The autonomic nervous system is divided into 2 main parts – sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) and parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest). These 2 systems have an antagonistic relationship. For instance, you cannot be in a heated argument and completely relaxed at the same time. Stimulants activate the sympathetic nervous system (S.N.S) and will disrupt the quality of your sleep which is a parasympathetic nervous system (P.N.S) activity. Some common stimulants to avoid before bedtime are caffeinated drinks, bright lights and extreme emotional highs (such as heated arguments). Before bedtime, it is best to make the habit of creating an environment of relaxation.
2. Go To Bed on Time
You will often read that 8 hours of sleep is ideal but this is not exactly true. For instance, sleeping from 12:30 am to 8:30 am is not the same as sleeping between the hours of 10:00 pm and 6:00 am (this is the ideal sleep zone for restorative sleep). On a hormonal level (following natural circadian rhythms), 10:00 pm to 2:00 am is where our minds regenerate and 2:00 am to 6:00 am is where our physical bodies repair. For high quality and restorative sleep (for both your mind and body), do your best to go to sleep on time and sleep during this ideal time zone.
Special note: This may be difficult for many people to follow due to various responsibilities, however, a lot of people will not sleep during these times because of poor habits (watching television, playing video games and staying out late, etc.). If you are not able to sleep during these times (work, breastfeeding, school, etc.) then I strongly suggest putting more emphasis on the other 4 habits presented here in this post.
3. Gratitude Prayer
As you prepare for sleep, you want to ensure that you are in a positive mood. A simple way to do this is through the use of a gratitude prayer. This can be as simple as a prayer thanking your body for all the work it does to keep you alive (blood circulation, digestion, energy production, etc.). However, a prayer is personal so you can pray for whatever you wish. The main point is that when you are in a good mood (emotional stability), you keep your stress levels down which greatly supports the P.N.S and quality sleep.
4. Mindful Intention of Sleep
Now that you have stabilized your emotions with prayer, you can make a mindful intention or affirmation for high-quality sleep. What does this mean? You are consciously telling your body, mind and spirit that you are going to sleep and that you are allowing them to do their job in completely restoring, regenerating, and recharging your being. This habit may sound strange but all you have to do is try it and you will experience the power it has on your sleep quality.
5. Clear the Mind
Finally, it is time to let go of all thoughts and clear your mind. If you catch yourself thinking, simply stop and let go again. This cycle may continue for a while, but the more you practice, the easier it becomes to keep your mind clear. Why is clearing the mind important? Thoughts have the ability to trigger strong emotions which will then stimulate the S.N.S. By clearing your thoughts, you ensure a smooth transition into sleep.