When we wake up in the morning, we are supposed to feel refreshed and ready to meet the day ahead of us with energy and enthusiasm. If this sounds more like a fairy tale than reality to you, you’re not alone. Millions of Americans struggle with some form of sleep disorder. The boogieman has long since been replaced by the alarm clock as our main source of dread. The thought of having to drag ourselves out of bed and shuffle around in a half-waking state like an extra from Night of the Living Dead can make mornings seem like some daily punishment we have to endure. Luckily, there are ways that we can reverse this situation and actually get full nights of restful sleep while turning mornings into our new favorite time of day.
How to get a better night’s sleep
The nightly wind-down ritual
Pave the road to a good night’s sleep with a routine that begins the process of relaxation a few hours before bedtime. Electronics, such as your phone and i-pad increase agitation and stimulation, so shut them off one to two hours before bed and read instead. Read poetry or devotional material that is pleasant and relaxing and invokes the types of images that resemble good dreams. Also, meditate quietly to center yourself and let your thoughts settle peacefully. Another great way to release tension is by giving yourself a foot massage. You can do this yourself with your hands or by using commercially available machines.
Create an atmosphere that is conducive to sleep in your bedroom
By managing the various elements that affect our comfort level, you will practically be in dreamland before your head hits the pillow. Make sure that the temperature if comfortable. If it’s too hot or cold, you may find yourself tossing and turning all night. There is no “correct” temperature; just try to find what suits you best. Also, make sure that the colors in your room are happy and make you feel uplifted. A dark and dreary bedroom adds stress to the nervous system and can interfere with restful sleep. Decorate with light colors that give you a sense of ease and peace. Another environmental factor to consider is the very air we breathe. The air in many homes carries chemicals and dust or other pollutants that irritate our nasal cavities, airways, skin and lungs. Air that has too much or too little humidity can also cause breathing irritation. Use a HEPA filter and air humidifier/dehumidifier to keep the air you breathe clean and healthy.
Don’t eat or drink right before bed
When you eat too much right before bed you may cause heartburn and indigestion. Even when you only eat moderate amounts, your body has to work harder to digest the food and that can keep you awake. If you drink too much, you will need to urinate more often during the night. As far as drinking goes, replenish and hydrate your body with water in the evening instead of alcohol.
How to have great mornings
Lose the traditional alarm clock
If you want to start your day right, the piercing shriek of the alarm clock jarring you into a disturbing, panicked morning is not how to do it. It’s tough on your nervous system to be shocked out of sleep like that and can ruin your whole day. Instead, waking up to an alrm clock that creates softer noise that gradually increases in volume is a much better choice. Sounds from nature, for example, are soothing and naturally awaken the body.
Wake up to the wonderful; the worry can wait
From the moment we first wake up, many people immediately focus on what worries them and everything they have to do that day. That can quickly leave us feeling frustrated, overwhelmed and stressed out, setting the scene for a bad day. It may feel like you have no choice, but with some conscious practice, you can train yourself to wake up on the right side of the bed. The first thing is to let yourself have a little time to wake up and prepare for the day by setting all worries aside. Instead, focus on all that you have to be grateful for and all the blessings you have in your life. You may be so stressed out that you might have a hard time counting them at first. The more you focus on the positive, the more you realize how much you have to be thankful for and the bad things lose their magnitude.
Drink a glass of warm water right away
A warm glass of water is a much better way to get going than coffee. Warm water will open up the circulation in the throat and stomach. It helps the body naturally hydrate and feel energized and alive. It also removes toxins from the previous day.
The companion to the nighttime wind-down routine is the morning warmup. Stretching gently activates your body and gets you ready to face the day with energy. Think of it like warming up a car that’s been sitting out in the winter-cold all night.
Take a warm shower
A warm shower is a relaxing and comfortable way to destress. When you’ve had a long day it helps you to wind down and get ready to sleep. When you’re ready to face the new day it’s a gentle way to get you going. It helps increase circulation in the skin and loosens tight muscles, while adding some zest to your morning.
The take away
Whether you’re dealing with an occasional bout of insomnia, or you have long term difficulties with getting restful sleep, a few changes to your routine can reap major dividends. Try to make each daily transition from waking to sleeping and back again as smooth and gentle as possible, while focusing more on the positive aspects of your life than the negative. You will find that you can get much better rest, be more energized and be able to handle all of your problems better. Happiness will increase and troubles will begin to fade away.
Yoga legend Aadil Palkhivala is known as the teacher of teachers and “the Godfather of yoga in the west.” He is author of Fire of Love, and founder of The Alive and Shine Center.