( Originally Published 1930 )
Relaxation and sleep are the perfectly natural reaction after exertion and the fatigue following the constant daily resistance of the life-force. From seven to ten hours sleep are required by the human being, varying with the age, occupation and health of the individual. People, who relax systematically while employing the Indian system in their work, exercise, or play, require less sleep than people who do not understand its scientific uses of posture, relaxation, and muscular control. Proper breathing and diet also increase the natural resistance while the mental attitude governs all. Habit is a strong factor. It is easy to be lazy and sleep too much. Time wasted in oversleeping can-not be made up. Too much sleep is enervating.
Darkness and quiet are the natural environment for restful sleep, especially for nervous people, invalids, and children.
Do not face a bright light, the sun or moon.
The hours between ten P.M. and five A.M. are the best for sleeping; the vitality is lowest at this time. If need be, sleep earlier, and later. Too little sleep does not permit the body to readjust itself to the reception or the resistance of life-force or perform the necessary chemical adjustments.
Sleep out of doors if possible and practicable. Do not fear the night air—it is full of oxygen and life—and the only air there is at night. Arrange for proper protection against cold, wind, rain, or snow. Flannelette sheets and pillow slips add to the comfort in cold weather as do flannel gown, cap, and socks. The vitality is naturally low at night and, as the major part of the blood is said to center in the small of the back, the extremities may easily feel cold. It is almost impossible to relax when thoroughly chilled. It uses up energy to keep warm. Use light-weight but sufficient covering. This is largely a matter of habit. Heavy non-porous bedding keeps the invisible gases and perspiration close to the body and tends to reabsorption, which is not healthful.
If you sleep indoors be sure to ventilate the room well, providing for a free circulation of fresh air. The room should be given a thorough air-bath before retiring, especially if a stove or lamp has been consuming the oxygen, or if people have been sitting in the room. (Their body odors and gases pervade the air). Air out all cigar or cigarette smoke; the fumes of tobacco are poisonous and the smoke injurious to the eyes and lungs.
The Indian heads north and south, to be in line with the earth's currents. If you will face west, with the setting sun upon retiring you will, in all probability, find yourself facing the rising sun in the east upon waking—if you are very normal. You may notice too that you are breathing through a different nostril ! Indians attach significant meanings to these apparently minor details but they are capable of exhibiting unusual powers.
Beware of cramped positions. Habits of posture during rest or sleep frequently prohibit free circulation and tense the nerves. When muscles are cramped or tensed, the subject is more susceptible to noise and irritating vibrations. Internal organs, cramped, twisted, or pressed upon, cannot function efficiently during sleep. The posture should be easy, on the side or back, the legs not drawn up too much and the arms not over the head. Always relax and test your relaxation. It is impossible to obtain the full benefit of sleep with inflexible muscles, a rigid spine, or tensed nerves.
Above all, avoid too strenuous mental exertion just before retiring. If you would sleep peacefully do not engage in an argument or tiresome discussion or give way to emotional excitement. Give no place in your mind to envy, malice, or any of the lower emotions. Complete cessation of all mental activity is necessary. Eradicate all sense of fear with knowing and thinking only of peace, happiness, love and confidence in the Father. Like the Indian, give yourself over to the care of the Perfect Protection.
The Indian has a way of going over each event of the day, men-tally, just before dropping off to sleep. He allows the panorama of "his day" to unfold itself before his mental vision, in retrospect, beginning at the dose and reeling off like a bit of motion-picture film to its beginning. In this way he is frequently able to revert effect to its cause and get a better understanding. It is a splendid idea, for, by correcting the thoughts and behavior, by acknowledging to oneself the mistakes of the day and by trying to realize wherein one, might have done better, there is a natural, steady growth and improvement. This procedure has a marvelous effect upon the building of character and serves to draw forth potential possibilities and powers during sleep. This was also a favorite practice with the ancient Greeks ; Pythagoras always required it of his pupils.
If thus we would plan how to improve upon our behavior next time, and, without worrying about it, dismiss the matter from our minds, sleep would come more easily. Turn a deaf ear to all noises that you cannot hinder without interfering with the other fellow's rights, acquire the mental attitude that they cannot disturb you, and make up your mind to sleep—that is what you went to bed for! Think peace, poise, rest, and confidence within, and—use your will power. Breathe rhythmically, keeping the body and mind thoroughly pliable and flexible. Radiate peace with each breath and send forth love and sympathy to a suffering world that needs even your little benediction.