Thomas Dekker said “sleep is the golden chain that binds health and our bodies together”. Words of such wisdom can only come from abloke who has experienced his fair share of nights spent staring at the ceiling in the desperate wait for sleep to arrive, followed by a day feeling like the walking dead.
But we can’t always blame our bodies for not giving us the best bedtime. Quite often we don’t exactly do ourselves any favors by flinging ourselves under the duvet whilst still wired from our day, or totally absorbed in thoughts of tomorrow.
Here are a few ideas to help you find the least stressful way to slide into slumber….!
The right note.
I love making lists. So much so that my helpful brain tries to do them just as I’m trying to go to sleep. And because they’re in my mind I have to keep thinking of them. Again and again. So whether it’s things I need to do the following day, or even things that happened today which I need to think about tomorrow (yes that sounds crazy, but as soon as it’s written down I no longer need to hold it in my head) I write them all down before I start getting ready for bed. It really works. And it’s an excuse to buy new stationery.
Need to hang out the washing? Tidy up toys? Clean your teeth? Of course you do – but do it all mindfully. It’s inevitable there are jobs you need to do before you go to bed. So do them during your device-free 30 minutes, but make them into a little meditation time. Totally focus on the job you’re doing. Be aware of your breathing, every movement you make, the textures in your hands, the things you can smell or hear. Whenever your mind wanders, without criticism or frustration gently bring it back to the present moment. And if you can remain in this state whilst stepping on a Legos brick in bare feet, you are an enlightened being. Say hi to Buddha for me. Your work here is done.
You’ve got to get undressed, right? (If you’re going to bed fully clothed we need to talk.) So use this time to slow things down and get off auto-pilot. If you haven’t got the time (or the inclination) to do asana before bed, there’s still an opportunity to help your body begin to unwind. When you bend over to take your socks off, pause there for a moment in a soft forward fold; allowing your body to gently hang over your legs. When you pull your jumper off over your head, take the time to get a lovely long side stretch through the side of your waist and up into your ribs. When you take your jewellery off, gently massage each of your fingers and rotate your wrists. With mindfulness, turn every movement into your own little asana practice.
Bed is the best.
I’ll let you into a little secret. I talk to my bed. Ok – I don’t actually have a conversation with it. It’s more of the strong silent type, for a start. But when I get into it I say a little statement of gratitude for the fact that it’s there, it’s comfortable and warm, and I’m so fortunate to be climbing into it at the end of the day. When I’m settled I’ll then run through a list of other things I’m grateful for that have happened since I was last there. It feels like a nice way to bring the day to a close and get my mind into the space where I can let it all go. Try just doing a top 5 if it encourages you to think too much.
If your mind is still refusing to give up, use it to do a really slow scan of your body. Do it systematically in a way that works for you. Maybe start with the back of your left heel, back of your left calf, back of your left knee and so on all the way up to your head, then up the front of the body, and repeat the whole thing on the back then front of the right hand side. Place your full awareness in each bit, noticing it how it feels and releasing any tension that might be there (if you can’t let the tension go, see if you can imagine how it would feel to let it go). When you’re done, let your attention rest on the rise and fall of your belly with each inhale and exhale. You might like to associate words with each breath. I like to silently repeat ‘let’ on the inhale, and ‘go’ on the exhale.