Sleep is an important phase of our daily life. But to make sleep into a source of deep rest and recuperation of energies, which is its true function, we must know how to go to sleep in the right way.
So often we wake up tired and fagged out from sleep. We do not know why. This seems all the more inexplicable for one is expected to feel refreshed after sleep and there are times when we do feel remarkably fresh on waking up. The fact is the state on waking depends upon the state of the sleep and the state of the sleep depends upon the condition of our being before going to bed. If the mind is agitated or depressed or worried, that state is likely to continue in sleep and it has its repercussions on the whole system. But, if we take care to get out of such a condition before sleeping, then the character of the sleep also changes.
Mostly we do not pay attention to this factor. When we are too tired or disturbed or restless, we just go to sleep expecting sleep to set things right somehow and restore the system to its normalcy. But it does not happen that way. Actually the disturbance and the agitation not only continue in the sleep-condition but, unhampered as they are by mental control of the waking state, they increase and play havoc with the nerves. If we are too tired, even the little mental control that continues by habit in sleep, slips and the movements of the vital and the sub-conscious have a field day. The system becomes an arena for riotous activity of chaotic movements under the dark veil of the Unconscious; instead of fresh energies flowing in, even the extant energies are sucked out in the process. No wonder we find ourselves in low shape on waking up.
That is why the Mother advises great precaution before going to sleep. Never go to sleep, she says, when you are tired. Rest a while, rest till the tiredness is not there any more. But most do not know how to rest, how to relax.
The first step for this is to spread yourself comfortably in a reclining chair or preferably on a bed. Spread yourself fully stretched, with no limb in an uncomfortable position. That done, relaxes the nerves: consciously, deliberately give up the tautness in each part. Normally the limbs, particularly the motor-organs, are in a tight condition, ready to move into action. The nerves in each part must be let loose, let drop. And when one by one, all are relaxed, you lie like a ‘limp rag.’
With the body dropped loosely this way, proceed to quiet the mind. Whatever the problems agitating it, whatever the thoughts running through it, check the brain from its activity; withdraw the mind from the flowings of thought, suspend it till a kind of blankness is felt. And in this silence slide into sleep.
No doubt this is an art and cannot be done in a day. But with a steady will, perseverance, prayer and reliance on the Divine, you should be able to achieve success in this practice. When you go to sleep in this poise, the whole system rests; the dream-activity goes on only on the surface. You wake up fully replenished with energy.
The author is a well-known exponent and practitioner of Integral Yoga. He is also a prolific writer who has authored more than two hundred books, mainly on Yoga and Indian Culture.