7 grounding tips for improved sleep
| Posted by Jinnene |
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over one third of adults in the U.S. are taking in less than a recommended seven hours of sleep each night.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society claim that a quotidian routine of less than seven hours of rest can lead to increased risks of excessive weight gain, elevated blood pressure, and heightened stress correlated to mental strain, as with anxiety and depression.
Such findings beg the question: what’s robbing so many Americans of precious shut-eye?
To begin to unpack the research, consider if any of the following apply to you:
Putting in too much time at the office (to the point that you feel exhausted and possibly resentful of your employer’s demands).
Chronic illness. Sleep apnea. Hormonal imbalances.
Painful physical conditions that result from muscular tension you carry during (or prior to) sleep.
Experiencing frequent bouts of anxiety, perhaps to the point of acting out strongly in response to life’s circumstances.
The feeling that you’d like to engage in personal growth or creativity projects, but couldn’t possibly muster time or energy to drive such endeavors on top of your output from work, parenting, or stressful daily routines.
Many of my college students report that they stay up late engaging phones or computer devices; some say they spend hours on those devices before sleep.
If any of these aforementioned conditions apply to you, what can be done, right?
I’m glad you asked.
The first step to any improvement in health and wellness begins with awareness.
Next, comes self-reflection. Finally, planning. Let’s take a look:
When I delved further into the study of Ayurveda more closely with Madhuri Method in Vancouver, BC, I quickly realized that the way in which we prepare for bed (or don’t) bears a great impact on our ability to receive a good night’s rest.
It was through understanding the tenets of this ages-old science (sister science to yoga) that as natural beings, we may remain more physically in balance if we’re able to effectively align with the organic cycles of nature.
If you would like to learn more about Ayurveda, you can read about it here.
As we further understand how our bodies are distinct, we can use nature’s rhythms to access this balance, and hopefully live into greater health.
Ayurveda created a lens through which I could peer to learn more about how to manage self-care, and how to respect nature as a whole.
In this way, I became armed with several tools to prepare for sleep. I’d like to share some with you here.
First, let’s take a moment to check in. What is your sleep schedule like? Do you feel you’re getting enough sleep overall?
Please grab pen and paper, then briefly jot down some blocks that prevent you from maintaining the sleep life you’d choose.
Next, ask yourself: what do you do to prepare for bed? If you currently carry no deliberate sleep practice, no worries!
Consider the following tips to cultivate intentionality behind your sleep routi
#1 Allow for time to digest a big meal
Are you the type to eat a huge meal and then crash? While it’s important for us to consume ample nutritional calories for peaceful rest, bloating can cause digestive discomfort if we’re lying prone, for example.
Try allowing a couple hours after you eat a big meal before hunkering down. One rule of thumb is to feel on the edge of hunger before sleep, but not quiet there.
#2 Walk to clear the mind
I find walking to be the most magically restorative activity.
While it’s certainly a treat to walk with loved ones, a wind-down walk with what one of my favorite yoga teachers refers to as your very best friend (your self), can help you learn much about what it feels like in your body to “do you,” and to treat yourself with care.
You need not travel far on foot to reap the benefits that a brisk walk can have on your central nervous system. Light exercise can trigger our parasympathetic response, which signals to our mind/body system that all is safe and well.
For the perspective of a great zen master and revered vietnamese monk, read about Thich Nhat Hanh’s philosophies on walking here. Read here if you’d like to learn more about the benefits of walking.
#3 Listen to soothing music (or play it yourself if you like instruments!)
When I say listen, I mean just that: listening. I don’t mean listening and scrolling through Facebook, or listening and talking to a friend on the phone, or listening and watching television on mute.
I mean sit down in a comfortable position, and listen. My guitar teacher used to regale me during private lessons about how as a teen, he’d lounge around the house with friends and do nothing but listen to records.
What a worthwhile activity!
Not only does soothing music signal to your body that you’re ready to relax, but it can help you connect to creative impulses you didn’t know you had. At the very least, it might offer a sense of solidarity and hope before resting.
Inevitably, I find that if I play my classical guitar before bed, particularly if I’m reading music, it helps me to sleep peacefully and uninterrupted.
#4 Self massage for the feet
In yoga circles, we refer to self-massage as abhyanga (the Sanskrit term). You might try abhyanga on your feet before bed.
