“The night sky is the world’s largest national park with its stark beauty available to anyone who steps outside and looks up.” ~ Geoff Chester
1. Welcome the night! Dim the lights and reduce exposure to artificial light, including televisions, computers, and handheld devices, as much as possible once darkness has settled in – at least one hour before bed. Light candles if you want! Go outside, take a quiet stroll under the night sky. Dr. Rubin Naiman suggests in his wonderful book, ‘Healing Night‘, “As a result of light pollution and, I believe, the tantalizing distractions of modern entertainment options, far fewer people are witnessing the majesty of the night sky. Although we see things more clearly by day, we see significantly more depth at night – the very frame of our consciousness expands.” Avoid consuming food, artificial light, and information right before bed!
2. Be Active. Sleep arises naturally from its opposite of healthy, vigorous activity. Try not to exercise too close to bedtime since it can be overstimulating to the nervous system. Include some vital, invigorating activity in your day. Shake things up and get moving! Challenge your bodymind with new physical activities every so often.
3. Learn to Rest. It’s very difficult to let go into deep sleep if we do not know how to first slow down and access rest. From tapping into restful rhythms, sleep can unfold more naturally. Attend a Hatha or Restorative Yoga class (see calendar), or take 5-10mins or more in Legs up the Wall (see Restorative Yoga) when you return home from a busy day, or practice meditating in a quiet space, writing in a journal, or watching the play of light against the shifting twilight sky.
4. Let go of the day – tell yourself your own bedtime story: Before bed, take time to sit down and review your day. Notice the overall tone of the day, including your activities, emotions, and thoughts. Dr. Naiman suggests then re-looking at your day from the perspective of a dream, noticing the general ‘storyline’ of the day, as well as expanding your focus to take in the larger context or background of the day, including seemingly inconsequential interests, encounters, and incidents charged with possibility. Write this down, then read it aloud to yourself…listen like a child, from a place of wonder! (For more bedtime rituals, see Dr. Naimans audio cds, ‘The Yoga of Sleep’)
5. Refresh and rejuvenate your sleep area. Notice what your bedroom can tell you about your attitude toward sleep. Try to keep your sleep space for sleep only! Keep TVs, computers, desks, books and other distractions in other rooms. Reverently tend to your bedroom as a sacred space, a temple for otherworldy exploration!
6. Practice Yoga Nidra anytime – day or night – and experience naps a few times a week in general to support deep rest and sleep rhythms. Yes, scientists confirm –healthy napping will not adversely affect your sleep at night – in fact, it has many fantastic benefits and can enhance the restorative benefits of night sleep! (See Dr. Sara C Mednicks engaging work, “Take a Nap! Change your life. The Scientific Plan to make you smarter, healthier and more productive” http://www.saramednick.com/)
7. Practice relaxing busy-mind thinking into breathing ~ follow your exhale, counting back from 10-0
8. Practice Sankalpa before bed. Sankalpa is a sanskrit word that means ‘intention’ or ‘deep resolve’. Like planting a seed, or sprinkling a little prayer over your time in the world of sleep. What is the quality of sleep you want to have? How do you want to feel when you awaken? Intend what you wish to welcome into your sleep experience.
9. Stay Cool. In order to sleep effectively, our bodies and bedrooms must facilitate cooling. “Sleep is a kind of nightly energy fast that encourages the dissipation of heat…could it be that sleep itself is a potent anti-inflammatory? I believe so,” suggests Dr. Naiman. Make sure that your bedroom is quiet, dark, and cool. A warm bath before bed can help you to ride the wave of temperature drop into sleep with ease. You can also place a cool compress on your forehead, especially on hot summer nights.
10. Welcome your dreams. Pay attention to them, write about them, reflect on them, speak about them! An essential ingredient in healthy sleep is robust, regular dreaming.