Photo of Dr Anne Malatt by Alan Johnston for articles and audios on self-care

Self-care moments: Preparing for sleep

- Photography by Alan Johnston
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Hi this is Anne Malatt with self-care moments and this is a moment on preparing for sleep.

Many of us find sleep an inconvenience and wish we could do without it, as we think there are never enough hours in the day to do what we want to do. But our human body cannot do without sleep. We can do without food and water for longer than we can do without sleep; it is a very necessary part of our day.

Even though we can’t do without it, many of us have trouble sleeping; we have problems falling asleep, or we wake during the night and can’t get back to sleep, or we toss and turn and wake feeling tired, even exhausted, and lack of quality sleep can affect our health and wellbeing in many ways.

Is there a way of preparing for sleep that allows us to get a good night’s rest and to wake feeling rested and refreshed and ready for the day, every single day?

We tend to live a day at full speed, doing as much as we can as fast as we can, often fuelling ourselves with caffeine and sugar to get going and keep going, and then we come to the end of the day feeling exhausted but wanting more, if we feel like our day has not been enough or we have not been enough in our day, so we look to food and drink in the evenings for pleasure, and distractions and entertainment to stimulate our minds, and then wonder why we have trouble falling asleep!

And if we don’t sleep soundly, we wake feeling tired and looking for coffee and sugar to get us going and keep us going all day, and then alcohol and heavy food to settle our over-stimulated bodies at night, all of which interferes with our quality of sleep and sets us up for another day of exhaustion and overriding our bodies to get through the day.

So how can we break this cycle and develop a rhythm during the day which will support us to sleep soundly at night?

The key is to go to bed early, as the hours of sleep between 9pm and 1am are those which refresh and restore us the most, but to do this we have to prepare ourselves for sleep in the same way we prepare ourselves to get ready for work.

When we go to work, we allow time to get up, get ready and get to work so that we arrive there in time to start work on time. If we allow enough time, things tend to go smoothly and we arrive in plenty of time feeling settled and ready for work. If we don’t allow enough time, things tend to go wrong – we spill something on our clothes and need to change, or we run into roadworks or heavy traffic, and we feel tense along the way and arrive late feeling frazzled and unsettled. And the same applies to preparing for sleep – we need to allow enough time to get ready for bed if we want to arrive there feeling settled and able to sleep.

In the beginning, we may still feel tired and wired at the end of the day from the way we have lived it, fuelling ourselves with external sources of energy like caffeine and sugar to keep us going, but if we at least start to honour our bodies at the end of the day, we will find it easier to sleep well. And the more we honour our bodies in the evenings, the greater the quality of our sleep, and the more refreshed we will feel in the mornings, and the less we will need outer stimulation to keep us going, as we will be fuelled more and more by our inner energy.

If we live a whole day honouring our bodies, rather than overriding them – drinking water when we are thirsty, eating fresh healthy food when we are hungry, going for a gentle walk during our breaks or resting for a moment when we are tired – we may come to the end of the day feeling tired, but not exhausted. We can then wind down gently, preparing our body for sleep. If we eat early and keep our food and conversation light, we won’t feel heavy or dull or need hours to digest our food before we can settle. If we put down our phones, and turn off our computers and TVs at around 8pm, we can let our minds wind down too. If we gently prepare our bodies for bed, we will go there feeling settled and ready for sleep.

Of course this may not be possible every night – we may have an evening function, or guests for dinner, or finish work late that day – but if we develop a healthy sleep rhythm that has us going to bed at a reasonable hour most days, this supports us greatly in our daily lives. It allows us to wake early feeling fresh and full of energy to do things we love to do in the mornings, so that by the time we go to work, we feel like we have taken care of ourselves and are ready to serve the world.

Sleep is so important for us on a physical level. But sleep does even more for us on deeper energetic levels – in sleep we heal and dream and connect to the deeper dimensions of who we are and where we come from, and we are prepared for the day to come.

Sleep is a precious and sacred part of our day and to be honoured and deeply cherished. Sleep is the time for us to enjoy being with the deepest part of our being, at one with our Soul and the Universe we are all part of.

Preparing for sleep is in fact a day’s work, for the way we live the day determines the quality we are in when we take ourselves to bed; which affects the quality we sleep in, which determines the quality we wake in; and the quality we bring to the next day.

For life is a cycle … we live a day over and over, leaving nothing behind but bringing everything with us as we go … until we learn to live in a true and loving way … and this way starts with the way we prepare ourselves for sleep.

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