The Art of Sleep: My 8 Tips
This year of my life has been really special so far.. Really full and really challenging, this year of manifestations has blown my mind. The only price that I had to pay was…restful sleep. And clearly, the fact that with all that I preach, I wasn’t able to sleep well myself, was a sign - time to walk the talk. It looks like I was definitely not the only one in the “club” - a sad bit of statistics shows that more than 30% of the worldwide population suffer from insomnia at this point. I’ve done a bit of experimenting and research and now happily sleeping again..plus the energy’s back. And of course I’ll share the tricks. Here is the selected 8 that I love. Here you go!
One of the first things I found was disturbing my sleep was working late. And even though we all know that life happens, and that sometimes it’s inevitable that we have to finish tasks to respect the deadline and often it means sitting in front of the laptop screen for ages, make a conscious effort to finish computer related work a few hours before bedtime. That way the electromagnetic radiation won’t over activate your system and you’ll be more likely to fall asleep easily.
In fact, the preparation for bedtime should ideally start a around 8pm. According to Ayurveda, sister science of yoga, the best time to go to sleep in order to get the most out of it, is before 10pm while it’s still Kapha time, the hours of the day conducive to quality rest and repose. Actually, I think the word “repose”, resting with no specific purpose other than resting itself, is something we should re-include in our vocabularies! Not sure how practical this tip is for your lifestyle, but I found that it works like magic. Especially, if you’ve been up since early morning..
Here in the North, one of the reasons many people I know have been struggling with insomnia, is partially because of the amount of daylight from April to September that is confusing our biorhythms. If you have never used a sleeping mask or eye pillow yet, give it a try. Make sure to apply a few drops of lavender essential oil to it first - it will calm down the central nervous system promoting even better sleep. During darker time of year, switch to dim lighting a few hours before bedtime - bright lights may interfere with the sleeping cycles.
One of the things I found extremely helpful, is taking a hot bath or shower before going to bed. A warm shower helps initiate that sleepy, tired feeling prior to bed time because the resulting drop in body temperature slows down metabolic functions like heart rate, breathing, and digestion.The warm water also dilates blood vessels, allowing more blood and oxygen flow into tight, stressed out muscles throughout the body. Releasing muscle tension keeps the body relaxed and comfortable, a feeling that further signals the brain it’s time to start winding down and preparing for sleep.
Pranayama is a gift from heaven for better sleep. These versatile yogic breathing techniques are incredibly effective in countering insomnia. Brahmari is one of my teacher’s favourites and is excellent for a number of reasons: reducing anxiety, worry, anger, depression and ultimately helping to relax, let go and fall asleep while soothing nervous system and supporting immunity. Brahmar is “bee” in Sanskrit and this technique (for those of you who haven’t tried it with me in class:) includes producing a buzzing sound similar to the vibration of OM mantra, with the mouth closed. You can do it in child’s pose or in savasana. This pranayama stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system that is associated with rest so it induces physical, mental, muscular and emotional release.
In my training with Max Strom in Berlin last week, we had a discussion about the most appropriate postures to relax you before going to bed and this is what we were advised works the best. Logically, all forward bends that have a more introverted, calming quality to them, are a good choice. Other than that, try supine hamstring stretching postures and twists to release the tensions in some of the largest muscles in the body in particular if you have been sitting a lot during the day. In addition to that, mild inversions (resting legs up the wall with the strap around the ankles to keep the legs together) are fantastic for a good sleep. Pictures attached!
YOGA NIDRA guided meditation that you can use in your headphones while lying in bed preparing for sleepy time or as you take a break during the day. Here is the work that I’ve done in this area: http://www.sparklingyoga.com/yoga-nidra
Massage! That’s probably my absolute personal favourite, mmmmm….Insomnia is associated with a lack of serotonin. Massage increases serotonin levels - that’s the basics of sleep neurochemistry. Give yourself a massage using pure body oil after bath or establish a massage ritual with your partner. Massage is an intelligent, healthy and substance free choice to deal with insomnia. Because serotonin plays a role in sleep in multiple areas of the brain, it is logical to seek ways to increase serotonin levels for people that are sleep deprived. In addition, serotonin is needed for our bodies to produce melatonin. As melatonin influences the sleep stage of our circadian rhythm, a natural way of boosting serotonin is a positive sleep inducing option.
Sweet dreams from
Pre-sleep behavior in normal subjects. Ellis, C., Lemmens, G., Parkes, D. University Department of Neurology, King’s College School of Medicine and Dentistry and Institute of Psychiatry, London SE5, UK. Journal of Sleep Research 1995 Dec; 4(4):199-201
Temperature as a universal resetting cue for mammalian circadian oscillators. Buhr, E., Yoo, S., Takahashi, J. Department of Neurobiology and Physiology, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, USA. Science 2010 Oct; 330(6002):379-85.
Shepherd, Gordon M., MD, D.Phil., Neurobiology, Oxford University Press, 1988.
Lambert, Craig, PhD. “Deep into Sleep,” Harvard Magazine, July/August 2005.