When we say we're turning something into a "spiritual practice," it simply means turning our attention away from the physical and toward the mental and emotional. When it comes to sleep, there's much more than meets the eye than just a recurring lapse of consciousness that takes up half of your life. Sleep is not only for the body, it is also for the mind -- after all, our bodies are far more intelligent than we are consciously aware of. Oftentimes, it's only a matter of letting them do their job without interfering.
1. Give yourself room so that your body can reposition itself while you're unconscious.
While a neutral, straight position is the best for bone alignment, there are other factors at play when it comes to ensuring you reap all the regenerative, restorative benefits sleep offers. Your body will position and adjust itself to release muscle tension or injury, as long as you give it the necessary space. (I've fallen asleep with a stiff neck only to wake up and find it craned over in a specific way, and when I straightened out, it was released.)
2. Listen to ambient sounds with specific frequencies.
I have found this to be the most significant and measurable difference in whether or not I get a good night's sleep and how I feel the next morning. Listen to binaural beats (auditory processing artifacts) or my favorite ambient frequency sounds.
3. Get a real alarm clock. Keep most electronics out of the bedroom, and your phone out of your bed.
We know that the blue light pretty severely affects sleep -- our "short-wavelength-enriched" devices have higher concentrations of blue light than natural light, which affect melatonin (the sleep inducing hormone) more than any other wavelength -- but what we might not realize is that many times, when you need to read your phone to fall asleep (particularly news feeds!) it's out of a deeper social anxiety.
4. Have a routine you do in bed: Use moisturizer and an essential oil like lavender before you go to sleep.
What will end up happening is that you will begin to associate the scent and sensation with "sleep," and after a while, it will actually help induce it.
5. Sleep when you're tired -- but only when you're tired -- and release your fear of "sleeping too much."
Can you get "too much sleep?" Yeah -- you definitely can. But your body won't do that on it's own. It will be the product of another issue, or you not being well enough attuned to whether or not you're actually sleepy. The irony is that the fear of sleeping too much comes from the assumption that you are always tired, and thus will always sleep if given the opportunity. The reality is that when your body is fully rested, you simply won't feel as exhausted anymore.
6. Don't count the hours you'll get before you go to sleep, and don't expect/assume you'll need the same number of hours every single night.
If you go to sleep or wake up with the assumption that just because you got a few less hours of sleep than usual that you'll be miserable, you will be. Often, that will happen only because you don't need it. You'll find that if you're able to shake your anxiety about it, you'll continue on with your day as normal.
7. Forego the caffeine -- it cuts off two vital ways your body communicates with you.
As a stimulant and appetite suppressant, it makes you feel rested and nourished when you could be neither. Though it would seem this is a brilliant hack, it is wildly counterproductive. Your work is a product of you. Unless you are in optimal health, it suffers. There's no shortcut around it.
8. Your body will put yourself to sleep -- get out of bed and do something if you're restless.
If you have no pre-existing sleep issues, and you've been trying to fall asleep for more than 15 minutes (laying in the dark with your eyes closed) don't force it. Get up and try a yoga pose, read a book, anything that you'd do during your "down time." If you do something that "needs to get done" you'll start energizing yourself, which is the opposite of what you want to accomplish.