5 Ways to Fall in Love with Sleep!
It’s 4:30 am. It’s pitch black outside. The only sign of a living being is my neighbors’ scary guard dog who is barking obnoxiously loud. I’m amazed the entire neighborhood doesn’t wake up from this noise, but alas, they probably don’t have to. After only four hours of “sleep” I have to make a herculean effort to pull myself out of bed, get dressed, make breakfast and walk to work by 5:30 a.m. I spend eight hours baking cookies, muffins, scones and cakes. Even though I love the work, the hours are tough. I don’t get to rest afterwards either. I have a class to take and homework to complete, plus I’m working on starting a non-profit late into the evening. If I’m lucky, I get to nap a few hours in between everything, but this is rare. Perhaps it would have been easier if I had a car and didn’t have to walk everywhere, or if I was getting paid more than $8.00 an hour, or if I wasn’t doing long-distance. I’ll never know. What I do know is that I was more exhausted during that year after college than any other time in my life.
My 4 1/2-hour sleep schedule and 16-hour work days were destroying me. I felt psychotic. My memory wasn’t working right. I was depressed and anxious. I was breaking down every single day and I felt like I couldn’t process any new information. When I look back on that year all I remember is crying, the overwhelming fatigue, running from my neighbors’ guard dog, and feeling constantly crazy.
This isn’t surprising now that I know how crucial sleep is to well-being.
Lack of sleep, or poor-quality sleep is associated with a decline in cognitive function, increased irritability, memory loss and early death. Additionally, it can increase your chances of developing diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease. You are also more likely to get into a car accident after a poor nights’ sleep, and be short with your loved ones, causing strained relationships and unwanted arguments. Not to mention the unintended weight gain, decrease in sex drive and increased stress levels that are inevitable when you are sleep deprived. The point is, no matter what people tell you about “sleep being for the weak,” you need sleep to survive.
High-quality sleep is essential for having a high-quality life. While you sleep, your body is repairing all your muscles, tissues and cells from the wear and tear from your day. Your dreams help you to consolidate memory and process events. Hormones that allow you to metabolize, control stress, digest, and monitor appetite are also released while you slumber. After a night of restful sleep, you are able to activate your creativity, make wise decisions, think clearly, and show up in the world as you are meant to. You have more power to cultivate loving relationships, make healthier life choices, and extend kindness and patience to the people around you. When you sleep, and sleep well, you are able to live a more joyous and fulfilling life.
I experienced many of these dramatic effects in my own life when I transitioned from experiencing chronic sleep deprivation, to sleeping well for 7-9 hours every night. My depression and anxiety decreased tenfold, I am at my ideal happy weight, and I feel energized throughout the day without drinking excessive amounts of caffeine. All of these benefits have allowed me to improve my relationship with my partner, get clarity on my career path, support my loved ones, and work more effectively without burning out. I know firsthand how powerful sleep is, and I want you to experience the same benefits and more.
While you may have heard of all the conventional tips for getting better sleep like limiting your caffeine intake and avoiding electronics before bedtime, I doubt you have really learned how to fall in love with sleep. When I learned to fall in love with sleep, all the other practical habits came more naturally. It’s what has positively transformed my sleep game more than anything else. Now I want to impart that inspiration and wisdom to you!
5 Ways to Fall in Love with Sleep!
1. Reframe the meaning of sleep.
In the U.S. we have an incredibly negative perception of sleep. We work inhumane hours, talk shit about resting, and have a collective “go,go,go” mindset. A large part of this is because we have not learned the value of sleep beyond a utilitarian sense. We place a high value on our waking hours and believe that sleep detracts from our ability to experience life. This could not be further from the truth. As stated by sleep expert Dr. Rubin Naiman, sleep is “a portal to another world, a much more mysterious world of dreams suspended in an atmosphere of unfathomable serenity.” He is right. Sleep offers us the ability to access our subconscious mind, make sense of events that happen in our waking life, and experience life through symbols and our imagination. These gifts allow us to show up in our waking life with more open mindedness, creativity, and motivation. Reframing the meaning of sleep beyond being a utilitarian function is the first step in learning to fall in love with sleep.
2. Make bedtime a sensual experience.
To fall in love with sleep you also have to fall in love with your sleeping self and the atmosphere you sleep in. There are a variety of ways to make bedtime a sensual experience. One of the most effective and fun technique’s is to wear pajamas that you love. If you are sleeping in a raggedy old t-shirt that you got for free and sweatpants with holes in it, chances are you will not feel your best when you sleep. It’s all about feeling baby! How do you want to feel? Sexy? Cute? Comfy? Fashionable? I like all of the above, but take time to find your PJ style! Pay attention to the fabric, style, and patterns. Most of all have fun with it.
