Sleep + Rejuvenation
REJUVENATION, SLUMBER, + THE DREAM WORLD
Here are the basics: natural light/dark exposure sets our rhythm, bedrooms should be a sanctuary for sleep + sex only, and you need to turn off your WiFi. For details, read on.
THe morning sun + the night sky rule the sleep kingdom
Since the dawn of human existence, the morning sun and the night sky dictated our lifestyle and sleep habits. As soon as the sun rose, we awoke, and the moon rose we settled in for the evening. It has only been in very recent history that we started manipulating light to accommodate longer working hours and lifestyles.
Without focusing too heavily on the dangers of light exposure at night and how this disrupts natural circadian rhythm and literally takes years off your life (see any and all research studies on individuals who have to work the graveyard shift), let's focus on why light exposure in the morning, and darkness in the evening is incredibly good for you.
1. Having a consistent sleep/wake cycle is welcomed by the body. The brain works best when given consistent structure. Even if you go to bed late, you should wake up at the same time! Pick a bed time and stick to it as closely as possible. Same goes for a wake time--even on weekends! And a gentle reminder, 8 hours of sleep is the minimum requirement for rejuvenation. This means going to bed by 10pm and waking at 6am or later is a good goal.
2. Morning light exposure dictates good sleep at night. Bright light in the morning drives hormones in the brain to increase energy, and sets your body up to receive darkness come nightfall--and when sleep is on the horizon. Upon rising, draw back the curtains and and let the morning light pour in. For an added bonus, go outside in the early morning and try to get at least 15 minutes of sunlight exposure. The benefits of this go beyond ensuring a good night's sleep, from boosting your immune system, regulating mood, and more.
3. When the moon rises, keep the lights low. Not saying that after dark you need to be in nothing but candlelight (but that would be awesome), but try to keep the lights to a minimum. Nothing too bright, and certainly not every light in the house. Prepping the body for sleep actually begins from the moment you wake up in the morning (see above), so when you are just a few hours away from going to bed, make sure you are priming the body for relaxation.
4. Keep the bedroom dark. We'll go into this a bit deeper throughout the Sleep module, but keeping your bedroom as dark as possible (except for during the Full Moon--see the Sexual Health + Overall Health module) is key to allowing Melatonin, a sleep hormone produced in the brain, to increase and allow you to drift off to dreamland. Make sure you have thick curtains or blinds, and that there is no light exposure from electronics, street lights, etc.
bedrooms are a sanctuary for sleep + sex only
When folks here this for the first time they often blush, but its the truth!
Our bedrooms are literally sanctuaries. They hold ceremony for deep relaxation and rejuvenation, the dream world, and more. When kept tidy, fresh, and treated with love and respect, our bedrooms foster the best outcome. Keep work, TV, and things of the like out of the bedroom and in the living room or office.
Try to keep your bedroom simple and free of too much stimulation. The less electronics the better (please no TV, computers, or cell phones if possible), and bring in some plants and flowers. Allow the fresh air or a nighttime breeze to roll through if the weather permits, and change your linens often to always keep things feeling crisp and refreshed. For an added bonus, create a room spray out of essential oils (try the Dream Spray recipe in the Sleep Bonuses module) to help you unwind, relax, and call in the dream world.
bring awareness to the STIMULANTS that disrupt your sleep
This is usually where we need the most improvement.
When you think of a stimulant that disrupts sleep, I bet the first thing that comes to mind is coffee. Your right, but there is so much more going on that's keeping you from a good night's rest as well.
Be aware of the following...
Be aware of the following
1. Disconnect from electronics an absolute minimum of 60 minutes before bed. This practice will change your sleep, I promise. No phones, no TV, no computers, no screens of any kind. The blue light that is emitted from these devices essential cancels out Melatonin (the sleep hormone that increases with exposure to darkness) and also stimulates your adrenal glands to produce cortisol (read: no bueno). If you are on the brink of bedtime but have to stay up working on a device, grab your favorite book and read for 20-30 minutes before implementing your bed time routine or ritual--even if it means getting to bed a little bit later.
