By working hard and challenging yourself you can achieve great things. Sleep, however, isn’t one of them. Have you ever “tried” to go sleep? Try as you might, it doesn’t work. Going to sleep is the opposite of “efforting.” It is the release and letting go of all physical and mental effort. It entails vulnerability and trust and offers an opportunity to deeply rest in the serenity of non-doing.
According to the National Center for Biotechnology, 30% of the adult US population suffers from insomnia, 75 - 90% of insomnia sufferers have an increased risk of medical disorders, and 40% of insomnia sufferers have a coexisting psychiatric condition.
Given these alarmingly high numbers, why don’t we pay more attention to, or attach more value to, the quality of sleep in our lives?
As Sara Mednick, author of Take a Nap, Change Your Life states, “If something happens everyday since the beginning of time, it’s probably important. You might want to think about it.“
Sleep is a natural part of life. Our bodies need it. Our planet needs it. Cycles of day and night are hard-wired into us. Yet, we fight against it and often have a sense of pride for being busy and boast about the small number of hours of sleep we get. Despite what we may believe, this continual go, go, go does not get us further ahead. Rather, sleep deprivation can lead to:
Lack of concentration
Lack of energy
Lack of coordination
High blood pressure
“When waking is seen as the main event, it’s no wonder so many of us have trouble sleeping. Sleep loss, then, is not simply a medical problem; it is also a critical spiritual challenge. As wakists, we presume that who we are is limited to our waking-world identity. Essential parts of who we are, however, are obscured by the glare of waking life.
And these become more visible at night – in the deep waters of sleep and dreams.”
~ Dr. Rubin Naiman
Collectively we carry a massive sleep debt. How can something so natural, so essential to our well being on so many levels, become an enemy, viewed as ‘lazy’ or worse, a waste of time? What can we do?
Besides the obvious of getting more Zzzzs at night, we can add more rest periods into our day. By adding rest we build a bridge from movement to stillness.
“Like a rest note in a musical score, the pure stillness of a pause forms the background that lets the foreground take shape with clarity and freshness. The moment that arises out of the pause, can, like the well sounded note reflect the genuineness, the wholeness, and the truth of who we are.
In the midst of a pause, we are giving room and attention to the life that is constantly streaming through us ~ a life often habitually overlooked.”
~ Tara Brach
iRest® Yoga Nidra provides just this pause. iRest, short for Integrative Restoration, is an evidence-based, guided meditation practice that integrates traditional yogic philosophy with contemporary psychology and neuroscience to deeply calm the nervous system. Research shows iRest effectively reduces stress, insomnia, anxiety, depression, chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder, and enhances joy, equanimity and well-being in daily life. The practice is simple to learn and easy to practice (you cannot do it wrong). It can be practiced by anyone, regardless of physical ability or experience with meditation. Once learned, iRest becomes a set of tools for life. Try it for free here
Come join me at YMWA for a group experience Wednesdays at 6:15 – 7:15 pm or Thursdays at 10:30 -11:30 am. Or schedule a one-on-one session with me (where you get to lie on a massage table as you let go and submerse yourself in deep rest). Your body, mind and soul will thank you. Your family and co-workers might too as they notice your increased peaceful vitality and productivity.
Still unsure about the value of the pause? Check out Sara Mednick’s TEDtalk “Give it up for the Down State.”
Additional tips to bring you body in sync with the rhythm of nature and build a bridge between the activity of daytime and the stillness of night:
Take a break from electronics.
Reduce your exposure to artificial light after the sun has set.
Enjoy candlelight in the evening.
Get outside and soak up 20 minutes of natural daylight in the morning.
Swap out your afternoon coffee for a nap, a walk, or play a musical instrument.
Before going to bed shift your energy and connect to an element – take a shower or bath, get some fresh air, sit by a fire, or feel the earth beneath your feet.
Welcome the darkness of night like a friend. Let yourself dissolve into its mystery and magic.
Try this for a while and notice if the goal achieving becomes easier as your body and mind are more rested and better prepared to take on challenges.