Another way I recommend making bedtime a sensual experience is by creating a bedroom you adore and can’t wait to be in. Make sure your sheets are clean, your bed is made, you have great lighting, beautiful artwork, and your room is clean. This helps to create a more relaxing and welcoming atmosphere. You may even want to take it a step further and invest in high quality bedsheets, or an amazing mattress. A small, yet impactful way you can make sleep a more sensual experience is by using lavender. Dab a little lavender essential oil on your wrist at night to help you relax, or fill a small pillow with lavender leaves that you can enjoy smelling while you sleep.
3. Create a night time ritual.
Before hitting the sack, set aside 30 minutes to an hour to practice a relaxing activity that helps you unwind and prepare for sleep. Some ideas include a nighttime stretching routine, performing a nighttime skincare routine, meditating, reading, coloring, journaling, or listening to calming music. I suggest finding an activity that does not require electronics, and one that you can practice in your bedroom. Creating a nightly ritual will help signal to your mind and body, that it’s time for rest. It is also a time for you to disconnect from the activity of the day and focus on something you enjoy. So be sure to personalize it, and find something that you truly love doing.
4. Learn to let go and trust yourself.
Many people have become so disconnected from the importance of sleep that they don’t believe they can do it on their own. They reach for a sleeping drug, toss and turn in anxiety, or reach for their phone for comfort. If you can relate to this, let me remind you that sleep is as natural as eating and breathing. You were designed for it. If you find yourself getting wrapped up in your anxieties before bedtime or worrying that you’re not able sleep, remind yourself of this. Take a deep breath and ask yourself “what do I need to let go of?” Learn to trust yourself. If this simple practice doesn’t work, here are two other practices you can use that are extremely helpful.
The first I learned while taking my Nia White Belt Training. I don’t remember the exact name of this practice, so let’s refer to it as “Recall and Cast.” In this practice, you are going to recall everything that happened in your day from start to finish. Don’t just recall the actions. Recall the feelings and emotions you felt throughout the day. Recognize where in your body you feel those emotions. Then, you are going to cast out your intentions for the next day. Go over in your mind what your next day will entail, and set out an intention for that day. Imagine casting out a big net into the next day and let it go. Surrender to the unknown and trust that what needs to happen, will happen.
The second practice is called the “ABC’s of Gratitude.” In this practice, you are going to go through the ABC’s and try to name one thing you are grateful for that starts with each letter. You can go through with just word associations, or you can take it a step further and really meditate on why you are grateful for each thing. Perhaps on “C” you might say you are really grateful for your career because it gives you financial freedom, limitless opportunities, and you are surrounded by great people. Ending your day with gratitude will help intercept your worries and allow you to let go into relaxation and sleep.
5. Get acquainted with your dreams.
Dreams are essential because they signify that you are getting the deep sleep that you need. They mostly occur during your REM cycle of sleep, which is the cycle that activates the part of your brain associated with learning. Dreams are also one of the most fascinating activities of the human psyche and can bring an exciting element to your life. They can be bizarre, scary, inspiring, mundane, and beautiful. Whether or not you want to try and interpret your dreams, just being curious about them can be rewarding.
I have always been a vivid dreamer, and from a young age was aware of how my dreams had the power to affect my day. Sometimes the sensations were so powerful, I would wake up feeling disturbed for hours, or even exhilarated. For a long time, I didn’t want to remember them at all because of their scary content, and this made me not want to sleep at all. Over the last year however, I have learned to welcome my dreams and even look forward to them no matter what their content entails. The anticipation of what my dreams will be allows me to look forward to sleep, and appreciate it for the unique, life giving experience that it is. If you want to get acquainted with your dreams here are a few practices you can try.
The first is to wake up slowly and without an alarm clock. If you can’t do this every day, try it on the weekend. We often forget our dreams upon waking, but if you allow yourself to linger in that in between state of dreaming and waking, you are more likely to remember your dreams. The second practice is to write your dreams down right away. If this is too inconvenient, you could even share your dreams with your friends, family, or partner. Ask them to share what they dreamt about and use this as a fun topic of conversation. If you can’t remember the exact contents try to be aware of what feeling you woke up with. Did you wake up feeling confused? Scared? Disturbed? Excited? Happy? Just be curious. If you want to take it a step further and explore the significance of your dreams, I suggest investigating the works of Carl Jung or Robert Moss.
Enjoy the process of falling in love with sleep and be patient. The more time and effort you put into it, the higher quality of sleep you will experience and the more joyous life you will live!
Now I want to hear from you! What suggestion do you find most intriguing and why? How will you incorporate it into your own life? Share in the comments below!
1) Brain and Spine Team. 2015, September 18. "What Happens to Your Body When You Don't Get Enough Sleep." Cleveland Clinic.
2) Harvard Medical School. 2008, January 16. "Sleep and Health."
3) Harvard Medical School. "Why Sleep Matters."
4) Raiman, Dr. Rubin. 2013, July 17. "Why Sleep Tips Don't Work."
5) Psyche Central. 2016, July 17. "The Importance of REM Sleep and Dreaming."