FEATURE — We’ve all been there before, lying in bed, tossing and turning, rehearsing our mountainous to-do list for the next day. We’re inundated with mindless mental chatter: groceries, errands, worries, fears and a slew of details that keep our minds erratically cyclical. It becomes maddening, particularly when we look at the clock and… it’s morning.
Writing your way to sleep
Many influencing factors create this reality, and one incredibly helpful way we can all start preventing it is with a little activity I like to call “brain vomit.” When insomnia kicks in, take out a blank sheet of paper and write down everything on your mind – every list, worry, goal, fear, highlight, success, memory, failure, symptom, victory, irritation and pain point.
Try not to censor, edit or critique any aspect of your expressive writing. Let it come out of you organically and as genuinely raw as you possibly can allow it to be. Let it all out, and see what shows up. It just might be more productively therapeutic than a deep psychotherapy session (which we all might desperately need, especially surviving 2020).
When you have to start thinking hard about what to write next, you’re done. Look over the sheet and thank it all for arriving. Embrace it all equally and acknowledge each point as valid. This is crucial to the logical mind because it reassures us that all details can easily be referenced and addressed in the morning.
In a way, you’re tricking yourself into a dozen justifiable reasons to dismiss it all and to simply go to sleep. As you begin implementing this practice on a more regular basis, you’ll be amazed how differently you’ll feel going to sleep and waking up.
Waking with the dawn
When talking about resetting the sleep cycle, it’s mandatory that we bring up the body’s remarkable circadian rhythm – the natural time clock built into each of our pineal glands and subconscious brains. Believe it or not, our bodies and minds always know exactly what time it is, but our senses and logistical reasoning cause us to doubt this incredible ability.
We say things such as “It’s not that late” or “I don’t even feel tired yet.” We talk ourselves out of healthy sleep routines when we justify certain activities as more important than deep, nightly, critically reparative sleep, disregarding that its presence represents over one-third of our entire lives.
These behaviors shut down our own delicate circadian rhythm muscles and thus cause them to atrophy. Denying sunlight from your pineal gland (found in the center of the forehead) actually tells the subconscious mind that the sun, in fact, has not risen yet, and careful readjustments to our internal clocks must be made.
Over time, we find ourselves sleeping all day and staying up all night for a hundred seemingly justifiable reasons. When the pineal gland receives brilliantly alerting blue light from abundant electrical sources and device screens of all kinds, it becomes undeniably certain that the sun is the source of this light and that it must be noonday. It then readjusts itself as if such were reality, and the cycle of madness continues.
One of the only sustainable remedies to this is to throw a massive wrench in the spokes and force yourself to wake up at dawn to greet the real sun. Let the morning sun’s rays interact with your pineal gland and acknowledge to yourself that this is the beginning of the day. The first few days of doing this will be rough, to say the least, but you’re fundamentally restructuring your perception of what your body needs. You’re getting back in touch with reality, allowing communication between you and your body to be fully reinstated.
In a short amount of time, you’ll find yourself collapsing in bed at around 9:30 or 10 p.m. because your body knows that it certainly cannot maintain its routine of waking up early to greet the sun while staying up all night. Something has to give, and if we secure a stronghold on those priceless morning hours, we’ll find our natural and healthy bedtime arriving when it should.
In time, you’ll find that you are more and more productive in those wee morning hours when most are still desperately trying to chase a few more minutes of frantic, unrestful sleep via the snooze button.
Balance your sleep debt each night
Another reason this time frame is so important is because when the body is trying to repair every night, it requires deep, rapid eye movement sleep cycles. If we’re awake during this window, it can’t happen. We start to rack up “sleep debt,” which is the body literally keeping a tally of how many hours it should have been allowed to sleep.
Sooner or later, this debt has to be paid. This is why, all of a sudden, people get exasperatingly ill and end up sleeping for 18 hours straight. The body refuses to put up with the detrimental charade of pretending it can somehow get by on a few hours of sleep every night. We all know what it feels like when the body finally says, “Seriously? This is ridiculous, and I’m not putting up with it any longer.”
Other factors that are incredibly disruptive to general sleep health are what and when we choose to eat and drink. A late dinner with heavy, fatty meat followed by a decadent chocolate dessert and an alcoholic nightcap or a caffeinated drink while devouring hours of nightly news on a cell phone or iPad is quite possibly the worst pre-bedtime routine ever. It might actually take the body a full 24 hours to digest and fully process the meal alone, leaving no energy or fluids for the nightly cleanse and detox process that it’s trying desperately to maintain.
A light and early dinner, positive relational interaction, a great book (the paper kind), warm tea, soft lights, no devices, no caffeine or alcohol, no heavy dessert, a little brain vomit or gratitude journal writing and a nice bath (with an early bedtime in mind all along) are all phenomenal ingredients for creating the ideal bedtime routine.
Written by BENTLEY MURDOCK, owner and founder of Healistic Vitality.
This article was first published in the January/February 2021 issue of St. George Health and Wellness magazine.
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.