“Sleep is the golden chain that ties health and our bodies together.” ~ Thomas Dekker
I just returned home from an intensive five day meditation retreat. On my third 13-hour day of meditation and study I was feeling utterly exhausted; negativity was seeping in and I was becoming unfocused, judgmental and short. Unable to step inside the auditorium to meditate or listen to another teaching I sat defeated in the hallway, and I closed my eyes.
It was during this time, as I was drifting in and out of consciousness, that I had a clear realization that without the proper sleep we are unable to be successful.
What is the secret of successful people? How are they keeping everything together?
People who get enough sleep are successful, focused and happy. We need sleep to recharge our brains and bodies. When we are tired, we can aimlessly jump from task to task without any real clarity. We end up treading a tiring circle of never-ending tasks. Whatever success looks like to you — be it an accomplished musician, eloquent public speaker, or in my case an astute student and meditator — we all want to be the best version of ourselves.
Having one bad night’s sleep isn’t anything to call the doctor about; we all suffer from bouts of sleeplessness, but persisting bad habits wear on our bodies and like a car without an oil change, eventually we are going to break down.
Without the proper sleep ugly side effects will take over, including:
Health concerns: Weight gain, high blood pressure and a higher risk for a heart attack
Constant tiredness, from mild to severe
Irritability, temper and moodiness, leading to problems with relationships
Loss of concentration, and in severe cases memory loss and hallucinations
Absenteeism and tardiness at work or school
Loss of appetite or the opposite, binge-eating
Use of prescription sleep aids that could result in dependency
Use of stimulants
What’s even worse is that we can fall into micro-sleeps (5-10 seconds) that cause lapses in attention, which could lead us to nod off while doing an activity like driving. Not getting enough sleep is downright dangerous.
So ask yourself this: Are you setting the stage for success or are you scaring success away with your dark circles and irritable zombie-like presence? The good news: A slight change up in your routines may give you the tune up that you need to run smoothly.
1. Develop a meditation habit
The number one problem for being unable to sleep is stress. We stress about our jobs, health and kids. In order to get the proper sleep we need to turn off our minds.
Our minds are constantly thinking. These thoughts are very powerful and sometimes they can spiral into stressful, negative thoughts and control us. Meditation will train you to be the watcher of your mind. By watching your mind, you can rewire your thoughts and reduce your stress.
In addition to meditation consider using a sound machine, practice deep breathing exercises and use imagery and visualization techniques.
2. Get organized
Before bed, make a list of what you plan on accomplishing tomorrow, instead of allowing these thoughts to circle in your head and disrupt your sleep, write them down. A lot of stress can also come from worrying about finances, create a budget and reclaim some control.
Exercise will make you feel better throughout your day, and it is wonderful for aiding in sleep. We all have energy that we need to expend.
4. Stay hydrated
Staying hydrated is important all the time: during waking hours and sleep time. Consider drinking a relaxation decaffeinated tea before bedtime. The aroma itself will relax you.
5. Get up early
This is my secret ingredient for success. Morning time is the magic hour; your head is clear and your mind is rested. If you establish this routine you can accomplish half your to-do list before you even shower, this can open up the rest of your day to focus on other goals or to simply enjoy your day in a stress-less state.
6. Go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning
Establish a regular going-to-bed and waking time — allowing for between 7 and 9 hours of sleep for adults — even on the weekends!
7. Keep a cool room
Research suggests that we sleep the best if our room is kept at 65°F.
8. Postpone your worrying for another day
Why not postpone your worrying until tomorrow? What’s the worst that will happen? You might enjoy today a little more. If you can solve the problem, then solve it; if you can’t solve it, then what is the point of worrying about it?
9. Laughter is the best medicine
Stop taking life so seriously. Laughter will kill stress. Laugh deeply and laugh often. Don’t forget to laugh at yourself as well.
10. Create a vision board and display it beside your bed
If you want to excel at running, write it down or paste a picture and look at it every morning. It’s the old “law of attraction” mentality: what you put out into the universe will come back to you.
In order to secure and maintain your new healthy sleep habits, avoid the following bad habits.
1. Avoid bright lights right before bed
Bright lights repress melatonin, and melatonin is responsible for regulating our sleep cycles. Don’t read from back-lit devices late at night. The darker your room the better; use heavy curtains or a sleep mask.
2. Reserve your bedroom for sleeping only
Your bed is for sleeping, not for reading, watching TV or doing work. When you associate your bed with anything other than winding down, it will be harder for you to fall asleep.
3. Don’t eat or work out three hours before bedtime
Eating too close to bedtime will leave your digestive system working away and it might cause an upset stomach throughout the night. Exercise can help you sleep better, but research says that exercising within four hours of bedtime can may it harder to fall asleep. Try to reserve your workouts for the morning.
4. Don’t get too much sleep
When it comes to sleep, there is too much of a good thing. Oversleeping can lead to heart disease, diabetes and depression. The average adult will need 8 hours of sleep. This can vary from person to person, but use this as a guideline.
5. No caffeine, cigarettes or alcohol before bed
Caffeine is a stimulant and it keeps the body alert and energized. On the other hand, alcohol might make you initially fall asleep but it actually increases the times you wake up during the night.
Rest your eyes, so that tomorrow you can fully open them and see the crystal clear possibilities of the world around us.