There is so much to be said for how we wake up and how we go to sleep. This precious time can be the most powerful of the entire day. Upon awakening, there is a newness, a sense of opportunity, of new beginnings that we can access so long as we do not rush to pick up the stress or agitation we were running with the day before. At the end of the day, if we take time to clear our mind and emotions we will get to sleep more easily and rise with a clearer mind.
WAKING UP CONSCIOUSLY
One of my teachers told me something that stays with me to this day.
He said, “as soon as you wake up, get up.” The sleep we get after we hit the snooze button can often make us more foggy and tired. If we get up right away, we can use the time to connect inwardly, before the duties of the day pull us into action.
When you first wake up, you are relaxed, your brain has been operating at the theta and delta brainwave states during sleep, which linger as you wake up. If you pay attention at this time, there is a softness, a receptivity, a free flow of ideas. This is a prime time to nurture yourself, to spend time in gentle movement, in meditation, breathwork, or simply sitting to be present with what is arising. If you rush too quickly to caffeine, or other activity you can miss the sweetness that can set the tone for the rest of the day.
The Yoga Tradition promotes SADHANA first thing in the morning. This idea is to get up before the sun rises, which actually gives us MORE energy than sleeping late! We move the stiffness out of the body, breathe consciously to charge our energy, focus our mind with meditation so we can be more alert and on point for the rest of the day.
If you are groggy in the morning, or find it hard to get to sleep, or stay asleep, then it means you have to pay attention to a few key factors during your day I will discuss below.
WINDING DOWN TO SLEEP
How we sleep dictates how we live. I just learned that while we sleep the brain shrinks about 50% squeezing all the toxins out! If we are not sleeping well, this detox process does not get to happen so successfully. So what are the obstacles to a good deep sleep: incorrect food, not enough or too much exercise, stress which could show up as a restless mind that won’t quit ‘thinking’ when you are trying to sleep, too much screen time, or unprocessed emotions.
Here are a few of my favorite sleep remedies:
- Make sure you have moved your body in the day to release tension and recharge your energy.
- Stop eating 2-3 hours before you go to sleep, otherwise precious energy that would normally go to rejuvenation and repair is still being used to digest.
- A pre-sleep ritual: Taking a moment to review your day, notice any ways you were challenged and did not respond how you would have liked to – what would you do better if you got to do it again? (this by the way is wiring your brain for success). Celebrate your successes and spend a few minutes thinking of the things that make you smile and bring joy. This shifts your internal state and allows for a sense of ease and letting go. The yogis say the last thoughts before you sleep are the ones you carry into your dream and rest state.
As you lie down, breathe deeply for a few minutes focusing on your belly. This helps to stabilize your energy and can begin to calm your mind if it feels overactive. Sometimes if my mind is particularly busy I focus on my belly and start counting backwards from 100. I say 100 and take a long smooth inhale and exhale, then 99 and take a long smooth inhale and exhale … guaranteed, by the time I get down into the 80s or 70s I start to forget where I am! … my brain wave state shifts and I feel more relaxed and ready to sleep.
- If you find yourself simply awake and can’t go back to sleep then meditate, make use of the quiet time to nurture yourself.
Here is a link to a wonderful short breath practice that can be done at night