The Spirituality of Sleep

how-to-fall-asleepIn our fast paced culture, sleep is often elusive. The proliferation of news on sleep research makes clear that the quality and quantity of our sleep directly impact the quality of our health and lives. What happens during sleep remains mostly a mystery for most. We lie down and surrender to slumber.

Yet, how we feel during our waking hours is often tied to how we slept. Sleep is essential to our mental, physical and emotional well being. But what of our spiritual well being? What role does sleep play in this integral facet of our Being, beyond the dimensions of body and mind?

The fascination with sleep and where we go during this seemingly still period has puzzled philosophers, masters of wisdom, writers and spiritual seekers for millennium. Amidst a wealth of literature and religious texts are insights about sleep, communicated long before modern scientists could quantify the stages of sleep. This powerful information offers a gateway to balance in our lives, both when asleep when and awake.

Literary masters have had much to say about sleep. Shakespeare proclaimed in 1599, “Sleep may be the image or brother of death, for in sleep the body rests while the soul remains awake, so in death the body rests while the soul and spirit live.” From a religious perspective, abundant references to sleep can be found in the Bible, Torah, Kabbalah, Koran, and in Buddhist teachings. The spiritual traditions of Kabbalah and Tibetan Buddhism offer methodologies to prepare for and arise from sleep, including gratitude, breathing and dream techniques.

From the wisdom of Kabbalah, going back millennium, we can glean a foundation from which to explore sleep’s part in the rejuvenation of our spirit. Upon going to sleep, the body and mind settle down from daily activity. Our eyes are closed. Consciousness drifts away from the pace of our waking lives. Our physiology and neurology begin their critical restorative processes (which is another story for another time). And for the soul, now unencumbered by the body and mind, rejuvenation can begin. The soul leaves the body and travels towards the Light, towards God to connect and recharge.

But what if we aren’t properly prepared for sleep? Could our souls be inhibited from taking this night journey? How can we get the quality and quantity of sleep we need? How do we set the stage to experience the deep sleep essential for our souls, our spirits, to take this valuable and necessary night journey? How do we optimize the sleep we do get, both in quality and quantity, so our body, mind, emotions and spirit are given the rejuvenation and restoration they need?

A first step is to learn the basics of sleep, a course which most of us have never taken. The resulting understanding of what happens during 1/3 of our lives leads to a respect for sleep. In turn, a self assessment of our personal sleep habits and behaviors helps us determine what needs modification, be it our bedtime routine, our sleep environment, the schedules we keep, or what and when we eat and drink. These and other practical sleep strategies set the stage for sleep improvement. Furthermore, knowledge about sleep can lead to seeking medical diagnosis and treatment if a sleep disorder is suspected. Sleep provides a portal for your body, mind, and spirit to embark on their rejuvenating night journey so you can awaken to live fully.