Ten bedtime snacks
for the soul
Rubin Naiman, PhD
Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine
University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine
Director, Circadian Health Associates
We don’t get sleep because
we don’t ‘get’ sleep.
Our deﬁnitions of sleep are largely negative, that
is, they tell us what sleep is not. In the same way
we naively think of health as the absence of
disease, we think of sleep as the absence of
waking or the absence of consciousness.
Knowing what sleep is not doesn’t tell us what it
is. But “getting” that sleep is a mystery is an
essential step toward getting sleep.
Approaching sleep in a mechanistic
manner will only dampen it’s
pleasure. It’s especially helpful to be
mindful of our love of sleep before
we get into to bed with it. There is no
better way of doing this than by
establishing a personal pre-sleep
ritual. Ordinary bedtime routines can
be transformed into enjoyable
bedtime rituals simply by enacting
them mindfully -- by imbuing a sense
of meaning into them.
Going to sleep without ritual is
like making love without foreplay.
Morpheus, the god of dreams
Sleep is the slippery, downhill
side of the day. We cannot
intentionally go to sleep. We can
only slip, slide or fall into it. We
slip out of waking and we fall --
which is suggestive of an
accident – asleep. Evening rest
and relaxation make us
From the perspective of waking
falling asleep is an accident.
Our nightstands express our prevailing
beliefs about sleep. If sleep is a nightly
get-away, then the nightstand is the
overnight bag we carry along with us.
Are the items in and around our
nightstands conducive to a surrender
to sleep? Or, do they tether us to the
waking world ?
Our nightstands are a clear
reflection of our stance
Dreaming is critical for learning and
memory. Dreams also play a key role
in the regulation of our feelings and
moods and in the psychological
assimilation of daily life experiences.
Dreaming provides an essential
poetic cushion for our sharply literal
lives. It serves as a palpable nightly
reminder that the world is so much
bigger than it appears to be by day.
In dreams we are privy to a much
Dreaming is not optional;
it’s an essential part of good
sleep and healthy waking.
Any number of psychological,
medical or environmental factors can
draw us back to waking from sleep.
We may be aware of these, as is
common, for example, with the need
to use the bathroom. But often we
are unaware of exactly what rouses
us. Whatever the cause, we generally
assume that what woke us up is also
what is keeping us awake. In fact,
what typically perpetuates our
wakefulness is not what woke us up
but our cognitive reaction to it.
What wakes us up at night is
not what typically keeps us up.6
Viewing sleep solely through
our waking world eyes is like
trying to observe darkness by
using a ﬂashlight. Sleep is best
understood by deluminating it,
both literally and ﬁguratively.
In giving our waking world
senses a rest, we step into a
nighttime frame of mind or
night consciousness. In this
shadowy world, we encounter
sleep in its natural home.
We can never fully understand
sleep from a waking world
frame of mind.
Tips for obtaining better sleep
abound. But the common
presumption that we can simply
tinker and tweak our way to
good sleep is misguided. Sleep
tips work best in the context of a
personal sleep transformation.
Healthy sleep requires a shift in
our fundamental perspective and
basic attitudes. It requires a
willingness to meet sleep on its
own otherworldly terms.
Healing our sleep requires more
than a change of behavior;
it calls for a change of heart.
Children learn more from what they
observe than from what they are told.
They learn basic lessons about sleep
from observing their parents, family
and caregivers. When they see adults
valuing, appreciating and enjoying
sleep, they will open to similar
experiences. When they see adults
resisting sleep and overvaluing
waking, they will be inclined to do the
same. The converse is also true:
adults can also be reminded of sleep’s
innocent nature by taking a few
moments to just watch children sleep.
How can we teach our children to sleep well?
Through simple demonstration.
If water is a universal symbol of the
unconscious, sleep is the liquid
substrate of our lives. We can sink
into it, yet it supports us. Just as
when we were in the womb, we are
spiritually amphibious in the sea of
sleep. But our willingness to descend
into the depths of these waters
depends on what we believe we
might actually encounter there.
Nothing or Nightmares? Dreams or
Serenity? Intentionally descending into
the sea of sleep with our inner, ‘third
eye’ open can help us reﬂect on this
Where do we go when we go to sleep?
www.drnaiman.com ~ Hush is available at Amazon.com
HUSH draws on the latest sleep science
to take us deeper, exploring sleep’s
spiritual, sacred, transformative dimensions
and guiding us toward the deep, restorative
sleep our bodies and our souls need.
-- Arianna Huffington
Dr. Rubin Naiman is truly a pioneer in
integrative sleep and dream medicine.
-- Andrew Weil, MD
“Ten bedtime snacks for the soul”
was excerpted from
Hush: A Book of Bedtime Contemplations