2. Learn how caffeine and sugar impacts your sleep. I know many people who can drink a cup of coffee before bed and pass out no problem. While I don't think this is the healthiest option, the lesson here is to really get to know how caffeine (and sugar) can throw off your sleep. Caffeine and sugar are both stimulants, which can not only impact your ability to fall asleep, but also impact your ability to stay asleep. If you consume either of these substances, play around with timing to see how you do, or better yet, how taking these things out can improve your sleep.
3. Exercise can either induce or delay sleep. It really depends on the type of exercise you're doing and how vigorous, but certain exercises can actually hinder your ability to sleep. If you like to exercise at night or before bed, keep it mellow. Go for a walk, stretch, do restorative yoga. Try to keep kickboxing and kung fu fighting for the morning.
4. The information we receive before bed can be too stimulating. This goes for watching the news, having difficult conversations, reading emails, and more. If you hear a tragic news story that keeps you up or makes you feel stressed, your sleep will suffer, for example.
5. Turn off your WiFi. This one really needs no explanation, but when you are sleeping, do yourself and the neighbors around you a favor by turning off your WiFi. We don't need it when we're sleeping, and our bodies need a solid break from the continuous and relentless EMFs. Suggest that your neighbors do the same for an added bonus!
identify sleep disorders
Sleep apnea, insomnia, hypersomnia, restless legs, snoring... these are all sleep conditions that we've most likely heard of. Sleep disorders can be pretty serious, not only in the short term, but long term as well. Prolonged inadequate sleep can take a real toll on your health, and conditions like the ones mentioned above can chip away at you pretty quickly. If you suspect you or your partner (that you share a bed/bedroom with) suffers from one of these conditions, I highly highly recommend seeking professional help in keeping these conditions in order. The steps and tools mentioned in the module are great at establishing the foundation for good sleep, but if these underlying conditions are left untreated or poorly managed, your sleep will still be suboptimal!
You've established a healthy sleep/wake cycle, your bedroom is a sanctuary, and you've kicked the late night stimulants. The next level is the best part--developing a personal dream practice. Let's go deeper.
DESIGN YOUR OWN NIGHT TIME RITUAL
Like most things in life, when we set aside time and intention, magic happens.
One of the most important rituals of our day is the bedtime ritual. If you are a parent of a young child, it is likely that the importance of a bedtime ritual is freshly ingrained in your mind. A warm bath, PJs and brushed teeth, a bedtime story and warm blankets, a lullaby and a kiss goodnight all help carry your kiddo off to dreamland. But what about yourself?
Time and schedules are a prohibitive factor for many, but the thing is, contrary to popular belief, ritual doesn't have to take much time. It isn't about the number of practices or the amount of time spent. It just comes down to the intention and purpose behind it. If the only "ritual" you can squeeze in is brushing your teeth before bed, use that time to wind your body down, receive the care that you are providing for yourself, anticipate the feeling of slipping under the covers and resting your head, reflect on what it feels like in your body right before you are about to fall asleep.
If you can carve out a little bit more time, I suggest the following:
DIY NIGHT TIME RITUAL
1. Take a moment to walk yourself through the day. While you are still tying up loose ends around the house before you fully commit to getting ready for bed, revisit the events of your day from the moment you woke up, to the present moment you are in now. Try not to get stuck or dwell on particular events that happened during the day, but rather just be a conscious observer of all the events that lead you up to being here right now.
2. Put your house to bed. Just as we put our children to bed, take the time to put your house to bed too. Dim the lights, put things away in their designated homes, close the blinds, turn the WiFi off, and whatever else you need to do in your unique home to ensure a good night's rest. In the morning, do the opposite! Enjoy waking up your home by opening the blinds, powering on necessary devices, and opening the windows if weather permits.
