoughts on your feet. Gently tense and relax the muscles in your feet, and imagine those muscles and the muscles in your ankles becoming very limp and heavy. Next, move on to the calf muscles, then the thighs, and hips.
Move next to your hands and arms, allowing them to fall naturally at your side. Now, move your attention to your torso. Observe any tensions or pain, or even odd sensations. Catalog these for later examination, but let them flow away. Focus on your breathing, letting it become gentle and slow. Thoughts will intrude– it is what thoughts do – but encourage them to flow away on your breath.
Move your attention to your neck. Shift it a little if necessary to relax the muscles. Consciously tighten and loosen the muscles in your neck, returning them to a resting position.
Finally, think about the muscles in your face. Relax your forehead and the muscles around your eyes. Remind yourself that you are falling asleep now, drifting on a gentle stream of sleep. Sleep will allow your body to rest, to heal, to resuscitate itself. Imagine yourself in a place that is special, where you are safe, comfortable, and loved. You are falling asleep now, and will wake at the proper time tomorrow, feeling refreshed and rested.
If necessary, run through this meditation two or three times. However, many people find that they never quite get to the last of it before drifting off into slumber.
Sleep is the mechanism built into our bodies that allows us to process events, rebuild cells, and even digest properly. Without real sleep, fatigue toxins build up, creating a general feeling of fatigue and just not feeling well. Sleep refreshes our body, allows time to separate us from unhappy emotions, and allows time to pass quickly so we can arrive at those special days and wonderful times.
May your sleep be restful and filled with pleasant dreams that prepare you for a fresh, new day.
If you still need a little extra help with sleep, make sure to check out meditation hypnosis.