Why we should approach sleep as ceremony
There’s a lot of talk about sleep in the news lately:
- why we need it,
- how to get it,
- how much do we need?
- to nap or not to nap?
The advice even fills books, but there’s one important point I think has been overlooked:
We should be approaching sleep with the same respect and solemnity as we do ceremony!
Ceremony is the language of Spirit — a tool for entering the world of spirit guides, angels and higher wisdom.
In ancient Greece, sleep was seen as a gateway to another realm, and temples had rooms where you’d dream and get your dreams analyzed by a priest the next morning.
Ceremony entails reverance, being open to messages from the Spirit world, and a new way of being and thinking. Our sleep time is an excellent way to enter that sacred realm.
Why sleep is sacred
“In the natural rhythms of the earth, dormancy is part of the cycle of life. We all need rest. In order to thrive, fields must lie fallow; animals hibernate; day recedes into night. The seventh day in the Genesis account of creation speaks to this truth, as Sabbath rest is deemed a holy part of the whole creation.” Lynn Gasteel Harper
- We spend approximately 1/3 of our lives sleeping.
- We replenish and renew our health during sleep.
- It is the place and time where we can access the higher spiritual realms and our unconscious through dreams, where our angels and guides can send us information we need for our daily life or to solve problems.
- It allows us to recharge our spiritual batteries.
- By getting adequate sleep when it’s dark and being awake when it’s light, we stay in sync with the natural world: The order of the universe is rhythmic and we have a psychic and physiological need to be in sync with the earth’s cycles.
- The natural light of the sun and moon regulates our circadian rhythms.
There are places I revisit in recurring dreams that seem as though they are parallel worlds. Sometimes I wonder if where I go during sleep is my real life and this one is the dream!!
Benefits of sleep
“Every important mistake I’ve made in my life, I made because I was too tired.” Bill Clinton
- Our bodies continue to function during sleep: the heart beats, liver detoxifies, blood flows, but at the same time body damage is repaired, cells are renewed, hormones are balanced.
- Sleep can also help with weight loss.
- We integrate previously learned material during sleep.
- During sleep our brain cells contract and allow the byproducts of thinking all day to be released. Scientists theorize this is the reason that poor sleep contributes to the risk of Alzheimers.
- Adequate sleep keeps us sharp: Sleep deprivation is linked to chronic illnesses and accidents, such as the Exxon-Valdez oil spill, the Challenger space shuttle explosion, and the Three Mile Island and Chernobyl nuclear power plant accidents.
- Studies have shown that medical interns working the night shift are twice as likely as others to misinterpret hospital test records, which could endanger patients.
- Sleep of less than six hours a night increases the risk of depression.
- Adequate sleep aids in test and athletic performance.
- Well-rested people take fewer sick days.
For more information on the benefits of sleep, read this well researched article from PillowPicker.com: 30 Remarkable Health Benefits of Sleep [Backed by Science]
How much sleep do we need? Take a look at the cool chart from the National Sleep Foundation.
- Don’t watch TV in the bedroom. The last thing you watch may trigger dreams that are the opposite of spiritual messages!
- If you watch TV news before bed, you’re inviting dreams of violence and negative energy.
- Minimize electromagnetic fields in your bedroom: Don’t keep your computer and wireless router in the bedroom and don’t charge your electronics in the bedroom.
- Avoid late night sugar, especially chocolate which can lead to nightmares. [I know — I love it, too, but late night chocolate does give me nightmares!]
- Staying awake for 17-19 hours, leads to cognitive impairment equivalent to an 0.05 percent blood alcohol level. The impairment increases the longer you’re awake.
- According to some researchers, sleep deprivation is the new smoking.
Robert Rosenberg, medical director of the Sleep Disorders Center in Flagstaff, AZ says, “When your body is aligned with nature’s light-dark cycle, the release of melatonin will regulate, so you’ll find it easier to fall asleep at night.”
- To help get back in touch with the earth’s light/dark cycles, turn off electronics one hour before sleep. If you live in the city, you may want to install blackout curtains in the bedroom.
- Wear sleep clothes that signal to your brain it’s time to go to sleep. If you wear gym clothes to bed you’re giving your body a confusing message.
- Optimal bedroom temperature for sleep is between 60 – 68 degrees F.
- Sniff lavendar essential oil before going to sleep.
- Drink an herbal tea in the evening that promotes relaxation.
- Wear thick warm socks to keep your feet warm.
- Tense and relax your muscles to promote sleep.
- Do the 4-7-8 Breathing Technique. Instructions can be found on page 41 of my book, The Fountain of Youth Is Just a Breath Away: Breathing Exercises for Relaxation, Health and Vitality
- Can’t sleep? Don’t just lay there, get up and do something such as read a book or journal until you’re ready to sleep.
- A hot bath 90 minutes before bed improves sleep quality.
- Use natural sleep supplements such as melatonin, valerian or passion flower.
- Establish a relaxing bedtime routine such as reading something inspiring. This will help the body gradually unwind.
- Eat melatonin-producing foods about an hour before bed, such as bananas, pineapple or oranges.
- Invest in a good mattress.
Daytime practices to help you sleep at night
- Exercise in the morning.
- If you want to nap, 20 minutes seems to be the ideal time.
- Avoid loud alarm clocks; being jolted awake in the morning starts your day with stress.
- Limit caffeine after noon, as it’s effects can last up to 12 hours.
- Your circadian system needs bright light to reset itself. 10-15 minutes of morning sunlight will let your internal clock know that day has arrived, making it less likely to be confused by weak light signals in the evening.
- Maintain a regular sleep schedule, going to bed and getting up at the same time each day. This will make it easier to fall asleep at night and get up in the morning — your body will know what to do.
- Check with your holistic doctor to see if you are magnesium deficient. Magnesium supplements can improve sleep efficiency.
Creating sleep as ceremony
“Think of the way we put our babies to sleep—we don’t just plunk them in bed. We give them a bath, put them in their pj’s, sing them a lullaby. We need a ritual for ourselves.” Arianna Huffington
- Smudge yourself before going to bed, to clear yourself of any negative energy of the day.
- Face west and express gratitude with this prayer from The Wind Is My Mother: “Thank you for all the things that happened today, the good as well as the bad.” Then list them.
- Invite your spirit guides to heal and guide you during sleep.
- Ask a question before going to bed, and see what answer comes in your dreams or in the morning. This is a powerful way of accessing your subconscious.
- Say a prayer at your altar, inviting higher wisdom in.
“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
Sleep is an opportunity to reclaim the spiritual being you truly are.
Sources for this article:
Molly Larkin is the co-author of the international best-seller “The Wind Is My Mother; The Life and Teachings of a Native American Shaman” and other books on health. She is passionate about helping people live life to their fullest potential through her classes, healing practice and blog at www.MollyLarkin.com