Eight hours of sleep a day keeps ailments away, advises Pulkit Sharma
Medical science confirms that getting around six to eight hours of undisturbed sleep goes a long way in rejuvenating our body and mind, uplifting our spirits, and keeping ailments at bay. For most of us, snuggling in the comfort of our bed after a long day, drifting away from the worrisome mental chatter, and waking up completely recharged the next morning happens to be one of the greatest pleasures of life. Even so, the current generation struggles to fall off into a slumber, and many find it difficult remaining asleep throughout the night. The catastrophe called chronic insomnia is slowly making people physically and mentally exhausted, diminishing their quality of life, and afflicting them with a plethora of disorders and diseases.
If sleep is so nourishing, health-giving, and pleasurable, then how can one explain the global epidemic of insomnia? Sadly, almost all sleep difficulties sprout from a conscious or an unconscious desire to cut down on sleep. We are living in a world inundated with stimulation. Everything starting from the bright lighting in our living rooms to the constantly buzzing updates on cell phones, the unending lists of big goals and trivial errands, the greed for money, all kinds of comforts and luxuries, and the constant babble of our dissatisfied minds make us fight our sleep. In other words, there is so much to explore and finish that many among us feel compelled to go on stretching our waking hours and cutting down on our sleep. Initially, we seem to get by quite well with less sleep, but over time, our natural sleep-wake cycle gets disturbed and, before we realise it, insomnia sets in. Once we are stuck with this inept sleep cycle, no matter how hard we try entering the wonderland of hibernation, restful sleep eludes us.
We usually fail to reclaim our sleep because we are constantly trying to complicate a very simple process. Yes, fixing up our sleep can be quite simple, provided we create the right mental attitude and take the right steps. Let us get down to how we can accomplish this in our thoughts, feelings, and actions.
Spend your day meaningfully
Did you know that your waking life and sleep are intimately related? A day meaningfully spent ensures a deep and happy sleep. When you are involved in constructive and creative activities during the day, channelising your physical, vital, and emotional energies towards self-growth, you retire to bed in a state of happy tiredness, contentment, and peace. Consequently, it just takes a few seconds for your body and mind to glide swiftly into a magical hibernation. On the other hand, when you waste your time entangled in negative thoughts, chaotic emotions, and inactivity, you are overwhelmed at night with a grilling sense of frustration, meaninglessness, and regret. Your body and mind are restless, trying to deal with the burden of unfinished business, and keep you painfully awake.
To change this, encourage yourself to constantly find meaning in life with the torchlight of your inner aspiration.
There are several ways to accomplish this: immersing yourself in any creative, altruistic, or spiritual activity; focusing more and more on the good things in life and feeling gratitude for them; and finally, changing the way you perceive suffering—accepting it as a challenge or even as an opportunity for self-growth. Going further, you could create an all-encompassing vision guiding your life. Visualise the perfect, the highest possible, the strongest, and the most evolved version of yourself and devote each day of your life moving closer to this vision. When your day is spent creating positive thoughts, feeling positive emotions, and doing positive actions, you retire to bed with positive vibrations, and all your sleep difficulties simply melt away.
Slow down before bedtime
For most people, it is extremely difficult to instantly quieten a highly active mind just before their bedtime. If you have been busy following interesting updates on the bright screen of your cell phone or watching your favourite crime show take fascinating twists and turns in its latest episode or trying to argue your case aggressively with your partner, it becomes difficult to switch off your brain when you hit the bed. And when you lie down with such an overactive brain, intense thoughts and emotions keep coming back and, consequently, sleep vanishes.
You may find it helpful to create a relaxing environment and a consistent bedtime, instructing your brain to slow down. Begin with a warm bath before your dinner. Eat a light meal and when you are done, bid farewell to all your electronic gadgets and television until morning. Dim the lights in all the rooms of your house, play some soft and soothing music, or read a nice book to calm down your thoughts and feelings. If any disturbing thoughts and emotions still come up, make a note and tell them that you will surely address them the next day and quickly come back to the relaxed state. You could also practise some calming breathing exercises or sit for meditation. Finally, switch off the lights and lie down on your bed with an aspiration that you are letting go of all negativity, worry, and frustration, and welcoming sleep to rejuvenate your entire being.
Stop analysing your sleep
When anything is going wrong in our life, we tend to focus on it excessively, worry about it incessantly, and apply all our concentration and energies to fix it. No wonder we use the same time-tested method for revamping our disturbed sleep, but here, it fails us miserably. I have seen people anxiously watching themselves drift into sleep and wake up the next moment with a startle, using complicated gadgets to fall off to sleep, and diligently measuring the quantity and quality of their sleep. These exercises consume a lot of their time and energy, make them exhausted, and deteriorate the quantity and the quality of their sleep even further. From a deeper perspective, this appears to be yet another strange case of a dog chasing its own tail—the person keeps on trying myriad solutions to fix their sleep difficulties, but the real problem remains unresolved.
Become aware that sleep requires us to be in a passive and peaceful state where our thoughts, emotions, and actions are in harmony and quietude prevails in our being. Any kind of analysis, worrying, or activity, even when it is done with the intention of inducing sleep, is bound to make our brain vigilant and trigger an intense neuronal firing which keeps us awake. Recall those memories of your early childhood where you would slip into sleep effortlessly and almost magically: lying down peacefully in bed, gazing at the stars thinking of a fairy tale, and quietly drifting off into dreamland. You need to bring back that old carefree attitude, quietude, and ingenuous charm to your sleep. Therefore, before retiring to the bedroom, keep aside all your worries, anxieties, and calculations about sleep and tell yourself firmly that you are there to give your body and mind some rest. Relax all the muscles of your body, slow down, and observe your breath peacefully until sleep comes.
Surrender and meditate
In the serenity of the night, when many are fast asleep and you happen to be tossing and turning in bed all alone, it is natural to feel desperate, lonely, and scared. You start believing that you have been left to fend for yourself in a cold and harsh world, and an intense panic overwhelms you. These anxieties disrupt your mental peace, put you in a fight-or-flight mode, and spoil your sleep. At such times, all tricks to allay your mental discomfort are useless and your panic levels escalate even further.
But you can sail through this inner storm by surrendering and deepening your faith in the Divine. Feel secure knowing that you are not a creature created by chance and destined to suffer the wrath of a cruel destiny. You are a soul connected to the Divine and are manifested in a human body to further the Divine agenda. Keep your faith intact that God will hold you and support you unconditionally and that the fleeting insomnia is a test of your perseverance. Lie down on your bed with an attitude of surrender, imagining that you are in the lap of the Divine, and if sleep does not come, spend the time happily in meditation.
Meditation benefits our sleep in many direct and indirect ways. It is the most effective way of soothing our worrisome emotions, slowing down the monkey mind, and relaxing our body. In short, it fulfils all the prerequisites for a good sleep. Many research studies also conclude that meditation boosts melatonin levels in our body, enhancing our quality of sleep. Furthermore, it repairs and rejuvenates our body and mind, and compensates for any sleep deprivation; that’s the reason why many experienced meditators need progressively lesser amounts of sleep. Therefore, junk all your insomnia-related catastrophic myths and simply meditate holding on to the certitude that all will be well.
Always remember that a few nights of disturbed sleep will not cause you any permanent harm. Keep in mind that whenever you create the necessary preconditions for sound sleep, sooner or later, sleep will come. To overcome insomnia, you don’t need heavy sleeping pills, costly gadgets, or complicated treatments in hi-tech sleep labs. The best antidote can be found in simplifying your life, aspiring for sleep, and looking forward to the wonders of dreamland.
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