Sleep for the Soul / Why getting better sleep supports our spiritual growth
Sleep is that much needed time when your body and mind can fully rest and take a back seat. Some may argue that this is the very moment when your spiritual body awakens. Think of it kind of like Avatar. Although our spiritual bodies are always with us throughout the day, our ego or conscious-mind bodies are in full control. Once our ego and conscious mind get out of the way (through sleep), our spiritual bodies can then take over.
Besides the fact that sleep is a very important aspect to our overall well-being, health and body, sleep is also very beneficial for our spiritual bodies and spiritual growth. Sleep allows you to fully re-connect back to your spiritual energetic body. When you don’t have the proper sleep, then you also don’t have that proper energetic re-connection.
Our sleep cycle is usually affected by our waking state. The things we do during the day, any thoughts, feelings, emotions, etc. can all have an impact on our sleep. The key to getting better sleep is being more mindful during your waking moments. Most people suffer from lack of sleep or disrupted sleep because of suffering or over-stimulation throughout the day. Are you on electronics or staring at the computer screen all day every day? Do you have any physical pain? Are you going through any personal or professional relationship problems? Were there stressful moments in your day? Do you suffer from anxiety? Do you exercise? Are your thoughts constantly running? Are you feeling inspired and motivated, or not?
All of these things can impact your sleep and how restful of a sleep you get each night. By being more mindful throughout the day, you can evaluate what is happening. For example, when any stress or anxiety comes to the surface, being mindful allows you to evaluate those emotions and work through them, rather than allow them to escalate. When you are staring at the computer screen all day, being mindful will bring this to your attention so that you consciously take a step away, go for a walk, or stay away from electronics at night when you go home. Being mindful will also help you take control of your running thoughts and be more present. You never realize how exhausting a running mind (especially thinking of the past and future all the time) is until you are finally able to tone it down!
When we’re more mindful throughout the day, we become more aware human beings. When we’re aware, we’re able to connect better to ourself, our bodies, and spiritual self. We’re able to stop and evaluate situations and feelings in order to lessen our personal suffering. Therefore, we tend to be in better states when it comes to sleep. Everything is truly connected. Here, you’ll find 12 mindful acts you can do right before bed or throughout the day to help you stay connected to your true self and better feed your soul during sleep time.
12 mindful acts you can do during the day in order to get better sleep at night
1. Spend time in nature.
Nature is the best medicine for absent-minded or non-present people (no offense!) There’s something magnificent about nature that allows you to bring all your senses and all your thoughts to that exact moment and allow you to be truly present. By spending more and more time with nature - whether it’s hiking in the forest, picnicking at your local park, sunbathing on the beach, or even spending time with your houseplants - you allow your thoughts to become more and more aligned with the rhythm of nature, and being more present in the moment.
2. Sweat it out.
Studies have shown that physical activity improves sleep and increases sleep duration. When done on a regular basis, exercising can help normalize or regulate a sleep-wake cycle, reduce stress, and improve your well-being and health. Even better, sweat it out outside in nature and get a double dose of good-for-you-activities for better soul sleep!
3. Shut it down (electronics, that is).
“You mean, turn off all computers, televisions, tablets, video games and...phones?!?” Why yes, that is exactly what I mean. I know, I know, it’s super impossible for people to do this...or is it? A part of why electronics are so overwhelming in our lives is because it has become normal, and frankly, we accept (and like) them. But if you think about it, all day long we’re on our computer screens and phone screens and television screens, right up until we close our eyes for bed. It’s actually quite normal for a person to be on their phone right before bed and then have the phone be the first thing they check in the morning. It’s been shown that electronic devices have an impact on our sleep - affecting our circadian rhythms, depth of REM state, sleep duration, and melatonin production. If possible, try to turn off electronic devices 30 minutes to 1 hour before sleep as well as when you wake. Take your time waking up - do everything you need to do to get ready for the day and eat a quiet breakfast..and then check your phones or computers. During the day, step away from your computer screens as much as possible. Take a walk around the block and rest your eyes (and mind), and avoid checking your phone if you don’t have to. Remember, checking our phones has become a habit.
Practice quieting your mind through meditation. For busy folks or those with running thoughts, meditation can seem like a daunting task. The idea here is to start slow. I tell my clients that the practice of “non-thought” during meditation is actually a very hard practice. When you’re concentrating on not thinking, you are automatically thinking...or it brings even more thoughts to your mind! This can be quite frustrating. Instead, I recommend just going into a quiet state preferably somewhere in nature. Sit in a comfortable position and just observe your surroundings. Connect with the nature around you, or even the objects in your room or wherever you find a quiet spot. Just be and release any thoughts regarding what you are seeing. Just observe. Start slowly, maybe 5 minutes at a time. Then you can build up from there, and then maybe transition to closing your eyes and going into a deeper meditation. I suggest getting into bed 15-30 minutes before you’re about to sleep, lay down on your back in a comfortable position and relax. Drift into mindful meditation, allowing any thought forms or images to drift through your mind. Then allow your meditation state to drift you off into sleep.
