LTP Foundational Practice
Sleep has been identified as an LTP Foundational Practice because it impacts all aspects of our being – our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health. It is a building block for all other practices.
The practice of sleep is about restoration and integration. It’s about slowing down to give our conscious self time to integrate the experiences of our day. It’s about creating space for the body to engage in restorative processes. Our blood pressure drops, our breathing slows, our muscles disengage and our body temperature decreases. The process of growth and repair begins, energy is restored and our hormones begin to work their magic. It is the most productive, non-productive part of your day.
“If you have good sleep, it increases your concentration, attention, decision-making, creativity, social skills, health.” And what’s not to love about that?” ~ Russell Foster
Prioritize sleep as a practice in your life if you want to prevent common chronic health conditions, improve or restore your memory, regulate your emotional responses, increase your creativity, boost your immune system and manage stress better, improving your overall mental health.
Sleep is for everyone. Our culture however, doesn’t value it as a whole and therefore you may find yourself struggling to adopt a healthy sleep routine. Most people feel overwhelmed and limited on time. They shortcut their sleep thinking this a way to get more done. They may get a few more things completed but over time, lack of sleep often compromises creativity and work quality, and having to redo your work when your brain is fresh actually adds to your to-do list. Our quality of life decreases and we rarely consider that our symptoms might be due to a lack of sleep because in our mind late nights and shorter sleep durations is just what you do. Everyone is doing it so it must not be a problem. The research on sleep says otherwise.
Inadequate or poor sleep impacts the immune system, increases inflammation, the risk of diabetes, heart attack, stroke, cancer, dementia and can play a role in migraines, chronic pain, low libido and can impair our detoxification system.
Sleep helps to regulate our mood, process our emotions, determine appropriate reactions, supports us in impulse control and in creating a realistic assessment of the stress in our lives. It plays a role in how we relate to others and experience our self worth and personal happiness.
Adequate, consistent sleep improves our cognition, facilitates learning, helps memory and makes it easier to exercise good judgment and therefore make better decisions.
How To Start Your Practice
Increase use of technology, longer work hours, greater stress and demands on our time and a loss of connection to the natural rhythm of the seasons have created a perfect storm where now two-thirds of people suffer from some type of sleep disorder. Many people think sleep either happens or it doesn’t happen. They feel genetics or luck is responsible for sleep quality and that you must live with whatever sleep conditions you get in life. Many people fail to recognize that restorative sleep often requires intention and practice.
Here are some tips to get you started in creating improved sleep hygiene. Shifting our sleep patterns takes time so practice these steps for 3-6 months. Working with a sleep professional is also an option if you do not feel your are getting the results you want.
Mindfulness – mindfulness meditation has been shown to improve sleep and decrease insomnia, fatigue and depression. Find 10-20 minutes each day to practice creating a relaxation response. By practicing each day it will be easier to relax and let go at night when you are ready to fall asleep. You can enroll in a meditation class in your community or find an online program. You can also find videos on YouTube or purchase meditation CDs on Sounds True.
Assess – Honestly assess your sleep related behavior. Do a two-week sleep diary to clearly document your sleep patterns and behaviors and to assist you in making a plan. It is important to be honest about your behavior so that you identify the strategies that can best help you achieve restorative sleep. Doing a two-week diary allows you to capture any differences between weekdays and weekends. Download our easy to use sleep diary form here.
Strategize – there are several short-term and longer-term strategies you can implement to assist you in getting better sleep. Short-term strategies include, eating dinner earlier, getting more exercise and creating a consistent bedtime weekdays and weekends. Longer-term strategies include rearranging your bedroom, purchasing a new bed or bedding or a stress management practice. For more strategies download our sleep strategy document.
Make a Plan – Restorative sleep takes practice and to practice you need a plan. Once you are familiar with the strategies in #3 create a plan for developing good sleep hygiene. Writing or typing this plan can assist you in making the transition and sticking to the changes you wish to implement. You can also use our simple LTP Sleep Plan Tool to create a plan.
Seek Professional Help –
- If you have trouble sleeping try a hypnosis session or a self-hypnosis CD. In one study hypnosis was shown to improve sleep – especially in people who already know they respond well to hypnosis.
- If you feel you might have a sleep disorder schedule an appointment with a sleep specialist to get more support. This may require a visit to you primary healthcare provider who may or may not know a lot (or enough) about sleep and the importance.
- Find a healthcare professional who practices functional medicine and discuss your sleep concerns. A functional medicine practitioner can evaluate your hormone, thyroid, adrenal and B-12 levels and get to the root of your sleep difficulties.
- If you suffer from mood disorders and you are seeing a mental health provider be sure they are assessing your sleep and mental health issues together. Poor sleep can often be at the root of mood issues.
Resources to Support Your Practice
The Promise of Sleep by William C. Dement, M.D., Ph.D.,
View this book on Amazon (opens new tab)
I learned my biggest lessons about sleep during my time with chronic fatigue. An inability to achieve restorative sleep was one of my first clues that my health was failing. Before fatigue I lived life on very few hours of sleep. I enjoyed my work and I didn’t mind getting up early to finish a project or staying up late. I didn’t realize I was wrecking my natural sleep cycle. I didn’t know that it would take years to restore my natural rhythm. When I began my recovery process one of the first steps I took was to prioritize sleep by creating a lifestyle that ensured I achieved much needed rest everyday.