Quick pop quiz for you: When was the last time you had a good night’s sleep?
If that one is too easy for you, then how about this one: When was the last time you had two or three good night’s sleep in a row? When did getting to sleep become so hard? It seems that like yo-yos, free love and flares, getting quality sleep is something that fell out of fashion when your parents were young.
What the hell happened to us all? Technology that’s what. Our days and nights are now so full of screens – big ones, little ones and medium ones – that there is no space left to wind-down before bed. The result is an overstimulated brain. Combine that with our sedentary largely desk and couch-based existence and the result is that our body is underworked and our mind is overworked. This means that when your head hits the pillow we are in no fit state to sleep.
Don’t despair, before you going reaching for a handful of those horse tranquilizers you stole from the farm I am here to tell you that adopting some very simple little measures in the run up to bedtime can have a bit impact on your sleep.
Leave your phone at the bedroom door
If you are truly seriously by rediscovering your sleep you need to reclaim your bedroom. For too long now we have been using our places of slumber as everything from a substitute office to a makeshift cinema.
Beds should be used for two things and two things only, sleep and sex. Not for replying to emails or watching the latest ‘must-see’ Netflix series. Fortunately, when we sleep more our sex drive improves. And the more with have sex the better we sleep. Now that’s what I call a win-win situation.
Leave your phone and all other screens at the your bedroom door. Replying to that work email and whatever pithy tweet you’ve just thought off about Jon Snow from Game of Thrones resembling a girl you knew from yoga class, can wait until the morning.
Quiet your monkey mind
Banning screens from your bedroom will have a huge impact on how wired your brain is when you lay it down upon the pillow. Unfortunately chances are still high that as soon as you flick off the light, the voice inside your head will start to chatter away.
This is what Buddhists would refer to as your monkey mind, it’s with us all through the day but at night, without other things to distract you, it has you all to itself. You’re a captive audience so to speak and this is when it will start to go over your actions from the day, pointing out things you should have done better. It will also likely bring up all the things you should be worrying about tomorrow. Whether these worries are big or small, imaginary or genuine, one thing is certain, nobody is getting any sleep anytime soon.
Meditation is a great way to tame this monkey mind. 15-30 minutes a day sitting quietly with your own thoughts gradually begins to retrain the brain. It doesn’t mean these thoughts will disappear entirely but it will give you new realization into how pointless it is worry about them. Slowly but surely that voice at night when you turn off the lights will become quieter and quieter.
Don’t worry you don’t need to move to a mountaintop in Myanmar and find a monk in order to start your meditation journey, all you need to do is check out this article instead.
Get a stretch on
Daily exercise is one of the best ways to get your mind and body ready for sleep. Exercise tires your body and releases stress and anxiety to calm your mind. Any type of exercise at anytime of the day is better than no exercise at all. But that said, not all exercises are created equally. Going out for a heart pounding jog twenty shortly before bed may lead to a burst of adrenaline that ends up keeping you up.
Yoga on the other hand is the perfect pre-bed exercise. That is traditional Hatha yoga, not one of these power-yogas like Ashtanga or Vinyasa. Hatha yoga is perfect as its slow stretches and attention to relaxation and deep-breathing, tire the body while simultaneously lowering the breathing and heart rate. What could be better.
So once you’ve got the nippers to sleep, light a little incense, put on some ambient tunes and get your yoga on. If you’ve never been to a yoga class before, don’t worry, YouTube is jammed packed full of yoga classes for all levels. Check out this 7 minute class for starters. Come on, 7 minutes! Anyone – including you – can fit that into their bedtime routine.
So, there you have it – three super simple ways to reclaim the night. Ban screens from your room, calm your monkey mind through meditation and stress the remaining stress away through yoga. The best thing, none of the above will cost you a single cent.