The Ayurvedic Puzzle: Sleep

with great curiosity and delight the following three-part experiment was undertaken from thursday the 28th of april 2011 until today, friday the 13th of may 2011.

the first part of my experiment was aligning my sleep schedule with the natural cycle of day and night. my goal was to be in bed at least eight hours before the sunrise in order to support deep, healthy sleep. having spent the last four years on a very noisy street corner, i felt consistent sleeping habits may be an easy place to experience a notable difference in my energy levels and perception of wellbeing.

this goal proved to be very difficult to achieve. in order to be asleep at least eight hours before sunrise, i would have to be in bed by 9 pm. the challenging part was that in addition to the regular oddities of life that keep us up later than we expect, each tuesday, wednesday and thursday evening classes, make-up classes and practice sessions were scheduled until 9 pm every week. occasionally, some went later, even as late as 9:45 pm. as i now commute 45 minutes one way from lafayette, this made my regular bedtime closer to 11 pm on most nights. regardless, i seem to wake about 15 – 30 minutes before the sun rises, which varied from 6:11 am to 5:52 am during the course of the experiment. i soon realized the vanity of trying to stick to my goal of sleeping a full eight hours per night every night by going to bed early. i tried to stay asleep longer by blacking out my extremely large bedroom windows first with dark blankets. the blankets proved too translucent, allowing enough light to easily wake me as soon as morning tiptoed over the horizon. next, i made giant cardboard cut outs (they are reeeeeeally large windows) and both nailed and duct-taped them up. exact fitting proved difficult and light streamed through the sides and seams of my corrugated franken-blind, though it did block much more light than the blankets. now, after the end of the official experiment, i am going to put up aluminum foil. it should be much easier to fit the odd a-frame shape, is much easier to attach than heavy card board, and blocks light much more effectively than blankets or cardboard.

even with my sleep schedule regularly disrupted, most nights i averaged around 7 hours of much higher quality sleep than i have had for years. before moving into the apartment on downing i could easily sleep 9 hours at time. while living in the apartment it was rare for me to sleep more than 6 hours a night. now in lafayette, the quiet and lovely surroundings make going to sleep much easier. waking up also is much easier and has not been accompanied by the sharp aching around my eyes and temples that has characterized my mornings for the last several years. i plan on continuing my cultivation of healthy sleep as it appears to be the single most effective variable i have found to change my experience of consciousness from challenging to vibrant. i am committed to rising early enough to complete sadhana and meditation practice during the sunrise. there does seem to be some energetic benefit, at least in my experience so far, to practicing during twilight.