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5 Habits to Hone for Relaxing Rest and Satisfying Sleep

Do you struggle to sleep at night? Maybe you have difficulty falling asleep or even full-blown insomnia. My issue is that I often wake up in the middle of the night and struggle to fall back to sleep. There could be a million reasons why relaxing rest eludes us and an equal number of suggestions for resolution. Today, I want to share 5 habits I have been working to hone, which seem to be making a difference for me.

I am going to add the caveat right here that I am a Christian. I believe that Jesus died for my sins and that when I accepted Him as my Savior, He gave me His Holy Spirit to dwell inside me. Read more on that here. I genuinely do not believe satisfying sleep is a reasonable expectation outside of the peace that comes from knowing God.

But even with the assurance that He has the chaos under control and cradles me in the palm of His hand, I sometimes find myself awake when I want to be asleep. As I’ve prayed for the wisdom to address it, I’ve adopted five habits which have been highly effective for me. I’m sharing them in hopes they might resonate with you as well.

5 Habits to Hone for Relaxing Rest and Satisfying Sleep

Tune out

Life is hectic! My brain doesn’t have time to take a break. Or so it likes to think. (Pun intended.) After all, if I stopped controlling things, it would all come crashing down, right? Not even close to right! In fact, if I don’t stop trying to control things, and let my mind rest, I’m much more likely to make mistakes and missteps that will cause everything to come crashing down.

So, I need to tune out. Shut down. Let go. I do this nightly by watching a Hallmark movie or something equivalent. There is science to show that the brain slows significantly when we watch TV, and I am pretty sure a Hallmark movie requires the least mindfulness of anything out there. It is completely predictable with idyllic settings and… I’m getting sleepy just talking about it.

Some people tell me to pray before bed – to give it all to Jesus and walk away. I would never tell anyone not to pray. I know this is a tried-and-true method for many. It does not work for me because praying engages my mind and my emotions. I have to say my ‘bedtime prayers’ before I tune out. My goal is to not be thinking about anything important when my head hits the pillow.

Exercise

I toyed with the order in which I wanted to present these 5 habits to you. I obviously did not choose to put them in chronological order. But stay with me as I work a bit backwards here.

My biggest hurdle is getting my mind to rest. When I have tuned out and my head has hit the pillow, it needs to have a few things neatly wrapped and tucked away. One of those things is the knowledge that my body is tired.

I sit quite a bit at work and writing does not get me moving either. I need to be intentional about exercise. This is a habit I must commit to accomplish early in the day. I’ve mentioned that I’m a distance walker and that I’ve curiously started running again.

If I am physically tired, my mind will be at ease about my body’s cooperation to sleep. It is always worth it – not just for sleep but for overall health as well.

Food

This one has taken some experimentation. I have discovered that carbohydrates at night do not agree with me. They make me feel bloated and uncomfortable and are not conducive to a good night’s sleep. I have basically cut out all carbs, even healthy ones, after 4pm. I have also lightened up on my protein in the evening. Don’t worry – I eat plenty of both, earlier in the day.

Kale salad: 5 Habits to Hone for Relaxing Rest and Satisfying Sleep
Kale salad, a frequent dinner menu item.

Dinner for me is comprised of mostly vegetables and healthy fats. I eat early so I can go to bed early because I get up early. Eating foods which agree with my digestive system, and timing it so those processes have time to work before I lay down, has been game-changing for me.

This may seem obvious, but I stopped consuming caffeine late in the day. I used to feel immune to the caffeine because I could drink a cup and still fall asleep. But I do think it hampered my ability to fall back to sleep if I awoke in the middle of the night. And any beverage consumed late increases the chances of needing to get up in the middle of the night. I’m better off without it.

Conscience

Ah this! When I have tuned out, worked out, and cut out, but still wake up at 2am unable to go back to sleep, it can be due to a guilty conscience. Sometimes it is legit and other times it is not. I have tried to just ignore it and go back to sleep but it doesn’t work. My only way around the obstacle of my conscience is to engage.

Fox with ears alert: 5 Habits to Hone for Relaxing Rest and Satisfying Sleep
Photo by Petr Ganaj on Pexels.com
When God speaks, even in the middle of the night, I want to listen.

