Sweet Dreams for the Sleep Deprived
It’s one of those summer days, today, that are way too cold and garnished with a constant light drizzle which sometimes solidifies into a veritable rain and then fades back to a drizzle.
On vacation at the baltic sea as a child I used to love those days. We would open the door to our little bungalow, wrap our selves in cozy furry blankets and then play, or read, or drift in and out of sleep and dreams.
These last few years such days have only served to exacerbate tiredness and the resulting grumpiness, after tossing and turning half the night with anger at myself burning in my belly. Anger that I can not even manage going to sleep and don’t I know that I have to get up way too early and the whole day will be ruined, totally ruined, by being bone tired. And oh how I would like to cozy up into my blankets again instead of facing the cold gray day.
Today, while not a vacation day to be spent in bed or at play, is also not one of those days of tired grumpiness. The reason is, I have learned a thing or two about sleep and relaxation.
Now I wouldn’t be going on about it if these things applied only to me, but a few people have thanked me profusely for a little bit of permission that I gave them; the permission to not have to sleep. Sounds paradox when what we want so much is to just got to fucking sleep already, but actually takes a whole lot of pressure off of the sleepless. In its entirety the permission goes as follows:
[box type=”shadow”]You do not have to sleep, even if now is sleeping time and you are really tired. All you have to do is rest your body. If you fall asleep doing that, that’s ok. If you don’t fall asleep, that’s ok too. [/box]
The magic about this piece of permission is that we stop the vicious cycle of self-flagelation over not sleeping, where we get angry at ourselves for not sleeping and the angry thoughts keep us awake. More often than not I am asleep within half an hour of intentionally giving myself this permission. Those other people have reported the same.
My second learning comes from the world of yoga, specifically Yoga Nidra. Nidra means sleep in Sanskrit. Yoga Nidra thus means, very loosly, conscious sleeping, or relaxation. It is similar to autogenic training. As I’ve only recently started studying Yoga Nidra, I don’t know much of the background, or science underlying, but I have taken away some practical tips.
- I start out by lying down and bringing my body into Shavasana, the spine is straight, the legs are spread about hips width with feet falling away from the centre, the arms lie away from the body so that the armpit is open and the palms face upward. It is important to be comfortable and warm at this point, because the intention is not to move until the exercise is finished.
- Next I check in with my body, finding and releasing any tension. I start at the hands, go up the arms and legs and end with the head. I then focus on my breathing. I breathe in for four seconds and breathe out for four, letting tension and any lingering thoughts leave on the outbreath.
- A few minutes later I start counting my breaths from 50 downwards. Breathe in 50, breathe out 50. Breathe in 49, breathe out 49. Etc. Any arising thoughts are left to pass through and out the mind. If I mess up the counting I start back at 50. Over time the body falls more and more into utter relaxation. I notice little tinglings in my hand that I recognize as sleep tinglings.
If I am lucky I fall asleep during the exercise and don’t wake until the next day. If I am not I go back to the piece of permission and remember that this exercise in intentional relaxation is worth at least 2 hours of regular sleep.[/box]
I hope you give this exercise a try if you have problems sleeping.