Are there any other moms out there besides me up for changing Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Eat, Pray, Love” mantra to “Eat, Pray, Sleep”? This feels more appropriate for moms caught in the pursuit of peace and happiness, no Bali in our crystal balls, and running around like pet gerbils to make spaghetti dinners, help with homework and organize sleepovers.
Let’s be real, a mother who is feeling miserable in life isn’t going to disappear for three months, eat her way alone through Italy, pray in India at an ashram and go study with a shaman in Indonesia. Most moms of Gilbert’s socioeconomic status set up weekly therapy appointments with an LCSW off of their insurance plan and cry in their minivans. Three months off isn’t on the menu for moms.
CRYING FOR SLEEP
Several years ago I began thinking a lot about sleep and what moms need, because I had one too many cry-in-the-minivan moments. My kids were nine and 11-years-old, hardly the age where you’d think I’d be crying in a minivan. But the past three years before had been Elizabeth Gilbert tough — 10 moves in five years, one to Africa, a robbery, my kids changing schools, coming to terms with my oldest son’s severe learning challenges, and leaving all my women friends, just to name a few.
On my bright days I went through my Rolodex of resources to feel happier. Bali would be nice, but a local Shaman might work too. See an acupuncturist. Take Happy Pills. Join a women’s group. Do yoga. Attend kirtan classes. My list seemed endless and enticing, I tried some of it, but none felt like the right fit until I discovered a five-letter word that rocked my mommy world: sleep.
After my minivan cry-fest I fell into a deep 20-minute nap in the driver’s seat and emerged like a recovered amnesia victim. Forget shamans in Bali, moms. Sleep is all we need. After my nap I remembered that: (A) I loved myself; (B) I wasn’t a Loser Mom; (C) my kids were terrific (even though Jacob always leaves his socks in the living room); and (D) my husband was a honey (not the evil guy who goes on two week international work trips).
I also remembered how much I loved going to a yoga nidra class when my kids were little. Yoga nidra is an ancient form of yogic sleep where you lay on the floor and the teacher guides you into a meditative state. It’s that simple. But was I really going to start napping regularly?
After my minivan nap I realized since motherhood I wasn’t giving myself what I love. So last winter I signed up for a yoga nidra class buoyed into action by a statement on yoga nidra that I found all over the Internet:
It has been found through research that one hour of Nidra Meditation provides an equal amount of relaxation as four hours of conventional sleep.
A month later I flew to Arizona to lay on a blanket and learn how to teach this conscious nap with yoga nidra guru Richard Miller whose integrative restoration method of yoga nidra is showing remarkable results in dramatically helping war veterans recover from post traumatic stress disorder.
It’s hard not to buy what Richard Miller is selling. In his book Yoga Nidra: The Meditative Heart of Yoga he tell us that yoga nidra will lead you to:
“Profound relaxation, release of chronic stress, better sleep, resolution to many of your life’s conundrums, and a greater sense of harmony in your daily life and relationships.”
And if this wasn’t scrumptious enough, he declares:
“In its ultimate revelation, Yoga Nidra points directly to your True Nature, to peace that is beyond description and your birthright.”
Ironically, this also seems to be Gilbert’s conclusion in her book. When we’re in our True Nature we will experience peace. Gilbert left her life behind to find her True Nature, but what if you don’t have to leave your life to get your groove back? What if sleep like yoga nidra was the key to finding your True Nature and enjoying life more?
Here are five ways as a busy mom I’m making a commitment to sleep more and so can you:
Twice a week get into bed by 10pm. If you have to get up at six am you’ve got eight hours!
On a day that you will be out late (like Back to School Night or a work commitment) take a 15-20 minute yoga nidra nap. Twenty minutes will energize you more than you ever imagined. And since a 20 minute yoga nidra nap is equivalent to 80 minutes of sleep, you’re getting more for less which is exactly what you need on those busy nights.
Do a yoga nidra nap with headphones in your office during your lunch break, on the train or bus going home, or before the kids get home.
At least one night a week put the kids to sleep and then go to bed—or if they’re older go to sleep before they do. I know, there are dishes to do, permission slips to sign, and that very important e-mail to send. Forget it. Sleep will make you happier. You can do family chores another night.
Go on a sleep retreat. One week of good quality rest can recharge your batteries and get you firmly on your sleep journey. Yoga nidra retreats are offered through Richard Miller, at places like Omega Institute and Kripalu, and soon by BOLD.
Recruit your entire family to support your commitment to sleep more. Sit your kids and partner down and tell them, “Mommy needs more sleep” and then regularly go off for a “mommy nap.” In the beginning accept that you are going to feel like you’re moving a mountain to get that nap, but it won’t take long to train these puppies. Soon you’ll be saying “I’m off for my nap!” and no one will bat an eye.
“Eat, Pray, Love” worked for Gilbert. For moms, I think “Eat, Pray, Sleep” is our essential mantra. I’ve got an inkling “Love” might follow.
Karen Brody is a writer, women’s empowerment coach, and founder of BOLD, a movement to help women take back their well-being. She is the playwright of the critically acclaimed play Birth, creator of the BOLD Method for Birth, and an emerging voice on the power of yoga nidra for women to manage their fatigue and burnout through her new venture BOLD Tranquility. You can learn more at www.karenrachelbrody.com.