Don’t you feel amazing after a good night’s sleep? And yet so many of us are chronically sleep deprived. Here are my personal yoga tips on getting more of the good stuff:
1. Going to bed earlier
Just try it for a week. Just half an hour earlier. Every night. See what happens.
2. Tackling the stress in your life
Big stuff like money worries, work or relationship problems aren’t going to go away overnight. But while you’re working out how you might change things, take regular time out for restorative yoga, yoga nidra or meditation. You’ll feel more rested – and in the process you’ll be developing a clearer picture to help you make any decisions you need to make.
3. Tuning into your body’s clock
There are cycles in our energy levels. We are not designed to be constantly on the go – or constantly increasing our effort.
Like the planet’s seasons we all have times of great creativity and growth, times of enjoying the rewards of our efforts, times of nourishing and consolidating, and times of rest – almost complete shut-down.
See if you can begin to notice these patterns in your year, month, day. Rather than fighting your changing energy levels, see if you can adjust to them and begin to live in tune with them. You can make a good start by….
4. Having an afternoon “nap”
Have you ever noticed the natural dip in your energy levels mid-afternoon? A full-blown siesta isn’t often an option in our profit-driven, Anglo-American culture, so we reach for a donut or coffee to keep us going.
Instead, try this: take 20 minutes off – just 20 minutes. Go somewhere quiet, and rest in a restorative pose, such as one of these, or lie down with your eyes closed, or meditate, or listen to a guided relaxation or yoga nidra, or stare at a cloud, tree, view…. something that takes you into your quiet place where your mind can withdraw from stimulation of your senses (in yoga, a state known as pratayahara). I’ve been surprised to find that when I rest in the afternoon, sleep comes easier at night.
6. All the other usual stuff
You’ve heard it all before, but it’s worth repeating: avoid caffeinated drinks anytime after noon; turn off all screens an hour or two before bed; wind down with a book, or a bath, or music. Get your bedroom dark, ventilated and warm, and pay particular attention to…
5. Getting comfy in bed
Pillows are your friends. They’re not just for heads and necks. They can take the strain off your back by going under or between knees; they can take the strain off your shoulders and neck by being “hugged” in your arms, or corners “held” byb losely curled hands. Experiment with pillows – hardness, softness, size, number, position. And if you’re prone to being woken by a too-early sunrise, wear an eye mask. But if insomnia strikes…
7. Try this bodyscan
When I can’t get to sleep, or I wake in the middle of the night, my default response is to switch on the radio to take my mind of my thoughts. Sometimes this might work, but often I start listening, and I’m awake for hours. So I’ve been trying a different technique: a mental bodyscan or “rotation of consciousness” from yoga nidra. And so far, it’s working. I rarely finish the full scan, because I’ve fallen asleep!
This post was inspired by the wonderful blog, Yoga For Healthy Aging, and my own attempts to put into practice words of wisdom from sprightly and energetic 70-something yogini Judith Lasater and the yoga teacher who first taught me how to get comfy in pregnancy, Uma Dinsmore-Tuli.