Sleep Like a Baby: Secrets from the Yoga World

Remember when you used to “sleep like a baby”? Maybe you still do, but I guess many of you would say getting restful sleep is more challenging than it used to be.  Sleep is something that you can take for granted until you aren’t getting enough of it. Ask any menopausal woman and she will be happy to tell you about it! Once you start having trouble with it, you quickly learn that it is a critical component of your health. Losing quality sleep can make you feel like you’re going off the deep end — mentally and physically.

Help is in sight. All it takes is a few minutes of your time to prepare the body to rest and the mind to quiet. Here are some techniques and tips from the yoga world to help you drift into sleep more easily.

Energy Medicine Wind-Down Technique

You might have tried the Wake Up from Energy Medicine to help you be energized throughout the day. Well, this is the Energy Medicine Wind Down. It was taught to me by Lauren Walker, the developer of Energy Medicine Yoga.  Do it before you go to bed or while you are already under the covers. Use it every day for at least a month and see what happens. Your energy develops habits and it can take a while for patterns to change. Don’t get frustrated if it doesn’t work the first time or the second. Consistent practice with energy medicine techniques can change the way you feel, think, and act.

Regular Yoga Practice

In the last several years, Yoga has been researched for its many benefits, including improving sleep. This study evaluated the effect of long-term Yoga practice on sleep quality and quality of life. Yoga group participants had significantly less (P < 0.0001) sleeping disturbances, shorter sleep latency, and decreased use (P < 0.05) of sleep medications. Furthermore, subjective sleep quality and habitual sleep efficiency scores were significantly better (P < 0.0001) in the Yoga group than non-Yoga group participants.

If you live in Columbia, join me every Friday at 4:30 pm for an all-level Kripalu yoga class at Yoga Sol, 210 St. James Street. Or, join me online for an Energy Medicine Yoga Class at 5:30 pm on Wednesdays (or by recording if you can’t make it.)  

Yoga Poses for Sleep

If you have time for a few poses before bedtime, here are some to try. First, Legs Up the Wall is a fantastic pose for calming the body. Legs Up the Wall (or Viparita Karani) can ease a range of ailments, including anxiety, headaches, and insomnia. It’s a perfect pose to help you unwind before going to bed.

Second, Savasana or Corpse pose can be done on the floor or in bed. More than just lying down, do Savasana by bringing your attention to your body and your breath. When your mind wanders off to worrying thoughts, simply notice and bring your attention back to breathing over and over again. Feel yourself sinking into the floor or bed. Let your worries drift away like clouds moving across the sky.

Here is a list of other poses you might try from Yoga Journal.  

Yoga Nidra, or Yogic Sleep

Like other relaxation techniques, Yoga Nidra, can help you drift into sleep for deep rejuvenation. You can try numerous versions on an app called Insight Timer. One recording I particularly like is Yoga Nidra For Sleep, 22 minutes long, by Jennifer Piercy.

Other Ways to Manage Your Insomnia

If you are interested in natural approaches to your sleep difficulties, become familiar with and develop good sleep habits (or sleep hygiene). These include the following:

  1. Stop using all electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bed.
  2. Use bed for sleep, sex, and sickness (not watching TV!).
  3. Try not to nap during the day.
  4. Go to bed and wakeup at regular times.
  5. Avoid caffeine and alcohol, particularly later in the day.
  6. Sleep in a dark room at a temperature that suits your body.
  7. Don’t exercise too late in the day, but do exercise regularly.

May you have peaceful dreams and wake refreshed!