Sleep is as essential as nutrition for our well being. Yet, modern life seems to conspire to steal it from us.
As life gets more complicated we are pushed to do more in less time. The temptation is to let go of some hours of sleep to be able to accomplish more. But you won’t accomplish more. The paradox is that if you skip sleeping for the sake of doing more, you will accomplish less. You will not be effective and efficient in performing your tasks. You will have to do things 2 or 3 times instead of one, as you go through your day stressed, frustrated, angry, and confused. We have to sleep enough to be our best. And here are some very simple and effective ways to take the sleep that you need from the clutches of a busy life:
Abdominal breathing is a simple strategy that increases mindfulness and relaxation. Spiritual practices like Meditation and Yoga are centered around the power of breathing. We breathe without thought all day long, but when we take the time to concentrate on our breathing whilst laying down, we can ease ourselves into sleep. Place your hands on your belly, feeling the rise and fall of every breath. Listen to the sound of the air moving through your nose or mouth. Learning to focus on this essential and repetitious activity will bring you into the present moment, and make the worries of the day move away like clouds pushed by the wind.
Speaking of Meditation, adding counting your breaths to the abdominal breathing described above is an ancient technique of Zen meditation. Count your breaths in series of 10,e.g. In-Out=1, In-Out=2… When you loose count, and you will, gently return to 1. This exercise will increase your mindfulness and focus when practiced in the day, and will to settle the mind before sleep.
Now, moving from Eastern techniques to Western practices of relaxation we find the oldest and most effective ever discovered: progressive relaxation. Here’s how it works: Lie comfortably and begin to contract and release each muscle group in your body, one at a time. Start with your toes, clench them as you say with your inner voice “I tense me up”, now release them slowly as you say “I let me go”, don’t forget to breathe. Now repeat this exercise on every part of your body: your calves, your thighs, your stomach, your chest, your neck, your shoulders (where most people keep most of their stress, your arms, and finally your face. At this point, you will be feeling relaxed and your body is ready to naturally fall into sleep.
These techniques will help you gain the power to end your day when you choose. And be able to schedule your rest according to your needs, without falling victim to the worries, anxiety, and pressures of your life. As a result you will awaken refreshed and full of energy to face each new day with new vigor to face them and conquer them.
I wish you good rest