By Bindu Ann Joseph
“It is a common experience that a problem difficult at night is resolved in the morning after the committee of sleep has worked on it”
A couple of weeks ago before attending the Mindful Living series workshop on Mindfulness of Sleep and Dreams, if I had read Steinbeck’s quote, I would have been envious and puzzled at the same time. For many years, a good night’s sleep where my body and brain let go of the day that has been was becoming a deceptive illusion.
The research on the benefits of a good night’s sleep is endless. In fact I don’t think it takes any of us much convincing that it is beneficial: sleep is our biologically, neurologically and chemically much needed trigger for a sense of balance. My biggest personal challenge hasn’t been the acknowledgment of these facts but the execution of this all to simple act.
How do I go to sleep?
Years of distress was suddenly unlocked ending and beginning with 2 simple revelations:
- The sleeping pattern or ritual I had developed was just a habit I had created and
- Sleep much like the paradox of life itself is the act of letting go
A habit could be broken and re-programed! That gave an initial sense of relief – ok I can do this. But the letting go required a bit more soul searching. So, what am I holding on to in my day that I can’t lay to rest at night? If I can skillfully bring the practice of mindfulness and being present in the now without judgment into my day how odd that I resist bringing that same presence at night?
It was like a switch flipped in my thinking brain: let go of the day that was and for now surrender yourself mind, body and soul to the present place of rest. Feel the warm embrace of sleep as she takes you into her abode without judgment. As you let go she takes over clearing out what is not needed ensuring that when we are ready to awaken we are renewed to begin again.
If you are like me, and philosophy alone doesn’t convince you, here is a little factual data: from a purely scientific perspective, the University of Rochester concluded that sleep helps the body cleans the brain of toxic proteins that are created as a result of neural activities done throughout the day.[i] I admit that the study was done on mice but there is enough motivation in this finding to further pursue a potential new role for sleep.
Waking up is also the process of letting go. Letting go of your sanctuary and coming into the present so that you begin to use up the energy stored overnight. The beauty here is that once the body has properly rested it intuitively, by the design of nature, will gladly awaken on its own. Before the workshop, I would have never been convinced of this until I was able to go through it myself.
I now willingly give into sleep and have never received so much more back in return. I wake up fresh and charged unlike the groggy and grumpy self from before. I am focused, rested and more importantly calm on the inside. I now listen to my body and have learnt not fight it as she tells me very clearly when she is ready to call it a night. As a result, she rewards me with amazement every morning with a slight nudge …because now my eyes open just a few minutes before the alarm goes off. She has done her work during the night so that I am ready for the day that will unfold.
“We maybe what we eat, but also, to be sure, we are how we sleep”
The Sleep Revolution Manifesto, Arianna Huffington.[ii]
[i] Sleep Your Problems Away – Melvin Sanicas
[ii] The Sleep Revolution Manifesto – Arianna Huffington