5. Eat wholesome foods.
The food we put in our bodies have such a dramatic effect on our overall health and well-being. The human body is an ecosystem made up of living parts including microbes, cells, membranes, organs, etc. We need to nurture the environment to ensure that everything works and functions properly. Food plays a huge role in the overall environment of the body. For example, if you eat too much sugar, caffeine or processed foods, it will most likely be detrimental to your sleep-wake cycle. You are what you eat. So if you want better sleep (and overall well-being), eat healthy, wholesome, organic, non-GMO foods that contribute to a thriving, strong body ecosystem.
6. Harness healthy relationships.
When you have an argument with someone that was not resolved, how long do the feelings of that argument (maybe anger, frustration, sadness) stay with you? Usually for quite some time! Every time we think of that person, we think of the argument and the feelings and get wrapped up in it all over again. Same thing goes with someone you feel such love and deep respect for. When you have a meaningful conversation with someone, how good do you feel afterward? Pretty darn amazing! We are human and succumb to our human emotions no matter which way they take us. Relationships are so important because we share an emotional connection with someone, which can be quite beautiful and quite devastating at times. When we have positive and uplifting emotional connections with others, those feelings foster and flower in every aspect of our lives. Surround yourself more with people that you “vibe” with, and less with people that you don’t.
Oxygen integrates our bodies: our brains, nerves, glands and internal organs. The act of consciously and deeply breathing - through Pranayama or Yoga breathing techniques - unifies our heart and mind so they work together. ‘Prana’ refers to the Universal Life Force, and ‘ayama’ means to regulate, lengthen or control. In essence, by practicing Pranayama breathing, we are able to control that Life Force energy within us. This is a powerful practice because when we become conscious of our breathing, we also become more present, self-aware, and calm. Other benefits to Pranayama breathing include: improved focus, attention and mental clarity, increased energy, rejuvenated body and mind, boosted immune system, reduced stress and anxiety, and better overall mind-body balance. Try out some simple Pranayama breathing exercises here (Yoga Journal).
8. Take a bath.
More specifically, take a salt bath. Salt baths have incredible healing, detoxing, and grounding powers and should be incorporated regularly into a healthy lifestyle. Himalayan Salt, Epsom Salt, or Dead Sea Salt work best. The salt naturally detoxes your body and cleanses your body from the inside out. It improves blood circulation, relieves pain and muscle cramps, eliminates toxins, and eases stress. Not only that, but it is great for your skin. It restores your skin’s natural pH, improves skin barrier function, enhances hydration, reduces inflammation, and much more! I find that baths are the perfect thing to do to wind down before sleep. Fill your tub with warm (not hot or scalding!) water. Add in 1-2 cups of Himalayan, Epsom or Dead Sea Salt. You may also add in a few drops of your favorite natural and organic essential oils. Relax and soak for 20-30 minutes. Be sure to drink plenty of water before and after your bath.
9. Incorporate essential oils.
Invest in an essential oil diffuser and you won’t regret it! There are so many holistic healing benefits to using essential oils. Essential oils are highly concentrated oils, made from the bark, flower, fruit, leaf, seed or root of a plant or tree. Different essential oils have different healing and therapeutic uses, but some common benefits include: fighting cold and flu symptoms, aiding in relaxation and stress relief, improving digestion, naturally cleaning the home, alleviating pain and sore muscles, healing skin conditions, elevating personal care products, and much, much more! Adding your favorite relaxing essential oils to a diffuser by your bedside works wonders in aiding better sleep, especially during the cold, dry winter months!
10. Keep a journal.
Writing in a journal allows those thoughts to get out of your head! Your journal topics can be completely up to you, but the idea here is to let is all go and put it all on paper. Often, we lay awake at night with a ton of thoughts racing through our minds - a to-do list, emotions regarding a situation that happened that day, thoughts about tomorrow, future plans... By putting all of your thoughts down on paper before you sleep (yes, even your to-do list! Especially your to-do list...), it gives you permission to let it go for the moment, relax, and sleep more peacefully. You can worry about all those thoughts in the morning (if you insist!).
11. Move your Qi.
Learn Tai Chi or Qigong movements and exercises. Although Tai Chi and Qigong are different practices, they are similar in the sense that they both work with the movement of energy in and around the body. Both are designed to increase and strengthen the life force energy of the body. It’s important to move the energy in and around the body, because when your energy is stagnant, there is no growth and health issues can often occur. Incorporate breathing techniques and stretching to your energy work as well, for an optimal state of mind + body before sleep.
12. Create a night time relaxing ritual.
Start your night time relaxing ritual approximately 30 minutes to one hour prior to bedtime. Any of the practices above can be included, but be sure to make it into a healthy habit. Some days, you may want to start off with a relaxing, warm bath. Take 15 minutes to practice some energy movements such as Tai Chi, Qigong, or stretching. Incorporate yoga breathing into it. Then turn on your essential oil diffuser and get into bed. Write in your journal and let go of all your thoughts. Then go into a meditation, which can then drift you off to sleep.
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