Train Yourself to Sleep Better

Train Yourself To Sleep Better

Train Yourself to Sleep Better

          We need some leisure time every day to de-stress ourselves and ruminate on our desires, problems and solutions. Our lifestyle, however, has become so taxing that it has become almost impossible to find time for ourselves. Pressures of day-to-day affairs overwhelm us. Usually, sleep is the only leisure time that we allow ourselves. Nonetheless, to cope with the demanding life, we keep on shortening our sleep time and end up sleep-deprived. Further, anxiety and tension do not let us sleep properly. The stress piles up.

         Good night’s sleep improves our productivity, efficiency, focus, learning and memory. It improves physical, mental and emotional well-being. It fights stress, boosts the immune system, rejuvenates us and is essential for the health of vital body organs. On the other hand, sleep deprivation makes us accident-prone, stressed, irritable and tense. It is harmful to the cardiovascular system, leaving you prone to heart ailments.  

         Sleep need varies from individual to individual. An adult person should take at least  7 to 8 hours of sleep. The best sleep is when you wake up without the help of an alarm, feeling refreshed.

(Good Night’s Sleep measure test:  1. When you don’t need a cup of tea or coffee to refresh yourself on waking up. 2. When you don’t enter into an argument with your wife/husband or family over morning tea/coffee. If this state continues until breakfast – lucky YOU.)

"A well spent day brings happy sleep"

- Leonardo Da Vinci

Types of Sleep 

         Broadly the sleep is divided into Non-REM (NREM) and REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. The combination of NREM and REM sleep is a Sleep Cycle. An average sleep cycle of about 90 minutes. Therefore, we go through 4 to 6 sleep cycles during sleep. REM sleep is also called Dream Sleep, Active Sleep or Paradoxical Sleep. During REM Sleep one has “vivid dreams”. Non-REM sleep comprised Light Sleep and Deep Sleep. Non-REM is divided into 3 or 4 stages. In Light Sleep we are prone to wake up on disturbance which can be noise, light, temperature, movements, etc. The first two stages of NREM sleep (N1 & N2) are of Light Sleep. In Deep Sleep, as the name suggests, we sleep soundly. Deep Sleep is said to be most beneficial for recuperation. It also restores the immune system and heals the body. Deep Sleep comprises the third and fourth stage (N3 & N4) of NREM Sleep. Our sleep alternates between Light Sleep, Deep sleep, and REM Sleep or Dream Sleep.

Neglecting Sleep

         Neglecting sleep not only affects your health but also your longevity. Matthew Walker, in his book “Why We Sleep” says, “Sadly, human beings are in fact the only species that will deliberately deprive themselves of sleep without legitimate gain.”


Train Your Body and Mind to sleep better:

a.    Power Nap Yoga

          In my younger days, I used to take 5 minutes' nap when I felt tired, especially in afternoons. These naps were truly invigorating. I can’t explain how refreshing they were. Once or twice in a day were sufficient.

         The 5-minute nap consisted of ShavAsan (The Corpse Pose). You lie on your back, your hands straight & slightly away from your body with palms facing upwards, and legs straight and away from each other. I used to twitch all possible muscles of the body as hard as I could and then let them relax gradually. Eyes closed, allowing my mind to go blank in those 5 minutes (meditation practice of 20 minutes in the morning and evening helped it). I was there as if dead – no body movement. Initially, the timing used to go haywire. However, after a few days, I could get up in five minutes with no efforts or help. That was pure bliss. 

         Shavasan helps in relaxing, removing fatigue, calming the mind, releasing stress and improving sleep.  

Shavasan or Corpse pose
         The job took this happiness away from me. In India, you are not allowed to take a nap during work hours. Nowadays some multinational companies are encouraging power naps during work hours by providing Nap rooms/NapPods/EnergyPods in offices. In China and Japan, workers are allowed/encouraged to take power naps.

         I don’t recall when I stopped taking said shavasan nap on off days too. Surprising, how you let good habits slip away in wake of pressures of day-to-day work.

