Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Sleep Like A Champ

Some of the most useful tips I got early on meditating with the Brahma Kumaris was on optimizing sleep. In a lecture on sleep management, I learnt we all sleep in multiples of 90 minute cycles, approximately. Each cycle consists of Beta (awake consciousness), Alpha (lucid), Theta (REM rapid-eye movement), Delta (non-REM) states. The exact length of cycle may vary person-to-person and from my experience it changes over time. It has for me since having a daily meditation practice.

The sleep is most restful when we wake up at the end of a cycle, while getting up in between leaves you feeling groggy. For instance, if you have 7 hours to rest and you know your sleep cycle is 90 minutes long, it's better to set the alarm for 6 hours. This tip has been invaluable for me over the past 14 years. But, how would you determine the exact duration of your sleep cycle? Here's a simple test. Pick a relaxed day, a Sunday or when you're on vacation. Take a nap a couple of hours after lunch (the couple of hours space after lunch is key so that your body has digested most of the food, since sleeping right after a meal makes you feel sluggish upon waking.) Look at the clock before the nap, but don't set an alarm. Let yourself wake up naturally. Look at the time. That's the length of your natural sleep cycle.

The next very value tip was power napping.  A 20-minute nap in the afternoon is best for alertness, energy boosting and you don't feel groggy because you haven't entered non-REM sleep. You can hit the ground running and it feels like another day.

If you either have a hard time falling asleep or don't feel rested after having slept long, you probably need to observe sleep hygiene, an area of medical science thats getting attention with the explosion of technological distractions affecting sleep patterns. Here are some practical tips on 
Sleep Hygiene:

Rule 1) No technology (phone, TV, internet) or other stimulants (chocolate, coffee, juice) one hour before sleeping
Rule 2) Never go to bed feeling shattered (or tired). Change your emotional state by meditating.
Rule 3) Never wake up and open the newspaper or TV for the first 2 hours.
Rule 4) No eating 2 hours before sleep. If you have to, make it a light meal.

Now, some meditation tips to prepare for a good night's sleep:

  • Go back memory lane to a scene of joy. Acknowledge that scene with gratitude, says thanks and let go. Go to the next scene, thank you, let go.
  • Walk through your day and acknowledge at least two good things that happened. Thank you, let go.
  • Next, review the not-so-good experiences during the day. Replay each scene with a positive spin, an outcome you would've liked to have. This neutralizes their energy. Let go.
  • Plant a powerful seed for the next day, such as 'I will wake up feeling fresh', 'I will have an enjoyable day', etc.
These steps help the conscious mind wind down while programming the subconscious mind

One last thing, deep sleep requires the body to be tired and needing rest. Growing sedentary lifestyles with lots of sitting (at desk, dinner, TV, automobile) all day isn't helping. Daily physical exercise addresses this. Go out for walk, at least 20 minutes; it'll make all the difference in your sleep. Happy Snoozing!

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