Are you struggling to get to bed early, to get good quality sleep, to wake up feeling rested and ready to take on the day? I know… it’s hard!
I was right there with you for a long time (all my life to be exact). Being born into Spanish culture and especially having freelance parents and living amongst a small community of artists; the late dinners and late nights were the norm.
Forward to a few years ago when I started my healing journey and stopped drinking alcohol, I had my first thoughts about changing my sleeping habits. I envisioned myself waking up at dawn, having a spiritual practice. This was a deep desire, something I longed for. However I told myself so many reasons why this wouldn’t be possible for me considering the society I lived in and at the time being married to a DJ/musician. These were my excuses, that I didn’t want to alienate myself from my family and friends even more, and most importantly, that I wanted to spend as much time as possible with my partner.
It took me having a very honest conversation with myself (and to be honest, to be in a desperate situation), to make the commitment to prioritise improving my sleep over everything else until it becomes a habit. It’s been almost 2 weeks of consistent good sleep and I feel SO MUCH BETTER.
This is what I’ve learnt:
1. Quality sleep is one of the most powerful ways to assist our body in its healing. So undermined yet intrinsic to one’s overall health and wellbeing (emotionally, physically and mentally). I think most of us are aware of this intellectually but very few of us have experienced very healthy deeply healing and nourishing sleep in our adult life. It changes EVERYTHING.
2. If we are focusing on eating healthy, working out, drinking water, meditating… but we are not prioritising sleep, we are missing the biggest piece of the puzzle. When we are in deep sleep, our bodies have the opportunity to heal and restore themselves. If we deprive our bodies of deep sleep we will eventually have to face health issues.
3. I’m not talking about getting 8 hours of sleep here, I’m talking about sleeping in tune with the rhythms of nature, like we are naturally designed to (going to bed after the sun sets and waking up before at dawn right before the sun rises). So naturally, sleeping longer hours during the winter and less hours during the summer.
4. The only way to be successful at changing your sleeping pattern is to be in a place of desperation/need/to have a meaningful WHY behind this decision. It takes much discipline and commitment. I know making this change can be even more challenging than changing our diet as it is so intrinsically weaved into our social, work and family life.
Here are some tips that have really helped me:
Inform your family and friends of your intention and why it’s important to you that they support you in making this change! Having their support will be so empowering and will make the process so much easier.
Change your eating times to suit your new sleeping schedule and keep them consistent. This is essential. You will want to have a light breakfast, a big lunch when the sun is at its highest point (this changes throughout the year) and a lighter dinner 2-3 hours before bed time. as an example: right now I'm going to sleep at 10pm, so I have dinner between 6-8pm and lunch between 12 and 2pm, breakfast around 8-9am.
According to Ayurveda, after 10pm we get a new surge of energy ( an accelerated mind) and hunger. If we stay up after this time it will be harder to get to bed and we might end up mindlessly snacking at midnight. When you get that energy dip at 9pm, start getting ready for bed. Shut your phone down, have a nice hot bath or read a nice book in bed. Drinking herbal tea or golden milk before bed time will be soothing and help you wind down getting you in mmmmm sleep mode. Yum.
Ayurveda also says that the Earths’ energy just before the sun rises is the most supportive time to wake up for feeling energised all day long. Just as all other animals do. Here are some things I’ve found helpful in helping me get out of bed: Create a routine for yourself upon waking. If you don’t have anything to wake up for during those first few hours you will not be motivated to get out of bed. For me it looks like this: I wake up and light a candle by my bedside table, do a few biiiig deep breaths and a few minutes of light stretching, I go brush my teeth and tongue scrape, right after this I put the kettle on and make myself a warm tonic (I love making golden milk). I go back to my room and sit down to read one of my loved spiritual texts as I sip on my tonic. I then do light yoga to wake up the body (moving the body at this time will give you energy) and finish with meditation. When I leave my room and before I’ve had any human interaction I am feeling calm, grateful, connected, focused and grounded for the day.
Use an alarm to wake up during the first few days as you set up this new routine (don't use the snooze button and if possible have a soft alarm with music instead of a loud drilling sound). Ideally wean yourself off of using an alarm allowing your body to wake up naturally when you are in this new rhythm. Alarm clocks have a very detrimental effect on our nervous system and are not natural!
I encourage you to be strict with your new commitment to yourself for the first few weeks (for me this has meant cutting a conversation short because it was getting late, missing a late family dinner… ). This is going to create momentum and make you feel so good! Remember it's about what we do most days not what we do every once in a while. If you get off schedule one day, get back on track the next day. Don’t throw the baby with the bath water.
If you are not in a position where you can change your sleeping habits because of work or because you have kids —don’t beat yourself up! Do the best you can and make whatever changes you can / ask for help and support. If you are at a job that isn’t supportive of a healthy lifestyle and your health is a priority, consider finding a career that supports it. I used to work professionally as a make up artist (insane work schedule) and this is one of the reasons why I changed career!
Remember, knowledge and information mean nothing if we don’t put it into practice. I know only a few of you are going to take serious action on this and that is ok. We are all in different seasons in our lives. There will always be times when our sleep is on point and others when its not. We can only do our best right in this moment, starting tonight. You've got this!
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