In today’s world, we are exposed to so much information about healthy lifestyle choices, but one aspect of a healthy lifestyle that has not been given enough attention is the importance of a good night’s sleep. In this blog, I would like to share with you some wisdom about sleep that was well understood by our ancestors and that medical research is now confirming.
Unnatural sleep patterns are arguably one of the most pressing lifestyle challenges of our time. By this I do not only mean sleep deprivation, but also sleep that is not in tune with the natural daily cycles. Over time, unnatural sleep patterns eventually disrupt our ability to regulate our thoughts, manage our relationships and our lives.
Healthy sleep cycles are in tune with Nature’s rhythms.
Extensive studies have been conducted on people who work at night and their ageing is much more rapid than those who work during daylight hours1. While most of us don’t have to work at night, we often choose to live a lifestyle like those who do. We stay awake late into the night watching TV, surfing the Internet or playing video games, under artificial light.
How does it affect our destiny when we choose a lifestyle that does not follow Nature’s rhythms?
The importance of our biological clocks has been observed for thousands of years in human societies, and has been researched more recently by scientists. Our daily cycles, and the hormonal patterns that accompany them, are well documented, e.g., the relationship among serotonin2 and melatonin3 levels, sunlight and healthy sleep patterns.
Also, in his TED talk4, Jeff Illif shares research on how the brain cleans away wastes and toxins through the cerebrospinal fluid during sleep, and how a good night’s sleep may prevent diseases like Alzheimer’s. So if only for the sake of physical health, it is important to sleep early and well.
In addition, sleep also matters for mental and spiritual well-being. When we sleep well, we are able to meditate early in the morning without struggling with our consciousness. Fully alert, we can lovingly invite the higher consciousness or Divine Principle in meditation, and be one with that Essence. Then some beautiful conditions can be created in the heart, and they stay with us; even if we try to shake them off, they won’t go. Such is the permanency of the condition created when our consciousness is able to receive. If our morning meditation is hampered, the whole day is affected.
For a person who has never meditated, it may make no difference; it is another day gone by with the mind in its turbulent state like a roaring ocean. Those roaring oceans may seem so beautiful, but the real beauty is in a pond without any waves, in stillness, where there is utter serenity. Even when a small leaf drops on the surface, it creates a disturbance.
There is a beautiful statement by Ram Chandra of Shahjahanpur: you can either swim with the river’s flow, or you can swim against the flow, but then it will consume you. Early in the morning, Nature’s energy flows in one direction towards the Source. It is not a physical energy. It is so easy and natural to meditate before sunrise, when you are flowing with those currents. If you try to meditate after sunrise, it is like swimming against the current, and meditation becomes more difficult.
Sleep early if you can. In fact, if you can discipline your sleep cycles it will change your life. It is like an inner butterfly effect. You know the story, that when a butterfly flaps its wings in the Amazon, one leaf starts fluttering, then two leaves and there is a snowstorm in North America. A little discipline in how well and how deeply you sleep will do wonders for your state of mind throughout the day and for your overall health.
If you want to develop yourself, adjust your sleep patterns, otherwise you will struggle with this fundamental thing all your life. You will wake up frustrated and sleepless and then you will not be able to meditate properly. If you cannot meditate properly, you won’t have a proper inner condition to take out into the day, and you also won’t even have the consciousness to handle worldly matters, like making wise decisions in your work. You have uprooted your consciousness, which is your very guiding force, so now you are vulnerable. More and more you will react in the moment, and as a result you will create more and more heaviness within yourself throughout the day. It is a vicious cycle.
Take the alternative scenario, where you sleep well, wake early and meditate on the heart before sunrise. You start the day with a finer inner condition, a pure condition, a blissful condition, so you are more grateful and more at peace. There is great benefit in this, and as you receive more and more benefit you feel like doing more and more.
Image Source: Getty