How to Sleep Well Every Night
When I was younger, I often had significant difficulty getting to sleep. In recent years I’ve found a few surefire ways to prevent insomnia that I’ve been pleased to later find out were backed by actual science. I’m going to share these with you in this short post. I often post spiritual musings and random philosophical tangents but forget to address practical issues that hold many people back from spiritual development. A lack of sleep is one of these issues.
The famously misanthropic writer Celine said, “My trouble is insomnia. If I had always slept properly, I’d never have written a line.” While Celine was a brilliantly dark wordsmith, he obviously wasn’t a very contented man. This line has stuck with me and pops up in my head whenever I think about the relationship between lifestyle and spiritual development. Many people neglect important aspects of their lifestyles without even realizing it. Sleep is one of these.
There are a few easy ways to prevent insomnia; they’re activities that will also bolster other parts of your life. There’s no excuse not to do them. Here we go:
This is the most obvious but important one. Before I began exercising 3–5 times per week, I had trouble falling asleep 3–5 times per week. The National Sleep Foundation found that 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week improves the quality of sleep by 65%. If we spend 1/3 of our time sleeping, that’s a vast increase in quality of life that in turn carries over into the day-to-day.
There’s really no excuse not to exercise. It makes you healthier, happier, calmer, more attractive, less anxious, and a better sleeper. Still, as always, the masses don’t know what’s good for them— only 20% of Americans get the proper amount of exercise. This is because exercise is difficult and requires self-discipline. The modern world is geared towards rewarding instant gratifications. There’s no need to exercise, so most people don’t do it. If you commit to exercise and implement it consistently into your week, you’ll be miles ahead of the vast majority of the world’s population in both physical and mental well-being.
I’ve read a number of accounts of people with sleep difficulties discovering themselves falling asleep during meditation. Meditation centers and calms the mind in such a way that the tired mind will probably fall asleep. The mind that is properly rested will in turn be a better meditator, which will make it an even better sleeper. In the same way that engaging in self-destructive or self-hindering behaviors starts a snowball that grows into itself over time, cultivating positive habits increases in benevolence over time. Keep the ball rolling.
As I’ve gotten a bit older I’ve become convinced that insomnia is not purely a physical matter. Anyone who’s experienced it knows this. There’s an equally important psychological element. The stresses of everyday life carry into the evening and make it difficult to rest up properly. Instead of seeing this as a hindrance, people should recognize it as an opportunity to change their attitudes towards work. A lack of sleep is a sign that one’s attitude does indeed need an adjustment. We worry about petty problems in times of non-scarcity. People joke about “first world problems”, but they come from a place of comfort. The mind at ease is grateful for what it has and not worried about a million different random things.
Ironically, we often worry the most when nothing is wrong. Conversely, when we experience tragedy or profound suffering, we find ourselves grateful for even the simplest little things. A drowning man doesn’t want a cup of water, but a man who’s wandered through the desert for days would do anything for one. Since most people reading this are proverbially neither drowning nor dying of thirst, you can work to adjust your attitude. Lower your expectations. Decrease your attachments. You’ll rest easy every night.