The power of sleep

There is a small percentage of the population who can fall asleep as soon as the head meets the pillow. But the us mere mortals, it’s a bit more difficult than that. And when we’re affected by a mental health condition, these sleep patterns get even more patchy and challenging.

All organs and systems benefit from a good night sleep, cells regenerating, organs repairing, hormones being regulated. For some it takes 6h and for others about 9h per night for optimum sleep, to wake up refreshed and energised. Consistently poor sleep can throw things off balance, make good diet and physical exercise less effective, affect our concentration, and increase feelings of anxiety and depression. It then becomes a bit of a vicious cycle of more worry and angst at night and less focus during the day, low self esteem and more worry to keep us awake at night and so on.

A few things can help us get some good ZZZ at night: avoiding heavy meals, sugars, alcohol, strenuous exercise, fights, digital screens, bright light, loud music… Key to a good night sleep is figuring out a ritual that works for you: lighting, scent, sounds, warmth, texture, self care, whatever combo appeases you and contributes to your winding down. Maybe also key is allowing yourself to have that time for yourself as opposed to jumping into bed waiting for sleep as you would tackle another task of the day. Some meditations are a great way to tune down your mind and focus on your breath, allowing yourself to drop into your body, turning down the tension. It’s also a matter of patience, first night with a new eye mask is not likely to be the winner. But it’s also possible that none of the above will be sufficient.

Sometimes we also need to address the root cause, what is really keeping us awake at night? Do we have difficulties falling asleep from thinking too much? Trying to solve problems? Maybe try journaling and releasing those thoughts on paper, trusting that whatever problems you need to solve, they can wait until morning who knows something might come in your sleep. Or if you do fall asleep from exhaustion but wake up at the same time every night. Maybe take a look at the Traditional Chinese Medicine organ clock, and see how you can support this organ for better sleep. Typically waking up between 1-3am signals a liver imbalance (anger, stress); lung imbalance (grief, sadness) between 3-5am.

The last thing you want to do during those sleepless nights is: worry about not sleeping, Googling “not sleeping”, looking at your phone, scrolling on social media or even going down to see what leftovers you can eat from the fridge. Nighttime thoughts are always darker that during the day, so be kind with yourself and also remind yourself that one sleepless night is ok, that it won’t change everything, give yourself permission to be a little less efficient in the morning if that’s the case.

Sometimes the problem is too much sleep, as the only way to cope with what’s happening during the day, or the only way due to lack of energy. Sometimes this is also what our bodies need to repair, but introducing more movement, routine, healthy habits and more importantly talking! Can help us get back towards a healthy, consistent sleeping routine.

Listen to this yoga Nidra meditation for a sleep aid


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