Sleep sleep beauty bright
Dreaming in the joys of night;
Sleep sleep; in thy sleep
Little sorrows sit and weep.
Sleep Affects us at the Deepest Level
When we submerge into the mysterious darkness of our unconscious nocturnal mind a new dimension opens, a space that has not been illuminated even by our modern science. Only experienced meditative masters who experience lucid dreams and people who endured a near-death experience can describe to us a small part of this hidden world. However, there is still so much that has to be learned and researched from these experiences.
Science tells us that if we suppress the REM sleep (intense dreaming phase), our immune system is immediately weakened and, if this disruption continues for an extended period of time, we die of septicemia (generalized infection) pretty quickly. This alone sheds light on how deeply every cell in our body is affected by our sleeping habits. There is no region, organ, or cell that is not governed by our sleep.
Restful sleep is the main pillar of good health. Sleep hygiene is a topic that has to be addressed more and more from a holistic perspective. There are four areas of focus that will increase the quality of sleep and therefore the quality of life.
4 Components That Affect Quality of Sleep
- Sleep loves rhythm! Go to bed and wake up around the same time every day, weekends included. The circadian rhythm is the heart that governs all other rhythms.
- Exercise in the morning, not in the evening. Morning exercise sets our metabolism for the day and provides increased energy. Evening exercise restarts the body’s endorphins which doesn’t promote relaxation. Morning aerobic exercise can almost immediately help our quality of sleep.
- Enjoy regular exposure to sunlight and nature.
- Eat at the same time on a daily basis. Animal meat products should be avoided.
- For heavy constitutions (Kapha*) evening fasts are most appropriate. For intense metabolic constitutions (Pitta*), something light and sweet two hours before bedtime is adequate. And finally, for thin and cold constitutions (Vata*), something heavier and hot works best (this constitution can benefit from having a warm glass of whole milk with honey, a little bit of ghee (clarified butter) and a pinch of cinnamon, cardamom, and pepper before bedtime, if dairy is tolerated well). Never eat raw foods in the evening for this particular constitution!
- Avoid caffeinated drinks during the day.
- Avoid alcohol. Although alcohol induces the first stages of sleep, it disturbs the second part of the night. Once the liver is affected, sleep is normally impaired around 2 or 3 AM. Alcohol is a sedative and therefore an antagonist of awareness.
- Take one to two teaspoons of functional honey one hour before going to bed. If there is tension during the day, have one teaspoon dissolved in warm Chamomile or Giant Hyssop tea. Functional honey means that the honey used in each of the products has been selected for its potential to have a positive impact on your wellbeing, specifically targeting certain systems or conditions. In addition, they have been formulated with herbal extracts that work in synergy with the honey. Combined, these ingredients have a potentially positive effect on your health beyond basic nutrition and are more effective when formulated together than if taken separately. We recommend using our Functional Honey for Regenerating Rest.
- Take a functional Tea for Soothing Sleep at the end of the day. Functional Tea refers to the fact that by combining a specific set of herbs, the infusion will have the potential to have a positive impact on your wellbeing, specifically targeting certain systems or conditions, having been formulated to work in synergy. Together, these ingredients have a potentially positive effect on your health beyond basic nutrition and are more effective when formulated together than if taken separately. We recommend Functional Tea for Soothing Sleep
3. Sleep Environment
- Our bedroom needs to have a pleasant ambiance. It should be quiet and with soft lighting, be well ventilated and not too cold (around 20o)
- TV and other electronic gadgets should be far from our bedroom because they can profoundly disrupt our brainwave activity.
- Make a commitment to shut off the TV and the internet two hours before bedtime and try to observe the subtle positive consequences of just this small modification. Alertness, concentration, vitality, and a sense of distance from the chaos around us will be noticed.
- Remove all electronic devices from your night table including digital clocks.
- Aromas can have a nice effect on sleeping habits. Research has shown that smell is the sense that is most linked to our emotional area in the brain (limbic and amygdala region): when under stress, it causes strong sleep alterations. If warm, calming aromas are present in our bedroom we can benefit greatly. Try these essential organic oils and see which is best for you: Clary sage, lavender, sandalwood, Giant Hyssop, lemon, valerian root (needs to be bound to other aromas) and basil. Memory and moods are also very much related to the sense of smell; we can create a new sleeping habit (entrainment) when our unconscious mind links the aroma with the memory of a renewed restful sleep.
- Warm feet are very important to facilitate sleep (especially Vata* constitutions can benefit from a warm bath before bedtime).
- Head and feet massage grants a wholesome relaxation response before sleep. If muscle tension is present in the area of the spine, take one to two capsules of magnesium with warm water before bed, along with a Melissa tea.
- Read something inspiring.
4. Meditation Before Bedtime
Meditation is probably the most important medicine we can give ourselves to obtain restorative sleep. Deep breathing and relaxation clears the mind and prepares our body to enter the needed rest without the “undigested overload” of our daytime experience. In meditation, we calm our brain waves and activate the alpha frequency (7Hz), an ideal brain rhythm, which facilitates deep sleep.
Follow these three steps to start a basic meditation:
- Close your eyes and make a short revision of your day’s activity without rationalizing any behavior and without any moral interpretation.
- Enter into a short meditation focused on breathing and when thoughts start to stray return to focused breathing.
- Concentrate on an internal word of gratitude; this always reconnects us to what is really essential and truly helps us to reduce the fear and negativity in our lives.
In the night of weariness
let me give myself up to sleep without struggle,
resting my trust upon thee.
Let me not force my flagging spirit into a poor preparation for thy worship.
It is thou who drawest the veil of night upon the tired eyes of the day
to renew its sight in a fresher gladness of awakening.
Do you have a healthy sleep routine? Please share your strategies!
*Constitutions based on Ayurvedic Medicine.