It seems counterintuitive to purposely start my mind thinking, but remember, the one most important ingredient for relaxing rest and satisfying sleep. There is no peace in a guilty conscience. If the conviction I feel is legitimate, I need to confess it to God and repent. I need to receive His forgiveness and resolve to make it right with anyone to whom I may owe restitution. Then, my peace returns. When I feel that harmony with God, I can sleep again.

If the shame I feel is not legit, I need to preach truth to myself and let it go. A good dose of truth brings a rush of peace.

“Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, will be with us in truth and love.”

2 John 2:3

Pray

I know some of you are wondering why a Christian would leave prayer for the last bullet point. Is prayer a last resort for me? NOT AT ALL! I rely on constant communication with God to guide my steps and steer my decisions.

Prayer gets its own section because there are still times, when I’ve done everything I’ve learned to do for relaxing rest and satisfying sleep, but I still wake up.

Alarm clock: 5 Habits to Hone for Relaxing Rest and Satisfying Sleep
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
Sometimes I’m supposed to be awake at 2am.

In these instances, I know God has purposed that I should be awake to pray. I have a list of people who get prayed for every time I am awake in the middle of the night. Maybe one of them is in trouble and I have been awakened specifically because I will pray for them. Prayer releases the power of Heaven and if sacrificing a few minutes of sleep will send that assistance to a loved one who needs it, I’m in!

If I go through my usual list of people and I’m still awake, I start praying for anyone else whose name or face pops into my head. Eventually, I figure I’ve covered everyone for whom I was tasked to pray, because I fall back to sleep.

Even if I’m wrong – if nobody needed my prayers at 2am, my efforts have covered them with God’s presence and that can never be a bad thing. But I honestly believe it is a ministry. The Holy Spirit knows I am available and willing to serve in this capacity in the middle of the night.

Ironically, my habit of intentionally clearing my mind so I can fall asleep and stay asleep makes me a ripe prayer warrior to call upon in the wee hours. And there is a reward. The sleep that comes after being awoken for this purpose and fulfilling it, is the most satisfying of all sleeps!

Kitten asleep: 5 Habits to Hone for Relaxing Rest and Satisfying Sleep
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
Sleep induced by prayer for others is oh-so sweet!

Well, there they are. Those are the 5 habits to hone for relaxing rest and satisfying sleep. At least, they are the tricks that have been the most beneficial for me lately. There are others, and if you’d like me to post about them, let me know.

I’m curious to hear your thoughts. Do you have trouble sleeping? Is it a struggle to fall asleep, stay asleep or both? Have you found any helpful hints that you’d be willing to share? Do any of mine ring true for you?

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Reflections

How An Eerie Scene Provoked Me to Run and Keep Running

The cinematography was foreboding. It was essentially black and white. A stark contrast of light and shadows made me shiver as if I were standing in the mud beside the lake’s eerie, frosted shore.

I had been washing dishes when the movie on the living room TV caught my eye and drew me in. A man and a woman were in an isolated location, living in a cabin which seemed sparsely equipped for the cold. He appeared comfortable there. She did not.

Was he keeping her against her will? I wasn’t sure. He made her get in the frigid water and swim. Was he trying to acclimate her? Was she training for something? I didn’t know.

I watched for maybe 10 minutes before I turned back to my chores. The last eerie scene I saw had the two characters out running in the fog. The man was fit and proficiently able, but the woman was struggling and falling behind. Her respiration was labored, and easily identifiable because the icy air made it visible. He advised her “Don’t try to breathe to keep up with your feet. Find your breath and then set your pace by it.”

That one scene has played again and again in my head. I am a distance walker. I put hundreds of miles on my shoes and wear through them in months. But I struggle to run.

I have the fantastic excuse that I am often holding hands with people I love and enjoying their pace. (See related post: How Hand in Hand with My Girl Plunged Me Heart to Heart with My God.) I jog maybe once every two weeks. It is definitely not often enough for it to get easier.

The woman in the movie was not a runner, yet she settled into a sustainable rhythm when she heeded the advice to set it by her breath. It was a movie, I know. But I was curious. Could I prolong a pace if I used my breath as a guide?

Running shoes: How an eerie scene provoked me to run and keep running
Photo by Mikel Parera on Unsplash

I have always allowed my feet to lead. If I start out too quickly, I will be out of breath in mere minutes. I have learned to slow my pace at the beginning and work into a more robust stride. But my focus has always been on my feet and after a mile or so, I tire of running and settle down to a walk.