3. Give your body some love. Touch is incredibly healing, and also deeply relaxing. One of my favorite practices is herbal body oiling (see the Overall Health module for details), and I love to do this before bed as it sets me up for a total nervous system reset and primes me for incredible dreams. If herbal body oiling isn't for you, find something else that incorporates physical touch. Perhaps self massage, a warm bath or stretching.
4. Do something unique to you. This part I leave totally up to you, but I suggest finding a personal practice that you can tie in to your night time ritual. Perhaps it is writing in a gratitude journal, or burning incense. Maybe looking up at the moon and saying goodnight to the stars. Come up with a simple yet profound way to seal yourself in night time slumber.
DREAMING + NIGHT MEDICINE
The science behind dreaming is absolutely fascinating--the delicate interplay between our pineal gland, the rest of our body, and the dreamworld. It is also far beyond the scope of this module because of its complexity, but here are the cliff notes: the dream world is a reality. It is just parallel to our physical present.
I come from a long lineage of dreamers. My mother is a prophetic dreamer, and my father is a very active dreamer as well. Growing up, dreams were shared and discussed constantly, particularly around the breakfast table. This gift and practice was successfully passed onto my son, and it is clear that he too is a very active dreamer. There have even been a few nights where he and my mother have shared the same dream on the same night despite living thousands of miles away.
I have met many people who claim that they do not dream. This simply isn't the case. What is actually happening is poor dream recall, which is something that with practice, can improve. For those that do dream but do not have a strong personal dream practice, the remedy for this is actually the same as for someone who does not recall their dreams at all.
The following are tools that will improve dream recall, develop a personal dream practice, and gain fluency in dream-speak:
1. Sleep on the floor. This may sound peculiar, but sleeping on the floor (mattress on the floor, camping outdoors, etc) actually helps with dreaming as we are closer to the electromagnetic energy of the Earth, which regulates our bodies + pineal gland. Sleeping outdoors on the Earth is a major bonus.
2. Change up your nighttime routine to help dreams come forward. Let's say your usual routine is eat dinner>clean up the house>get into PJs>brush your teeth> go to bed. On a night where you are hoping to recall dreams or call in a more complex dream (such as a prophetic or diagnostic dream, one where you receive answers), do something out of the ordinary, such as going for a walk in between cleaning up the house and before you put your PJs on. This usually works like a charm.
3. Keep a dream journal right next to your bed. I cannot tell you how many times I have an incredibly potent dream in the middle of the night, wake up and think I will remember it in full detail, go back to sleep and awake in the morning having forgotten many of the important details. To remedy this, keep a dream journal next to the bed. When you first wake up from a dream, scribble down key notes to remember, do not wait!
4. Talk about your dreams. Dream sharing is a beautiful thing. No matter how mundane our dreams may seem, they often hold potent medicine for ourselves and others. When we hold our dreams with reverence, our relationship to dreaming strengthens and dreams are more likely to become a major part of our sleep experience. Additionally, when we talk about our dreams, it allows them to travel from the parallel plane and become directly planted in our physical plane.
SLEEP ROUND UP + OTHER CONSIDERATIONS
Sleep is one of the most potent medicines we can enjoy as humans, and one that carries endless possibilities. The dreamworld is a fantastic place, and this gift should not be taken for granted. Challenge yourself to take your sleep and dream practice more seriously, and I promise you, it will be magic.
Here you will find all the extras and bonuses mentioned in the Basics + Going Deeper modules, plus a little extra. Enjoy.
Copyright © 2018 by Motherhood Medicine.
All rights reserved. These writings or any portion there of many not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the expressed written permission of the author except for the use of brief quotations in a review. These writings are not intended as a substitute for the medical advice of physicians. The reader should regularly consult a physician in matters related to his/her health and particularly with respect to any symptoms that may require diagnosis or medical attention.