by Deepak Chopra, Ph.D.
The quality of rest we achieve has a direct effect on our level of energy.
Sleep is an elemental part of life. The average human being sleeps 6 to 8 hours a night, almost 50 hours a week, and more than 2,600 hours a year—about 182,000 hours during one’s life. That means, on average, that we spend almost 21 years of our lives asleep. The duration of our sleep and the quality of rest we achieve has a direct effect on our level of energy and our effectiveness during our waking hours. Without concentrated and reinvigorating durations of sleep, the quality of the remainder of our life—work, relationships, and other activities—can suffer dramatically.
Good sleep should be in rhythm with your daily life, but also with the universe. When your physiological and biological rhythms are in sync with nature’s—the movement of the earth, sun, moon, and stars; the cycle of the seasons, and the pull and push of the ocean tide—sleep becomes effortless. This type of naturally induced sleep produces an internal state of euphoria that’s both health promoting and rejuvenating.
Your body is the best pharmacy in the world. It makes natural healing substances that protect you from various illnesses. This pharmacy is strengthened when your body is in balance. Exercise, sleep, proper diet, and maintaining biological rhythms are all interconnected and dependent upon each other.
One of the best-kept secrets for restful, rejuvenating sleep is the quality of your experiences during the day. When you live each moment completely and fully appreciate the world around you, you do not accumulate stress; therefore, dynamic daily activity directly benefits the quality of your sleep.
Stress is the most frequent cause of disturbed sleep. Whenever you perceive physical or psychological threats or whenever you believe that your needs aren’t being met, you activate the stress response: Your blood pressure rises, your heart beats faster, your platelets get stickier, and you pump out stress hormones from your adrenal glands. Over time, these stress changes—in addition to causing restless sleep—can lead to hypertension, heart disease, and immune deficiencies.
The secret to good sleep is dynamic activity during the day, and the secret of dynamic activity is deep, restful sleep at night. The two go hand in hand. When this equilibrium is achieved, good sleep is effortless.
The most important fact about sleep is this: You cannot force yourself to sleep. You cannot command your body to sleep. You cannot will your body to sleep. It’s not possible to make yourself go to sleep in the same way you can make yourself run, exercise, read, or do any other voluntary activity.
Since insomnia is a very common problem, many people try to force themselves to sleep at one time or another. Sleep is a natural process, and “trying” will have no positive effect. In fact, it will probably aggravate the insomnia because the harder you try and less successful you are, the more frustrated you’ll feel. Trying is not the way in which nature functions.
It’s important to note that perhaps the single most important tip with respect to improving the quality of your sleep and rest is not to get uptight about things as you take steps to ensure that sleep becomes a natural and effortless aspect of the rhythm of your life.