If you read Truth 4 of the Halloween Series last Sunday, you may remember that I jogged to my old neighborhood in search of some décor. I expected to run for the usual few blocks and walk the restt of the way, but I wanted to put this new idea to the test.

I walked about half a block, focusing on my breath and hearing its cadence. Then I started to run, my feet keeping time with my breathing. And you know what? I jogged the entire 3 miles! That is the furthest I’ve been able to run nonstop in a very long time.

If you’re a runner, talk to me. Is this something you have known about forever? How did you learn and how did I miss it until I was last-week-years-old?

If you’re not a runner, but would like to be, give this a try! I guess I have to add the caveat that you should always check with your doctor before beginning a new exercise regimen and all of that. But if you decide to experiment, let me know how it goes for you!

I had it backwards. I was allowing my feet to lead when they should have been following. Are there other areas of my life where my cadence is being dictated by that which should be subordinate? I’m praying it all through with the Lord.

I’m thrilled to have a new strategy for exercise, but I suspect God has something deeper for me to learn. Once He gets it through my knuckle head, I’ll be sure to share it with you. Until then, what is God giving you to run with? Have you been impressed lately by any ideas, big or small?

“The drum to which we march reveals the conductor to whom we’re listening.”

Craig D. Lounsbrough
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Reflections

Gratitude to Grumbling: How Long Does it Take a Perspective to Change?

I was out for a walk on a glorious day. It was going to be a scorcher, but it was early, and the temperature was perfect. The flowers seemed to be elaborately arrayed in all their colorful splendor. The birds were singing, the sky was blue, and I was happy to have successfully carved out the time for this opportunity.

Flowering trees and bushes: Gratitude to Grumbling: How Long Does it Take a Perspective to Change?
Living Color

I took over 17,000 steps, thanking God, blissfully unaware that my gratitude was about to turn to grumbling. Have you ever wondered how long it takes a perspective to change completely? I have discovered the answer. It takes about the same amount of time it takes a bike wheel to rotate 25 times. This is how it happened.

I had come to a steep incline in my walking route. I began to climb it, step by step, when I heard a noise and looked back to see what it was. There were three people coming up behind me on bicycles. One of them had paper in the wheel, which had caused the sound.

A paved hill going up: Gratitude to Grumbling: How Long Does it Take a Perspective to Change?
Steep Incline

I immediately felt gratitude that I was not on a bike, trying to conquer the hill. I was tired from walking, but in my experience, it was nothing compared to the fatigue of biking up a grade like this. I had it easy today!

As the bikers came up and past me, something was amiss. There was not a drop of perspiration on them. They were moving quickly, and yet they weren’t leaning into their pedals at all.

Most bikers in their situation would have been huffing and puffing and straining against the hill’s gravity. Maybe one would have managed an acknowledging grunt in my direction. But these folks were sitting on the seats with perfectly straight posture, casually pumping their legs and smiling and waving at me.

What on earth? Finally, as the third bike passed me by, I heard it. It was ever so faint, but there was the hum of a motor. I had never seen a bike like those before. They were self-propelled!

A paved hill going down: Gratitude to Grumbling: How Long Does it Take a Perspective to Change?
Looong Hill

Suddenly, my perspective changed. My plight seemed so strenuous in comparison. I had to trudge all the way up on my own strength. The hill seemed larger and steeper in my grumbling state of mind than it had in my gratitude, although of course, its size was the same.

It immediately struck me how the power of suggestion can have a very real effect on our psyche. When I compared my situation to one I thought was more difficult, I felt energetic and grateful. But when I perceived my circumstance to be the less enviable one, I became grumpy and depleted of strength. My position hadn’t changed but my perspective sure had!

Once I realized this, I had to admit how susceptible I was. I returned my focus to thanking God for this glorious walk and that I had the time and ability to enjoy it. How long does it take a perspective to change? It took the same amount of time to go from grumbling to gratitude as it had the other way around.

Peaches growing on a tree: Gratitude to Grumbling: How Long Does it Take a Perspective to Change?
Fresh Summer Fruit, Ripe for the Pickin’

There was a quote I once read that said something to the effect of:

“If we all threw our problems in a heap and saw everyone else’s, we’d take ours back.”

