Updated: Jan 18
"The best bridge between despair and hope is a good night's sleep" - E. Joseph Cossman.
Sleep is not just about closing your eyes and resting your body, it's about recharging your brain. Did you know that during sleep, your brain is actually cleaning out itself of the toxins and waste products? That's why sleep hygiene, or the practice of maintaining healthy sleep habits, is so important.
According to neuroscience, sleep is broadly divided into two main stages - Non-REM and REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. During Non-REM sleep, the brain is processing information and consolidating memories, while during REM sleep, the brain is processing emotions and repairing itself. This is why a good night's sleep is essential for better memory, problem-solving, and decision-making skills.
“ Sleep is the best meditation.” - Dalai Lama
Our ancient practice of Yoga also talks about the importance of sleep. Yoga emphasizes the importance of balance and harmony in all aspects of life, including sleep. Yoga teachings suggest that a regular practice of yoga, pranayama and dhyan can help improve the quality of sleep and help the body-mind receive deep rest.
Swami Sivananda wrote in the article ‘Philosophy of sleep’ - ”Sleep is the best elixir and tonic of life. Sleep is nature's tonic to refresh the tired man. Sleep is a state in which the mind rests peacefully in the Karana Sarira or Mula Ajnana. The mind gets involved into its cause. The Vrittis and Vasanas become dormant, or latent. It ceases all its functions. The wandering mind gets rest. It is nature's way of charging the mind with fresh energy and peace by allowing it to rest in its source when it gets tired by roaming in the avenues of objects through the currents of likes and dislikes. There is Manolaya or temporary absorption of the mind in its cause during sleep.”
Habits and practices that promote healthy sleep are referred to as sleep hygiene. Adhering to good sleep hygiene can help improve the quality of your sleep, prevent sleep disorders and improve health and well-being. The following are some tips for maintaining good sleep hygiene:
Stick to a consistent sleep schedule: Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends. This helps regulate your body's internal clock and makes it easier to fall asleep at night.
Soaking sunlight in the morning: Be out for around 15-30 mins in the sunlight in the morning and let the light go into your eyes (not directly staring into the Sun). No, it needn't be early in the morning and no, you should not look at the sun directly. Morning light going through your eyes helps to set sleep-wake cycle (circadian rhythm). Additionally if possible go out during the sun set.
Create a comfortable sleep environment: Your bedroom should be neither too cold nor too hot, dark, and quiet. Avoid using bright overhead lights close to bedtime, choose low lamps and yellow or red light in evening. At least dim the lights.
Get regular exercise: Regular physical activity can improve the quality of your sleep. However, it's best to avoid vigorous exercise close to bedtime as it can make it harder to fall asleep.
Practicing yoga, pranayama and other relaxation techniques: Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing exercises, yoga, and meditation can help you relax and fall asleep more easily.
Avoid stimulating activities before bed: Stimulating activities such as watching TV, using electronic devices, or engaging in intense physical or mental activities can keep your mind active and make it harder to fall asleep. Instead, try winding down with a relaxing activity such as reading paper book or an e-book or listening to soothing music.
Limit caffeine: For many, consuming caffeine later in the day can interfere with the ability to fall asleep.
Avoid eating heavy meals close to bedtime: Eating a heavy meal close to bedtime can make it harder to fall asleep and disrupt your sleep.
Smoking and Alcohol: Apart from affecting the quality of sleep, smoking and alcohol come with a host of health concerns. In fact, 'The World Health Organization’ has now published a statement - "When it comes to alcohol consumption, there is no safe amount that does not affect health."
Write a journal: Get into a habit of journal writing. People with very active thinking minds can't rest the mind, it helps to write down the thoughts on paper. You can even consider maintaining a gratitude journal.
Consider seeking help if you have trouble sleeping: If you have difficulty sleeping or have insomnia, it's important to seek help from a healthcare professional.