Grab some coconut oil, sesame oil, or your favorite natural body lotion (avoid parabens and other toxic nonsense in your products, please!), and rub into the feet and ankles.
After so doing, throw on some old socks until the oil soaks into your skin (I have found that coconut oil tends to absorb quickly).
Apart from the relaxing quality of self-massage, the healing properties of natural oils are vast—applying them to the skin is recommended for circulation, and even stimulation at the tissue level (more true for heavier oils like sesame oil).
Read more about abhyanga massage here.
#5 Read with intention (out of a physical book if you can swing it)
Have you ever griped to a friend that you’d love to read for pleasure, if only you had time?
What if so doing became part of your sleep preparation routine?
I find few things more nourishing than reading a book that I can fully engage in. Reading before bed helps me to feel grounded, informed, and even supported in a global community. (Props to you Kindle lovers, though I personally read old-fashioned paper books.)
Stories can drop us into both mind and heart spaces for adventures in healing. We need not burrow into huge works of fiction, but we should choose reading projects with intention and care.
For example, if reading about death and destruction makes you feel stressed, perhaps read instead about stories of trial and triumph.
Whatever your way, reading before bed can offer you a sense of agency in cultivating self-awareness around how to restore from the over-stimulating (and over-stimulated!) “worldscape” of today.
#6 Journaling (and/or prayer)
Whether or not you customarily engage in self-reflection through writing, it can be calming to jot down a list of daily accomplishments and events before bed.
What did you achieve today that you are proud of? This list item could be as simple as, “I managed to eat breakfast.” Or, “I tidied up my bathroom.”
Perhaps you did something that was uncomfortable, and lived to tell the tale. Give yourself credit for that!
I find that when I write before bed, I gain more clarity on the productive nature of my days, even if I wished I had occasionally done some things differently. This clarity can contribute to a restful sleep.
Though prayer might be associated with too much dogma for you, I hope you subscribe to greater forces of some kind that are looking out for your best interest.
If you’re open to prayer, you might begin to cultivate some collaborated effort toward sleep wellness.
Developing mantras or affirmations can be powerful, and can signal to your body that you’re interested in bringing positive energy into your daily reality.
You might try this affirmation on for size:
I am grateful for the events of this day. May I enjoy peaceful, restorative sleep. I am open to the healing that this rest can bring, to my body and to my mind.
Gabby Bernstein runs a wonderful blog with practical tips on how to live into wellness. Read Gabby’s tips on sleeping well here.
If you’re in Seattle, check out my yoga and writing workshops, where we touch upon some of these tips.
#7 Meditation (or simply, breathing)
Meditation comes with stigmas for some of us. This is understandable, and we may find that if we’ve suffered from trauma, breathing on our own can be quite painful.
If that’s true for you, I wish for you blessings as you heal; I recommend that you remain open to connecting with professionals who have a psychology background, and who can help you to feel supported in your self-care pursuits.
If you’re open to the process of intentional breath work, you might try this simple regime up to an hour before bed:
Sit in a comfortable seat for up to five minutes. Locate your breath. Notice that breath enters into the body through your nostrils or mouth.
Let the breath linger for a moment in your lungs as you observe the top of your inhale.
Exhale slowly. Count the amount of seconds that it takes until you reach the bottom of your exhale.
Note any qualities of the breath. Choppy? Labored? Fluid? Expansive? No need to judge, simply notice.
If you get lost in thought, no worries, come back to the breath and begin anew.
Put on a timer. If five minutes is too long, try for a minute or two.
If you’d like to get some help with meditation, there are countless resources out there.
Learn more about guided meditations here by checking out Tara Brach, one of my favorite spiritual leaders.
Whatever the motivation for improving your sleep routine, I hope you honor that you’re on the path.
Tying it all together
You made this far; you’re ready to learn more about how to enjoy a more restful life. I applaud you—that is a big deal!
Sleep is essential if we hope to restore balance in the body. Whatever it is about your daily reality that might be causing you grief, you’re in good company; we’re (often silently) struggling together.
I hope these tips will offer some sense of solidarity. Leave a comment if you’d like to generate more discussion. Happy to hear from you personally as well! Best wishes on the journey into a good night’s rest.
One last note: If you think this material would help others you know, please share the post with them! Thanks so much for spreading the word of wellness.
“1 in 3 adults don’t get enough sleep.” CDC Newsroom. n.d. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2016/p0215-enough-sleep.html