by Deepak Chopra, David Simon, Harmony Books, © 2001.
Restful sleep provides the foundation for your mental and physical well-being. Millions of people suffer with some form of insomnia, resulting in fatigue, lack of mental alertness, and weakened physical and mental health. It also contributes to both minor and major injury accidents. Studies have shown that if you wake up at three in the morning and do not get back to sleep -- your immune cells do not work as well for the next twenty-four hours. Once you have a full night of sound sleep, they regain their disease-fighting abilities. By changing your sleep habits, you will avoid the entropy that comes with fatigue and enliven the creativity, vitality, and age-reversing benefits that come with restful sleep.
Aim for a nightly six to eight hours of sound slumber without the aid of medication. Hours of sleep before midnight are generally the most rejuvenating. Therefore, if you are sleeping eight hours between 10 P.M. and six A.M., you will feel more rested than if you slept eight hours between midnight and eight A.M. To promote restful sleep, try the following routine:
• Eat a relatively light dinner. This should be no later than seven P.M. so you do not go to bed on a full stomach.
• Take a leisurely stroll after dinner.
• To the extent possible, minimize exciting, aggravating, or mentally intensive activities after 8:30 P.M.
• Aim to be in your bed with the lights out between 9:30 P.M. and 10:30 P.M. If you are not used to getting to bed this early, move your bedtime up by half an hour every week until you are in bed by 10:30 P.M. For example, if you usually watch television until midnight, try shutting it off by 11:30 for a week. Then aim for a half hour earlier, and finally 10:30 P.M.
• About an hour before bedtime, run a hot bath into which you place a few drops of a calming aromatherapy essential oil such as lavender, sandalwood, or vanilla. You can also diffuse this scent in your bedroom.
• As your bath is running, perform a slow self-administered oil massage, using sesame or almond oil.
• After your massage, soak in the warm tub for ten to fifteen minutes.
• While soaking, have the lights low or burn a candle, and listen to soothing music.
• After your bath, drink something warm. It can be a cup of warm milk with nutmeg and honey, or some chamomile or valerian root tea.
• If your mind is very active, journal for a few minutes before bed, "downloading" some of your thoughts and concerns so you don't need to ruminate about them when you shut your eyes.
• Read inspirational or spiritual literature for a few minutes before bed. Avoid dramatic novels or distressing reading material.
• Do not watch television or do any work in bed.
• Once in bed, close your eyes and simply "feel your body" -- this means focus on your body and wherever you notice tension, consciously relax that area.
• Then, simply watch your slow easy breathing until you fall asleep.