I’m referencing the one night-stand that sits next to your bed. The stand that you dump the contents of your day onto before you drift off to sleep. The stand that holds your eyeglasses, your meds, your alarm clock, the book(s) you are reading, maybe your laptop, your cell phone, your landline, a pad, a pen or two, your watch, your rings, a glass of water, a glass of wine, your peace pipe, your sex toys, sugary snacks, crunchy snacks, full meals, and maybe a statue of the Buddha. And let’s not forget all our sleep paraphernalia, including eye masks, aromatherapy candles, sound machines, sleeping potions and sleeping pills.
What does your one night-stand say about you and about your quality of sleep?
As Dr. Rubin Naiman, sleep specialist and clinical assistant professor of medicine at the University of Arizona’s Center for Integrative Medicine, explained at the Weil on Wellness Immersion Program at Miraval Resort Spa, so aptly put it … “If sleep is a nightly get-away, then the nightstand is the overnight bag we carry at our side. We can learn a lot about a person and their travels by examining their bags.
“What’s on your night-stand? Is it suggestive of a rejuvenating personal retreat? Or, is it more about a stressful business trip?”
Dr. Naiman’s “one night stand” concept instantaneously captured my imagination! And from the sounds of the gasps, the aHA and light-bulb moments popping throughout the room, I was not alone. An intriguing and simple visual that tells me with certainty what I am dragging with me throughout the day and straight into the night.
Hungry for more insights on what my nightstand says about me, and curious how I can have a more restful and rejuvenating sleep, I caught up with Dr. Naiman post-conference for a most soporific conversation.
JT: How might the contents of our ‘nighttime baggage’ interfere with a good night’s sleep? What does it matter?
RN: Take a closer look at what’s on your nightstand. Ask yourself if these things encourage a natural surrender to sleep or keep you subtly tethered to the world of waking.
Things that keep you connected to waking such as clocks, lamps, radios, computers and telephones, as well as energy spiking foods, substances and information have no place on an overnight sleep retreat.
The ubiquitous digital clock, for example, can draw us back into the waking world of time.
JT: If one is ‘out,’ how does it specifically draw us back into our waking world? And retreat? Am I really going on an overnight retreat?
RN: The depth to which we will go ‘out’ depends on our willingness to let go of the waking world. It’s nearly impossible to resist the temptation of checking the time when we can’t sleep. But, doing so draws us into even greater wakefulness. To make matters worse, both the light and the electromagnetic field radiating from such a device suppresses melatonin, further compromising our sleep and overall health. Best to get the thing away from your head and your bed.
RN: Melatonin is a complex neuro-hormone synthesized from serotonin — primarily in the pineal gland or “third eye”-when we are exposed to dim light or darkness. I think of melatonin as the queen of our nighttime biology. It gently but decidedly ushers our bodies, brains and minds into sleep and dreams.
Melatonin has been touted as a miracle substance. As a key player in our night biology, it regulates circadian rhythms, facilitates sleep, and promotes dreaming. Melatonin is also involved in the regulation of a wide range of hormones and neurotransmitters and functions as a potent antioxidant. Beyond its usefulness in managing jet lag, circadian rhythm disorders and insomnia, a growing body of research is finding that melatonin shows promise in treating diverse conditions like hypertension, premenstrual syndrome, macular degeneration and even certain cancers.
JT: Do you take melatonin?
RN: I personally have been taking a small dose of melatonin nightly for nearly 20 years. I don’t do so to help with my sleep. I take it because I believe that like most people, I am overexposed to light at night. I use a .5 mg sublingual and sustained release preparation of melatonin. Sublingual means that it dissolves under the tongue. This carries the melatonin directly into the bloodstream before it can be filtered out by the liver. And a sustained release preparation will remain active throughout most of the night, in contrast to standard melatonin which has a very short half life.
To date, melatonin has a good safety profile. Much better than most popular sleeping pills. Still, it is generally not recommended for use in children and during pregnancy. Melatonin may exacerbate nighttime asthma and, possibly, certain autoimmune conditions. Its always wise to talk with a knowledgeable physician before embarking upon supplementation.
JT: During your talk at The Weil for Wellness Immersion at Miraval Resort Spa, you mentioned that our nightstands reflect our personal stance toward sleep and that we are all too frequently ‘desperate’ for sleep.
RN: Yes, when faced with the prospect of yet another bad night, many of us will do whatever it takes to make it through the night. Whether it’s about overeating or relying on alcohol or sleeping pills, such a one night stand approach ultimately backfires. It erodes our belief in our own natural ability to surrender to sleep.
JT: Overeating? Do you mean that people get up in the middle of the night and graze, snack or binge as a way to get back to sleep?
RN: Because eating triggers a relaxation response that temporarily sooths anxiety, food can readily become a kind of drug we depend on to get to sleep. Unfortunately, sleeplessness can readily become entangled with a number of eating disorders. Although sleep and eating are both nourishing, in one respect, they are opposites. Eating energizes us. Sleep is about relinquishing energy. We don’t sleep in our refrigerators. We shouldn’t eat in bed.
Ultimately, we need to think in terms of developing a sustainable relationship with sleep. Consider developing a personal, soothing evening ritual under gentle low-blue lighting. This might include a warm bath, some yoga or stretching, meditation or prayer, and some light or even lighthearted reading. And always, in the end, it’s about surrendering to sleep.
JT: Thank you Dr. Naiman. Fantastic! Any final thoughts for our readers?
RN: Yes. I think it’s helpful to reflect on this simple truth: We are all always already asleep. What I mean by this is that sleep is the foundation of all consciousness. It’s always present beneath our waking. And because we’re already there, we literally can’t ‘go to sleep.’ Trying to do so will only further activate the wakeful part of us. What we can do, of course, is learn to let go of waking and practice surrendering to sleep.
For more on restful and rejuvenating sleep visit Dr. Rubin Naiman: www.DrNaiman.com
And be sure to order your copy of The Yoga of Sleep. Highly recommended!
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