I recently wrote an article about how to improve your sleep – an abridged version was featured in Wellbeing Magazine. Here is the full article…
Good sleep is our first line of defense against the negative effects of stress because deep rest allows the body to re-balance and purify.
When we are well rested we are healthier, we don’t age so quickly and we are less likely to feel overwhelmed by everything on our to-do list. Quality sleep is an important part of staying well and being effective. Unfortunately when we are under pressure and unable to deal with the demands of a day then we accumulate stress and a balanced sleep pattern is often the first thing to go.
Many people come to me to learn to meditate because they have issues with energy levels and disrupted sleep patterns and they have heard about the powerful effects of meditation on improving sleep or getting rid of insomnia.
My dear friend and renowned sleep expert, Dr Nerina Ramlakhan (author of “Tired but Wired, the Essential Sleep Toolkit”) considers meditation “to be the ultimate power tool for honing and creating brilliant sleep”.
Perhaps you recognise some of the following symptoms in your own sleep?
– difficulty getting off to sleep
– waking up in the middle of the night and then finding if hard to get back to sleep
– experiencing lots of intense dreams
– finding it near impossible to get out of bed in the morning (even after six taps on the snooze button!)
– sagging energy levels in the middle of the afternoon that require caffeine or sugar to keep us going
So how does meditation lead to improved sleep?
Vedic Meditation works by allowing the mind and body to settle down so that within a few minutes the meditator is resting many times deeper than sleep. This deep rest is the key to better health because when the body rests it is able to clear out deep-rooted knots of stress and fatigue that build up in our bodies as a result of our demanding, fast-paced lives. With meditation we are dissolving stress faster than we are taking it on board.
As a result when we go to bed at night our sleep is more restful. Our body is free to rest rather than having to work hard to try and release stress. It is this hard work that keeps our mind active and prevents us from falling asleep or makes it difficult to get back to sleep if we awaken in the middle of the night.
My students very quickly report they are sleep more deeply and notice a sustained increase in energy levels throughout the day.
In addition to a regular meditation practice, here are a few simple changes in your routine can go a long way to getting good zzzz’s every night.
- 1. No screens one hour before bedtime (and that includes mobile phones!!)
– the bright light of TV, computers and even mobile phones stimulates the brain leaving us excited and wakeful just when we are trying to quiet down the mind
- 2. Allow two hours after eating before going to bed
– firing up the digestive system late at night tends to keep us awake as our metabolism kicks into gear to digest our food. We also don’t digest properly at this time which causes weight gain and leaves us feeling sluggish the next morning.
- 3. They call them stimulants for a reason!
– caffeine, energy drinks and that triple chocolate pudding all over-excite the nervous system. Try limiting tea and coffee consumption to before midday.
- 4. The hours before midnight are worth twice the hours after!
– If you are feeling sleep deprived then catch up on those extra hours by going to bed early rather than sleeping in till midday. The fastest way to re-balance the system and re-energise is to get an early night (and that means before 10.30pm!!)