Sleeping keeps us healthy; not getting enough sleep is a slippery slope! There have been a few articles in the paper recently about young mothers staying up at night to have some alone time. Some people work 2 jobs and skip sleep to do so. There are reports of people taking medication to stay awake so they can fit in more activities and don’t need to spend as much time sleeping. Many people with cancer and other chronic diseases are not able to sleep. All this sets off alarm bells in my head since I subscribe to the theory that sleep time is when the body heals itself.
There seems to be a substantial amount of evidence that the human body needs adequate rest and sleep to function properly. Why do people want to reduce the amount of time they sleep? I think it’s a matter of prioritizing what is important to each of us, and choosing how we want to spend our time. Since I’ve faced my mortality with cancer, good health has become my number 1 priority in life; if sleep is part of good health, then other activities take a back seat to sleeping in my books.
After I was treated for cancer, I was planning my recovery and learned about the healing properties of deep relaxation and sleep. So for 22 years now I have practiced deep relaxation every day, and I get 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night. It takes some effort, but I think the payoff is huge: so far I have not had a recurrence of cancer.
You can get more sleep and deep relaxation if you want to, and if you make it a priority. There are books, tapes, and courses to help you learn relaxing techniques such as meditation, Yoga, Tai Chi, and Qi Cong. Exercise, diet and listening to music are factors which can either stimulate or relax us depending on what we choose to do. Many people find that reading before bed helps them to sleep. Others have their favourite hobbies for relaxation.
Watching the late night news on TV does not usually qualify as an agent of relaxation. So if you want to get a better night’s sleep, spend some time to plan what you will do before you go to bed so you have the best chance of success.
The single, most useful technique I have learned is to practice deep breathing. There are many ways to do this, but it’s pretty simple really. When you are ready to go to sleep, make sure you are in a comfortable position.
Close your eyes and picture the word RELAX on the back of your forehead.
Slowly take a deep breath in to the count of 4; you want to push air into the base of your lungs which will push the diaphragm down and your abdomen will rise.
Hold the breath in to the count of 4.
Let the air out slowly to the count of 4.
Hold your breath out to the count of 4.
Repeat the process so you do 4 in breaths and 4 out breaths.
I hope you will have sweet dreams!