"Awakening is a shift in consciousness in which thinking & awareness separate...Instead of being lost in thinking while you are awake, you recognize yourself as the awareness behind it." - Eckhart Tolle
You may be thinking, "huh? I thought I'd be reading about how to wake up better in the morning..." Worry not! This post is going to discuss the process of waking up both the mind & body. So stay with me because it'll all come together in the end!
Waking up. We do it everyday. We do it many ways.. Sometimes we wake up clear; other times we're in a haze. What would it take for your body to wake with strength & joy, like a little girl or boy?
Would a bedtime of 10 make one feel young again? or a trouble-free mind? or both things combined?!
Many factors go into a restful sleep & energetic awakening. Now I'll to try to keep this article clear, because as a modern philosophical female, I try to do multiple things at once. So while I am addressing the literal process of sleep & waking up, I am also referring to the awakening of mind & new levels of consciousness...oh yeah, going for the deep dive!
"A mind that is stretched by new experience can never go back to its old dimensions." - Oliver Wendell Holmes
Human consciousness & awareness is constantly evolving (& devolving) so it is important to keep pursuing universal truth & wisdom throughout our lives. My awareness really started to open in my first semester of college, September 2006, in a class called, "Making Sense of Life, for Life." There we discussed many complex, heavy issues that made me quite uncomfortable! As the saying goes, "Life (and growth) happens outside our comfort zone." From there, I found myself in a class called "Death & the Afterlife," which studied how different religions & cultures around the world perceive death & what happens next. A very good thing to contemplate! I found that it is good to study & learn more about things that scare you. For most people, the scariest thing is the unknown!
Back to waking up...
Don't worry it's all connected. You see, to truly wake up in the morning, with a sense of vitality & joy, it's helpful to have a decent philosophical foundation that drives your life. If you think life is just about going through the motions, doing your job, taking care of responsibilities, feeling good once in a while... then you're most likely not going to feel very inspired to get out of bed & start your day. Yet, if you have done some mind-expanding work, you may instead wake up thinking, "THANK YOU! I'm alive & get another day on this earth to live out my purpose or be with my loved ones!" So a great awakening really starts with the mind :)
A simple way to improve in this area is to keep a "gratitude journal" near your bed. Every night before bed & in the morning when you rise, write down 5 things you're grateful for. Now don't be hard on yourself if you decide to try this and start missing days! This is about cultivating positive feelings in your mind & body. When you forget or choose not not, let that be a moment to practice self-compassion & acceptance.
What if your life is such a bummer you can't find anything to be grateful for??
Despair not! Sometimes you just need to ask a different question! How about...
What is not wrong right now in this moment?
As for the body...
"Please, for the love of your spine, don't sleep on your stomach!" - any chiropractor
The most ergonomic position to sleep in is either on your back or on your side (as shown above). Intuitively, I believe that back sleeping is ideal, since it allows your body to be more stretched out & extended for the many hours you're laying there (hopefully at least 7.5). When you lay down to sleep, ask yourself, "will this position for the next 8 hours be good or bad for my alignment & muscle balance?"
The problem with stomach sleeping is that your neck will surely be twisted one way for most of the night, and most people who find this comfortable won't switch sides. If you already have a neck issue, this is making it worse, and if you don't have neck issues yet, it would be wise to retrain your sleep habits before it's a problem!
For side sleepers, to maintain alignment & avoid that constricting fetal position, you want to make sure your pillow comfortably fills the space between your head & shoulder. This helps ensure your neck is in a neutral position and not kinked to one side all night. It also helps to have a pillow between your knees, which helps your pelvis & hips stay aligned. The pillow thickness should correlate to your own size, so you may need to try a few before it feels just right, Goldie Locks ;)
For the back sleepers, it's sometimes beneficial to put a pillow under your knees, especially if you tend to wake up with a stiff or achy low back.
Speaking of pillows...
I have pillow issues. As a chiropractor, I see that about 95% of people (if not more) are suffering from "Tech Neck," which is the loss of the "lordotic" curve in the neck. Posturally, it looks like "forward head carriage" & rounded shoulders, an unfortunate result our beloved technology. While it's unlikely anyone will be giving up their phones, there are ways to prevent this postural distortion... life has enough pains in the neck! I'll dive more into the depths of tech neck in the next article, but in the context of pillows, if you're sleeping on your back, avoid thick pillows that crank your neck forward. We spend enough time during the day with our necks bent forward (phones, computers, books, little children, etc) that we are best off countering that position any chance we can get!
Currently, I'm enjoying my sleep with the "Tri-Core Cervical Pillow." The smallest part supports my neck curve for back sleeping, while allowing my head to fall back into a nice cozy space in the middle. The thicker sections are also great for side sleeping. For side sleeping, it helps to have a pillow to wrap your arms around so your shoulders have more support & not rounding in. You can also hug a human! (more on ergonomic cuddling to come!)
Timing is Everything...
This is true for much in life, & regarding sleep, timing may not be EVERYTHING, but it is A LOT!
Most people are familiar with the knowledge that they should get between 7-8 hours of sleep per night.
What they don't know is that the block of hours selected (9-5, 10-6, 11-7, 12-8, etc) significantly affects the quality of sleep you have. Why? The answer to most strange things in the body... hormones! Specifically, Melatonin.
Trouble falling or staying asleep?
The most simple thing to address is your screen time. It is now known that "blue light" emitted from TV, phone, tablet & computer screens, destroys the melatonin in your pineal gland. No bueno!