When you sleep well, you look better, feel better, and function better the next day. But, sometimes, getting to and staying asleep can be frustrating and elusive. Here are some reliable ways to help your mind and body get ready for a good night's sleep.
Mind. Before you go to bed, set aside at least thirty minutes to shift gears from busy-ness to being-ness. Dim the lights, slow down, and avoid anything stimulating or disturbing. This includes the evening news, social media, and related conversation. This is a good time to sit quietly and let go of the day. Put aside your responsibilities, schedules, and concerns. Focus on the simplicity of the present moment. Remember, from your mind's point of view, sleeping is a passive endeavor. You don't go looking for sleep... sleep finds you.
Body. Your body knows the difference between tension and rest. Your muscles are either holding on or letting go. It makes sense to set up your sleep situation so your body can relax completely. The following five-step sleep sequence (link here) keyed to the acronym S. L. E. E. P. will get your body-mind in the sleep zone.
S is for Support. In order to support your sleeping body, you'll want a bed that conforms to your body shape without sagging and lots of pillows to fine-tune your comfort. Intentional pillow placement alleviates positional tension and ensures good circulation. If you're a side-sleeper, you'll need pillows to support the dimensions of head/neck, leg, and arm. If you're a back sleeper, you'll need a pillow under the head with a little roll at the neck and, depending on comfort, pillow support under the knees and lower legs. If you're a belly sleeper, in order to release positional tension, you'll need to find a way to be comfortable on your side or back.
L is for Let Go. Gentle movement and the pull of gravity will help you let go and rest in neutral. Move and shuffle your limbs to release all excess tension. Surrender to the support of pillows and bed. Slide your head up and down in the "yes" gesture to find an easy place where weight transfers from head to pillow. Check the muscles of your neck, forehead, eyes, mouth and jaw to make sure they're relaxed. Then, systematically, scan through your whole body, inviting each part to relax and let go.
E is for Exhale. Exhaling fully is the next step in the SLEEP sequence. Bring your awareness to your breathing body and exhale fully without pushing. Notice how your ribs move closer together and downward. Let your worries and wordy thoughts flow away with each outbreath until your mind is empty. Find areas that feel dense/ tense and surrender to the flow until your body is empty.
E is for Expand. Now, focus on your inhale and feel how it expands space much like the proverbial balloon. Notice how letting all the air out makes it easier to inhale fully. This anatomical design helps you continue to relax, stay in the moment, and occupy more space. Let this sense of spaciousness expand to include the area around and behind your eyes, inside your mouth, belly, pelvis, hands and feet. Imagine that your energy field is getting bigger and bigger until you occupy more space than dense matter.
P is for Pause in Peace. Now, pause in this relaxed, expanded place and let your breathing be the measure of time. Just cruise on the gentle rhythms of your breath as if your bones are floating in space. Imagine that you're suspended in soft, empty awareness. Stay with this experience of peaceful mind and peaceful body until sleep gathers you in and carries you away.
Using this effective S.L.E.E.P. sequence will get your body & mind relaxed and ready for a good night's sleep. If you happen to awaken in the middle of the might, remember the acronym: S for support, L for let go, E for exhale, another E for expand and P for pause in peace. Focus on your breathing, spacious body to quiet your noisy mind. Then, stay with the hypnotic rhythm of breathing in, out, and fully until you're in a place where sleep can find you again.