(Don’t take nap within three to four hours of going to sleep. It may delay sleep).

b.    Meditate

          Frequently interrupted sleep causes problems. A calm mind induces better sleep. Therefore, it is advisable to meditate to relax your body, calm your mind and bust your stress. Meditation calms your mind, consequently releases tension, and reduces stress and anxiety. It has a soothing effect, making your body relaxed and mind peaceful, thus, helping you sleep better. Meditation also rejuvenates the body, therefore, reducing the need for sleep.

"Sleep is the best meditation."
- Dalai Lama

         Meditation before sleep has a more beneficial effect. Acharya Rajneesh (OSHO) said that meditation before going to sleep increases the meditation time as it combines with sleep time. This way you can meditate for even eight hours a day. 

c.    Use Bed for sleeping only

Watching mobile on bed
          James Clear in his book “Atomic Habits” says that we build a behavioural relationship with places around us. We behave according to the habit relationship we have built with the location. In an experiment, scientists advised some insomniacs to go to the bedroom only when they wanted to sleep. Thus, they associated the habit of sleep with the bedroom.

          You can at least start forming a relationship of sleep with the bed, if not the bedroom. Stop using the bed for watching TV, social media or net surfing on mobile or laptop, etc.

d.    No electronic gadgets before sleep

         The light emitted by the screens of electronic gadgets like mobile, laptop, tablet or television  negatively impacts our sleep. The blue light emitted by these gadgets delays sleep, thus initial hours of our deep sleep are lost.

         Melatonin is the sleep-inducing hormone produced by our body’s pineal gland. It acts as a catalyst for sleep and “regulates the sleep-wake cycle.” During day time when eyes receive light, the pineal gland is inactive and the production of melatonin is negligible. However, in the night the brain activates pineal to produce melatonin. As melatonin levels rise in the blood, you feel tired and sleepy.

         The production of melatonin is significantly suppressed by the blue light of digital screens. Hence, our sleep cycle is unduly disturbed by watching TV, mobile or any other light-emitting gadget.

         Therefore, you should stop watching TV, mobile, etc. at least one to two hours before going to bed.

(Disclaimer:  My Mom could sleep more in the living room with TV switched on, than in the bedroom. Some TV serials/soaps also have a sleep-inducing effect.)

e.    Timing of dinner and water intake  

         Food must be taken at least two to three hours before going to bed. Preferably, it should be four hours earlier. You must allow the body to digest the food before retiring for sleep. Otherwise, it can lead to obesity, acidity and disrupted sleep.

         Drinking water before sleep will also have a disruptive effect on sleep because you may have to wake up once or twice for urination.   

f.      Read positive material before going to bed or write a journal

         Sister Shivani says that last 15 minutes before going to sleep are crucial as they contribute significantly to improving quality of your sleep. These fifteen minutes should be utilized for “reading or listening to pure and pleasant information, and resolve any issues on the mind. (Happiness Unlimited).” Sadhguru says that it is up to you to incubate pleasantness or unpleasantness in sleep.

         Therefore, we must read or write something powerful, motivational or inspiring before going to bed. You can also write a journal, even about things that are bothering you, but in the end write something positive, possible solutions to your problems. That way you will also activate your subconscious mind to find the solutions to your problems.

          Joseph Murphy in his book “The Power of Your Subconscious Mind” says, “The wisdom of your subconscious mind can instruct you and protect you if you pray for right action as you go to sleep.”

         Jim Rohn advises preparing your To-Do list before going to sleep. Napoleon Hill in his book “Think And Grow Rich” says that reading your action plan for acquiring riches aloud before going to sleep activates your subconscious with autosuggestion.

"Man should forget his anger before he lies down to sleep."
- Mohandas Gandhi

g.    Take a lukewarm or cold shower before going to bed

         Sadhguru recommends taking a lukewarm or cold shower before you go to bed. As our body is made up more than 70% of water, running water has a cleansing/purification effect on our mind, which will help you sleep better. He says don’t take hot water shower.

