Sleep is the one life-giving activity we spend more time doing than any other. Most of us eat three meals a day, have a bath or shower, many of us meditate and exercise. But in general—unless we’re professional athletes—the time we spend asleep equals or exceeds the total number of hours we spend on looking after ourselves in other ways.
So what happens if we have major disruptions to this crucial and restorative aspect of life? According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, up to 35% of adults have had some experience of insomnia. Admittedly, not all these cases are described as chronic—for example, sleep disruptions are an inevitable consequence of having a baby. But sadly, there are many people for whom the struggle with sleep is an ongoing nightmare that wreaks havoc in their waking lives.
Why is peaceful slumber sometimes such an elusive dream?
When a person’s ability to fall asleep (and stay asleep deeply and restfully) is damaged, it takes a combination of science and art to alleviate the problem. Because the root causes of chronic insomnia are so complex and intertwined, a single-pronged method—such as sleep hygiene or acupuncture—is unlikely to be successful in the long run.
In some cases, it’s true that there is just one factor involved, and correcting this issue may heal a person’s ability to sleep. But more often than not, a multifaceted approach is necessary to restore balance and reclaim natural sleep. Here are a few sneak peeks from our forthcoming sleep guide:
- Take charge of your thoughts during the day. Although what we do in the hour or two before bed does also have an effect on how well we sleep, the gradual buildup of stress hormones throughout the day is much more problematic. We can become caught up in fixating on worst-case scenarios, stressing about the pressures we face, or feeling resentful or hurt about someone who’s treated us badly. By deliberately observing your thoughts and choosing ones that serve you, it is possible to actually change your body chemistry and make it so much easier to fall asleep.
- Prioritize having fun and enjoying a good, hearty laugh. You don’t have to be on vacation to take some time out and nurture a playful, childlike frame of mind. The feel-good hormone serotonin we produce during the day is transformed to melatonin when the sun goes down, and that’s the hormone that helps us fall asleep. This is one of the reasons why happy people sleep better.
- Bring greater balance to your nervous system. Many of us don’t even notice how much of our lives we spend in “fight or flight” mode, especially if we work in high-pressure industries or we’re constantly facing deadlines. Check in with your body at regular intervals during the day, slow your breathing, and make a conscious effort to remind yourself that you aren’t truly in physical danger.
- Let your batteries discharge before bed. Considering how the nervous system works, you literally have electricity running through your body. At a more metaphoric level, most of us spend the whole day building up a “charge” of nervous energy simply due to the demands of our fast-paced lifestyle. This “charge” can be allowed to flow out of us in a range of different ways, such as through weight training, dancing, singing, and other energetic activities. If we don’t discharge this energy, it’s like going to bed with a full battery.
- Develop a strategy for drifting off to sleep. Many people lie in bed worrying they won’t fall asleep; this builds up stress hormones, fires up the sympathetic nervous system (responsible for the “fight or flight” response), and becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Instead, prepare a routine that helps you feel safe, centered in your body instead of racing around inside of your head, and ready to surrender to the bliss of sleep.
In our forthcoming sleep guide, we’ll take a closer look at some of the reasons why sleep is so important for our health, and explore practical, drug-free ways to reclaim your sleep. We will also reveal insights about 7 keys to better sleep, that are rarely talked about.
To give you a taste of how quickly and effectively you can start to improve your sleep health, we’ve included a fun sleep challenge spanning 7 days. Try our simple and easy-to-follow steps, and you might be amazed at the results! OK, if you’ve been suffering from chronic insomnia for a long time, it’s unlikely that you’ll be fully cured within a week. However, you will notice a significant improvement: Just take a few minutes to focus on the one challenge we’ve set for each of the 7 days.
If you are one of the estimated 60 million adults in the US who sleep poorly, you have nothing to lose but the shadow of weariness that’s been dragging you down!