By Jules Delorme
We all know how important it is to get sleep. In fact we have become so aware of the importance of getting sleep that many of us actually develop anxiety about it. We begin to worry so much about getting sleep that we keep ourselves awake worrying about it.
I’d say we’re a funny bunch of monkeys but I’m pretty sure even monkeys don’t keep themselves awake worrying about sleep. It’s a pretty safe bet that our ancestors didn’t do that either. So why do we do it? Well, our ancestors and monkeys did not place themselves under any kind of stress that wasn’t natural. Not as much as we do anyway. We worry and stress about work and life and whether or not we’ve watched all the episodes of a TV show that everyone else is talking about. We worry and stress so constantly and so much that we can’t relax enough to fall asleep as naturally as every other animal does.
We even stress out about being able to fall asleep. Don’t get me wrong. Sleep is important. Sleep is very important. In fact it turns out that, while deep REM sleep is extremely important, Non REM or NREM sleep is equally important in clearing out the plaque that can lead to memory loss and poor coordination.
There are three to four levels of NREM sleep and they all play important parts in health and proper brain function. You can achieve the first level simply through meditation and mindfulness practice. It is believed some Yogis can achieve deeper levels of NREM through practice. But getting to that first level can and will lead to the other levels simply because the relaxation response of that first level leads naturally down to the other levels.
Just by practicing mindfulness (which I’ve written about here in this paper…) you can reach that first level and lead yourself to those deeper levels. Start simple. I mean that quite literally. As you get closer to going to bed just reduce the amount of activities that you are doing at one time. Most of us can’t get away from multi-tasking for at least part of our day. But what we can do is to reduce that multi-tasking as we get closer to the time to go to sleep. Put your phone away. Turn off the computer. Admit that a lot of that seemingly important stuff can wait. Do one thing and only one thing at a time. That’s what our ancestors did. That’s what animals do. This will lead naturally to that first level of NREM, which will lead naturally to the deeper levels.
Simple, when it comes to sleep, is good. It might take some effort at first, but it will be worth it, because sleep is worth it. And then you can stop worrying about being able to do it. And then you can be at least as smart as, well, a monkey.
~ Jules Delorme is a Personal
Trainer & MMA Coach,