When we think we have a bunch to grumble about, we would do well to immediately start listing all that we have to be grateful for. Considering my experience, we may only have as much time as it takes a bike wheel to rotate 25 times before our perspective changes for better or for worse. And even when we have legitimate reasons to grumble, if we realize that we’d choose ours over others, we can still be grateful.

So, friends, how are you? Is there anything you’re grumbling or grateful about that you’re willing to share? We’re all in this together, as the saying goes. How do things look from your current perspective?

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Reflections

Spiritual, Physical, and Financial Fitness

Do your goals change from year to year? Do you have both small and large things you want to accomplish? As the more seasonal obligations and hurdles have come and gone, three overarching aspirations have continued to shape my life. They are Spiritual, Physical, and Financial Fitness.

When my kids were small, I set the expectation for myself to do one thing each day to make progress in each of these categories. I still have the same ambition today, although my methods for achieving them have drastically changed. Whether you’re younger or older, have similar goals or completely different ones, I’d like to invite you into my reflection on Spiritual, Physical and Financial Fitness, then and now.

Spiritual Fitness

“I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”

Psalm 119:10, 11

Then: My kids attended AWANA when they were young. If you’re not familiar with it, the best I can describe it is like a Christian scout troop. They met weekly, had uniforms, and earned badges for scripture memorization and service to the church and community. With 5 kids in different levels of AWANA, I had several Bible verses to help little minds to memorize each week. My kids had different learning styles, so we made up songs, dances, hand motions, and beats to help with comprehension and memorization. I enjoy the fact that still, to this day, when a key AWANA verse comes up, we all start moving in sync. This was a time of wonderful growth and Spiritual fitness for me; a time when much of God’s Word was prominently fixed in my heart.


Now: I no longer have a built-in weekly Spiritual fitness program. I must be intentional about spending time in God’s Word. I set my own Bible reading goals and find Christian blogs, podcasts and online Bible Studies to follow during the week. All this plus church on Sundays and I still have a ton of room to grow in the arena of Spiritual Fitness. I will ultimately realize my goal when I arrive on eternity’s shore and am finally made perfect, as my Heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:48)

Physical Fitness

“Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air.  No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”

1 Corinthians 9:26, 27

The motivation for this one has never really been a struggle because I yearn to get out and move. The hard part is finding the time to do it.


Then: I had a double stroller and 5 kids. It was not unusual to see me out on the trail with two kids in the stroller, one perched carefully on top, one on my shoulders or piggy-back, and another walking beside me. Sometimes we would rotate who was where. If I timed it right, I could get out to walk when one or two were in school and that helped quite a bit. When I didn’t have a car, walks to the grocery store or the park were naturally part of our days and physical fitness was not difficult to come by.


Now: I still love to walk. I didn’t have to push a stroller or carry anybody for several years, but the grandkids have brought that back into my life recently. Although it is harder on me now, I’m grateful I can still do it! I do have to purposely plan the ‘daily’ part of this goal; not because I don’t want to be consistent with physical fitness, but because I often feel pulled by the ‘urgent’ at the expense of the ‘important’. (You won’t want to miss this related post: How to Distinguish Between Urgent and Important)

Financial Fitness

All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.

Proverbs 14:23

Then: Financial fitness was much harder when the kids were little. I did not work outside the home, so finding ways to make or save money each day required thought. We went on recycling walks, collecting cans and bottles to exchange for cash. We took outgrown clothes and toys to consignment shops. I made items to sell at craft fairs. I clipped coupons. The kids and I did what we could so the financial burden did not fall entirely on my husband.


Now: I have a full-time job. I still try to meet this goal daily though, so even on my days off from work, I am looking for ways to earn extra money, or save it, or both. Financial fitness will be a focus until we leave it, fat or lean, to the next generation.

The three main lessons I have learned over the years I’ve spent in pursuit of Spiritual, Physical, and Financial fitness are these:

  • Even baby steps are progress if they’re taken in the right direction.
  • There are seasons with every endeavor. Some seasons are easier than others, but difficult seasons are not excuses to quit. The seasons will change.
  • Creativity is key. If God has given a directive, He’s thought of a means by which it can be met. He can be trusted for inspiration.

Thank you for reading my reflection on Spiritual, Physical and Financial fitness as I’ve pursued it, then and now. What are the objectives you are chasing these days? Are they enduring or are they quickly attainable? Do you have tips to share about how you’re being creative or making progress?

Related post: Determination,