The Myths and Traditions of Sleep Part 1

We’re told over and over again about how important sleep is, how we must get enough sleep, how we must have good quality sleep, and exactly how many hours we need.  Of course the human body does well with regular routines of everything: food, water, sleep being one of the pillars of well-being, they say.

Let’s confront some of the myths and traditions of sleep that might not be so fact based, and may not be useful.  Some of this pressure to get good sleep, actually is pressure that makes it harder to relax into sleeping.

Myth 1: 8 hours a night is necessary.

6-9 hours is recommended for adults, but the occasional 5 hour night won’t kill you.  The problem comes when the body compensates for not being rested, by activating cortisol, the stress hormone, which over a long period of time wreaks havoc with your adrenal glands, and your life.  So if you’re not getting enough sleep, your stress level could start to rule you.  And of course, that’s a vicious cycle: that cortisol in your body makes it hard to fall asleep.

Myth 2: Waking in the Middle of the Night Is Abnormal.

Actually, according to WebMd, most people wake up once or twice during the night. That makes it normal, nothing to stress about right?

Sometimes getting back to sleep after waking in the night is difficult for people.  But with practice, you can get back to sleep in less than 120 seconds.  (See my log method)  If not, finish reading that novel you keep next to your bed (or get as far as you can and switch off the light before your eyelids close completely…)

Myth 3: Alcohol before bed helps you sleep better.

Sorry to tell you this: wrong.  A little alcohol can stimulate the nervous system, keeping you awake.  The amount that might help you fall asleep, will wear off in the middle of the night.  Then you wake up in the middle of the night, unnaturally awake.  That’s just not helpful.

Myth 4: Exercise Before Bed Keeps You Awake

Evidence doesn’t back this up at all.  In fact, the opposite may be true.  Exercise helps the muscles release tension and stress, helping you sleep.  We recommend doing six Empath Stretch repetitions, which is our 12 movement sequence movement meditation.  This will give you a nice stretch and gentle workout, as well as focusing the mind, spirit, and intention- there’s the magic.  Soon, zzz!

Myth 5: A Warmer Bedroom Is Better Than a Cool One for Sleeping

Researchers say that a cool bedroom is best for sleep.  Around 60-70 degrees, you will sleep more soundly, deeper, and with healthy breathing.

Myth 6: Falling Asleep Watching Television Works Great!

Um, no.  About 50% of Americans do this, it’s estimated, but it’s not good.  In fact cutting out screen time a couple of hours before sleep time can really help deepen sleep, make great dreams, and have you awaken refreshed.  Evidence is growing on the negative effects of screens on overstimulating the brain.  Let yourself find a nice quiet book, or some music… much better for you.

The Log Method, my personal favorite:

Well, you’ve heard of sleeping like a log, right.  Well, let’s ask the log how they developed this wonderful pattern of sleeping so deeply, so satisfyingly, and so quickly upon laying their, well log, down.  Logs:

  • Are not attached:  No worries, their day is done.
  • All stress and tension falls into the earth they lie on.   They feel deliciously heavy, supremely deeply heavy.
  • When their head hits the mossy pillow, the fragrance of moss surrounds them: wonderful.
  • The stream nearby plays a gentle splashy melody, making lots of nice cool negative ions, and regular ambient sound.
  • It’s dark, cool, and trees rustle gently above, a canopy of ancestors and progeny growing and breathing out healing oxygen, which actually feeds the cells of animal structures.
  • Exist in a web of inter-connected nature, touching earth, sky, wind, and moss, a space of complete trust and faith.

The Human Translation:

Humans can use their imagination to do the “log” method.  You can be helping it along with breathing techniques, which Empatharian Movement for Peace teach.  Also you can do body relaxation techniques tensing and relaxing each area, starting with eyebrows, cheeks, lips, and on down to the toes.  This is after you’ve done your six evening repetitions of the Empatharian movement meditation practice.

Let sleep be a beautiful ending ritual each day, with full taking and sending energy practice, starting with yourself, your family, your community, country, the whole world, and the universe of nature.  That’s the six repetitions of the Empatharian movement meditation, by the way.

The thoughts that come up as you’re falling asleep will come back to you in the morning, though you may want a journal by your bedside to record those prescient dream/ideas.  As your sleep improves, you’ll find greater purpose, intention, and aliveness in waking up refreshed each morning.

Next blog post examines Sleep Traditions and how they have evolved.