         However, Matthew Walker suggests taking a hot bath before sleep. He says the body needs to cool a few degrees for sleeping. Hot bath makes the blood rush to the surface of the body, which helps in reducing body temperature by radiating the heat from the surface of the body, facilitating sleep. 

h.    No mobile or radiation-emitting gadgets near the bed

Sleeping with mobile
         Don’t sleep with your mobile phone within arms’ reach. The radiation from the mobile can harm your brain and sleep. Moreover, you get tempted to check the mobile during the night. Glowing of the mobile screen when a message or mail is received and the sound of mobile tones adversely affect your sleep, even though you may be consciously unaware of it. Preferably, you should put the phone on silent mode before going to sleep and keep it at least 3 to 4 feet away with the screen side down or covered. Best, if you keep it out of the bedroom. Mel Robbins says she doesn’t take her mobile to the bedroom and it has helped her significantly.

i.      Sleeping direction

          Sadhguru says you should not sleep with your head towards the nearest pole (the North Pole or the South Pole). That means if you are nearer to North Pole (Northern Hemisphere) then do not sleep with your head towards the North Pole.

         If you sleep with your head in the direction of the nearest pole then blood is pulled towards the brain due to magnetic pulling effect of the pole, as the blood contains iron. The excessive blood supply to the brain does not allow you to sleep peacefully. 

j.      Wear loose clothes

          It is advisable to wear loose clothes at sleep time to make your body feel comfortable, relaxed and to orient your brain to induce sleep. Loose clothes help in proper blood circulation and normal breathing during sleep. Tight and thick clothes may overheat your body while sleeping, make you uncomfortable, and disrupt sleep.

k.    Sleep Schedule

         By going to bed and waking up on a fixed time, you train your body to follow a sleep schedule/biological clock. Gradually the body starts understanding the timings and you automatically start feeling sleepy at the scheduled time. Finding out the minimum time you need for sleep is also important. Ideally, it should be between 7 to 9 hours in an adult. It is best if you don’t need an alarm to wake up on the desired time. When your body is rejuvenated, it automatically gives you signals to wake up.

(My wife always maintained a healthy sleep schedule. She helped me to sleep better by scheduling my sleep timings. She would put my mobile on silent mode at 9 p.m. and encourage me to sleep at 10 p.m. and wake me up at 5:30 a.m. It was difficult to follow initially. Now it has become a comfortable and beneficial routine.)

l.      Exercise

          Making your body do some physical work every day facilitates sleep. We tend to make ourselves mentally tired. Our jobs, nowadays require little or no physical activity. We sit behind our work desk/table for long hours without realizing that body movement is essential for healthy blood circulation. Physical activity also reduces mental stress. Long periods in front of computer screen affects our eyes. Therefore, do some limb movements while working. Get up to move your body in every 45 minutes or one hour.     

          Don’t exercise before going to sleep. Exercise before sleep will energize your body and delay sleep.

“Fatigue is the best pillow.”

- Benjamin Franklin

m.  No Alcohol

          According to Matthew Walker (Why We Sleep), REM (Rapid Eye Movement) Sleep or Dream sleep is "important for emotional and mental health." Alcoholic and narcotic substances do not benefit sleep. They act as a sedative than a sleep inducer and make Dream sleep disrupted more than usual. Sedation makes us unaware of these disruptions and we wake up "anxious and depressed."

Question for You:

1.    Do you feel refreshed or dull when you wake up?
2.    How much time do you take to doze off after going to bed?
3.    How many times do you wake up during the night?    
4.    Are you getting up in the morning without the need of Alarm?
5.    If using an alarm, do you habitually put your alarm on snooze mode?

References / Sources:
1.    “Atomic Habits” by James Clear
2.    “Why We Sleep” by Matthew Walker
3.    “Happiness Unlimited” by Sister Shivani
4.    Wikipedia (
5.    Melatonin – Wikipedia (
6.    Melatonin - National Sleep Foundation, US (
7.    Sadhgurus 10 Tips to Sleep Well and Wake Up Well (
8.    The Power of Your Subconscious Mind” by Joseph Murphy
9.    Joe Rogan and Matthew Walker on insomnia (
10. Mel Robbins (
11. OSHO: No time for Meditation (