On Sound Sleep
Waiting for the Train
You finish your last cup of tea. One by one, you turn off all the lights. You brush your teeth. You check every form of social media and/or email (“just one more time…”, right?) before switching your phone to silent. Then you lay down and wait for the train.
Well, that is how it feels isn’t it?
Your head sinks into the pillow, you draw your blanket up, and wait for sleep to arrive (or not).
But of course, there doesn’t seem to be a schedule, or at least not a fixed one. Sometimes the sleep train arrives immediately. But more often, it comes sporadically, haphazardly, or even hours after you arrived on the platform. And when it does come, it seems to make pit stops, dropping you off throughout the night. You wake, toss, turn. The train arrives again and you continue.
Morning arrives. You disembark. You tell yourself you are going to write a nasty letter to the conductor.
But then you pick up your phone, or your child calls out for you, or your neighbors’ car backfires — and the day begins.
How You Fall Asleep Matters.
Are you falling asleep right?
It may seem an odd question, but in just the same way you can gain familiarity, comfort, and then mastery over any activity (painting, cooking, meditating). In just this same way you can fall asleep “better”.
Why Bother “Mastering” Sleep?
For starters: bad sleep devastates us.
When we don't sleep well, it affects us physically, mentally, and emotionally.
The body requires rest to heal and detoxify. At the cellular level, sound (regular, restful, continuous) sleep allows for toxins to be released and excreted. Muscle tissue rejuvenates and repairs. When we wake achey from a night of poor sleep, the reason is that the work is “half done”, so to speak.
At night, the brain processes & reviews the information of the day (discarding most, but carefully combing for relevant/helpful insights). Sleep interrupted? So is this process. Leading to difficulty with memory and learning.
When we don’t sleep, hormonal imbalances (yes, you can get those two gentlemen) lead to depressed mood. We feel more reactive and stressed/burdened. Trying to correct these imbalances in an ad hoc way, we are drawn to eat foods with more fat and sugar. We also might drink more caffeinated or sugary drinks to wake up and to stay awake, and the ability of our immune system to keep us healthy is compromised.
Many of the actions we take to compensate for a lack of sound sleep (eating poorly, drinking caffeine, etc.) actually perpetuate a cycle of bad sleep!
Which ties back into affecting the physical aspect of our being.
These three aspects, the physical, mental, and emotional, are inextricably linked. Losing balance in one affects the other two. Conversely, tending to one (and even more so, tending to all three) cultivates real “health” (integrity, wholeness) and well-being.
Cultivating Sound Sleep
Sound sleep is not a happy accident.
This is wonderful news. Because anything that is not accidental can be studied, cultivated, and repeated.
By taking time to relate with ourselves fully — tending to our physical body, our mental activity, and our emotions — we relate with, relax, and release tension. In a very real way, we are putting our physical, mental, and emotional self to bed.
To elaborate and clarify on the sources & expressions of tension/stress:
there is physical tension/stress (which we may notice as soreness or holding in our muscles),
mental tension/stress (which we may notice as "racing” thoughts, rumination, or fixation of a task that was not done or that we wished we’d done differently),
and emotional tension/stress (questioning the value or strength of relationships, feeling lonely or incomplete).
By taking time as you fall asleep to relate with each of these in turn and releasing the tension held therein, you offer yourself the opportunity not just of falling asleep more quickly and sleeping continuously through the night, but also of having pleasant dreams.
Can You Seriously Promise Better Dreams?
In just the same way that you feel happy after watching a comedy, or sad after watching an Eagles playoff game, when you fall asleep feeling mentally/emotionally anxious or physically tense, this manifests as a stressful/challenging dream.
A dream in which you are given the task of recreating the Eiffel Tower (at 1:1 scale) with popsicle sticks. Or a nameless/faceless “something” is following/chasing you.
When you release physical/mental/emotional tension, this informs the quality and character of your dreams.
And so yes, I can seriously promise better dreams.
Want to Learn More?
Join me for my workshop “Sleeping Soundly” at MovementRx Studio in Wynnewood, PA on Sunday, February 10, 2019.