Many of my clients come in for one thing or another, but one common denominator I am finding is that EVERYONE has insomnia. Either they have trouble getting to sleep, staying asleep or sleeping long enough to feel refreshed. Good sleep is a prerequisite for good health. Yoga can help with these simple techniques and tips:
1. Turn off your screens. Turn off your phone or set it to silent. Turn off the TV and computer and give your eyes a rest. Turn off the iPad, video games and anything else electronic one hour or more before bedtime.
2. Do calming breathing techniques. There are several breathing techniques that calm the nervous system and allow you to either fall asleep or get back to sleep. A simple one is breathing out twice as long as you breathe in. Count how long it takes you to inhale, then exhale for twice that amount. Do this 8-10 times and see if you feel more relaxed. If that doesn’t work for you, contact me for a session and I will teach you the right breath practice for your body/mind state.
3. Practice a pose or two before bed. One of my favorite poses before bed is Legs Up the Wall. You can even do this pose in bed! Simply take your legs and swing them up so that you are lying down and your legs are supported in a vertical position at the wall. There’s no graceful way to get into this – just wiggle your way into it and stay for 10-15 minutes. Not only is it great for sleep, it will help anyone with circulation and take some stress off of your heart. Another one of my favorites is Bridge Pose. This calms the endocrine system and can relieve your body of those hormones that create anxious states in the middle of the night.
4. Avoid stimulating foods. Chocolate, caffeine, spicy foods, alcohol – they are all stimulants to keep you awake. Find foods that are calming for your dosha type and they will help you not only be calm during the day, but sleep better at night.
5. When you wake up in the middle of the night, don’t just lie there and stare at the ceiling. Get up and do something. One night a few months ago, I had insomnia myself. Instead of lying there, frustrated, I got up and made empanadas. Sound crazy? Maybe. But by the time I was done I was relaxed and went back to bed. It was the act of focusing on something calming and soothing that allowed the nervous energy I had to be expressed in a healthy way and get my body back to sleep. Now if you don’t want to bake, try a few easy yoga poses or maybe drawing. Don’t turn on the TV or your phone – that will just stimulate you to stay up longer.
6. Take care of your adrenals, thyroid and liver. When these elements of your system get out of whack, they can seriously screw up your sleep. Adrenals need good stress coping habits, the thyroid needs them too. The liver needs at least moderately clean living so it can keep up with everything it needs to clean up inside your body. Take a look at your stress habits and learn to detoxify your body with a cleaner diet.
7. Learn how to relax. It’s a skill! You aren’t born knowing how to deal with modern day levels of stress. It’s far beyond what our body’s have evolved to deal with, so put some proactive thought and effort into learning how to relax. Yoga is great for this!
8. Use brainwave music to lull your mind to sleep. Use the music of Dr. Jeffrey Thompson to help you get to sleep, stay asleep, or even take really efficient naps!
9. Make sure your bedroom is a haven for sleep. If your bedroom is not a place you want to be, make it so. You are never going to get good sleep if you have clutter everywhere or its not a room you feel safe inside.
10. Make a plan for the next day to get everything you need to get done, done. Often we wake up worrying about what is going to happen tomorrow or in the future. Make plans, make plans, make plans! Even if your plans get shot out of the water the next morning by something unexpected, you will sleep better the night before because you and your nervous system know generally what to expect. And that will help you adjust to the unexpected more easily!
11. Have a morning and evening ritual. This will signal to you body that you are ready to wake up and are ready for bed. Your body responds to your mind and your mind responds to your body. When they start to work together, you will have less stress and sleep better.
12. Practice Yoga Nidra. Yoga Nidra is a great way to help you reprogram your subconscious mind to include healthier thought patterns and to improve your overall balance in your nervous system state. I have a recording to help you practice here.
13. Do a body scan. Download my FREE recording here to help you relax into sleep!