"Sleep is the best meditation"
Some of my clients have sleep issues, and they come to me to teach them how to meditate so they can fall asleep, or go back to sleep when they wake up in the middle of the night.
When someone tells me they have a problem sleeping, whether it's going to sleep or staying asleep, the first thing I ask them is, 'What do you do when that happens?'
What they tell me is exactly what I expect to hear, not because I know their sleep patterns so well, but because most people do the same thing when they can't sleep; they surrender to doing things that are actually anti-sleep, and what that means is they will resort to stimulating the mind rather than calming it, which is what is needed for sleep.
Here is what to avoid before sleep, followed by a "Staying in bed" meditation to help you fall asleep:
1. Don't drink coffee or any highly caffeinated drinks after 5:00pm.
2. Don't drink excessive alcohol. It reduces REM sleep.
3. Don't eat sugar. It's a stimulant.
4. Don't eat a heavy meal after 7:00. Your digestive system should be resting until 5:am.
5. Don't watch TV with disturbing subject matter or violence. That includes the 11:00 news.
6. Don't use your computer or any other devices. The backlit screen affects melatonin levels.
7. Don't go to sleep angry. Kissing and making up is a good idea before you go to bed.
Try and make those your seven sleep principles, and follow them as often as you can.
1. Lie down in bed with your eyes closed.
2. Take a few deep breaths in and out.
3. Imagine yourself floating on a cloud or a serene river.
4. When you inhale say to yourself, "I'm falling asleep" or "I desire sleep" or "I am sleepy."
5. When you exhale say to yourself, "Letting go" or "Surrender" or "Falling away."
6. Follow your breath as your chest or stomach rises up and down.
7. Keep visualizing yourself floating gently, your body getting lighter and lighter.
Repeat these steps until you fall asleep, and if waking up in the middle of the night is your problem, don't get out of bed, but instead do this meditation. The minute you get out of bed, or go on your computer or devices, you're telling yourself, "I'm awake," which is sending a message to your subconscious that you've accepted it. Instead, stay in bed, and tell yourself, "I will fall asleep again," which is telling your subconscious what your clear intention is. You're in charge of where you want your mind to go, so if it's staying awake, you will allow your mind to be active, and if it's going to sleep, you will direct your mind towards calming down and relaxing.
When you surrender to sleep, you allow for a blissful state of mind where thoughts no longer control you, and you are free of the strains and stresses of daily life. Don't you want to treat yourself to that?
Close your eyes....