Waking up in the middle of the night, trying to fall asleep, seems like an eternity. (Especially when we need to be fresh for that VIProject!) You’re not alone. Worldwide 51% of us have sleep woes. And not just adults, more kids struggle with sleep issues.
Sleep issues include trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, not refreshed upon waking, or insufficient sleep. Yoga for Better Sleep uses simple practices to calm the nervous system, integrate our body, mind and emotions to ensure we sleep soundly, improving sleep, ensuring fresh upon waking and alleviating these issues.
Some fun facts of common places we fall asleep due to lack of sleep;
10% of people fall asleep while at work
7% while driving- OMG can you imagine!
7% in church
6% on public transport
1 % on the toilet, oops..
On a more serious note, let’s look at sleep woes and the havoc they wreak in body, mind and emotions.
Sleep, our Foundation of Vitality
Sleep is vital to our physical and mental health and quality of life.
Continued insufficient sleep disrupts our entire bodily system. Causing energy levels to swoon and soar, fatigue, brain fog, depression, anxiety, nervousness, accidents, mood swings, hormonal changes and other physiological shifts, can occur. This increases, inflammation, immune function becomes impaired, inhibiting muscle, organ and tissue repair and recovery from trauma, injury or stress.
Chronic sleep deprivation leads to deep seated physiological changes such as; obesity, diabetes mellitus, septicaemia, hypertension, heart conditions and vascular changes leading to strokes.
Let’s look at human sleep history and understand what constitutes healthy sleep in realistically.
Sleep History & Reality
So, what’s healthy sleep and how can we contribute to creating better sleep patterns to avoid sleeping on the toilet?
A million, even three hundred, years ago, every night our foremother naturally woke up just before the dawn, between 3-5am, when the air was at its’ coldest, to tend the fire, check everyone’s still alive and well, before getting back into the warmth of her bed. We rarely slept much more than 6-7 hours at a stretch in our short human history.
That might come as a surprise with the constant myth of 8 holy hours.
News flash- We’ve had this pattern till the arrival of artificial light. No wonder some of us more sensitive souls still wake up between 3-5am. In Yoga we call this the hour of the Creator, or Brahma Muruhta, 90 mins before sunrise. It’s the best time to practice meditation, Yoga and contemplation on our existence.
So, the next time you wake early in the morning, or in ‘middle of the night’, know that you’re completely healthy. It’s a totally natural rhythm. Waking up in the wee hours of morning actually means your still in-tune with nature and our old cycles.
And one of our worst sleep thieves are thoughts like, “I’m not getting enough sleep.”
So, What’s Healthy Sleep?
Really, it depends!
Healthy sleep and sufficient sleep depends on many things. Your goals, your present health, your age and responsibilities, your levels of stress, and your physical and mental constitution or nature.
Long before becoming a mother, I spent 10 days at a Vipassana meditation centre, and for the life of me, I couldn’t sleep more than 4 hours a night. While awake I just lay there bringing my awareness back to breath again and again, thousands of times. And I got up feeling as great as a Gladiator ready for the next day of mental demons.
The reason being, I wasn’t physically very active, and mentally I was focusing and then calming the mind; not ingesting lots of mental impressions. This meant very little exertion of mind and body, and therefore needing less sleep.
Since having a child and running my own business, I definitely need 7 and a half hours. And when I do it in one go, which isn’t often, I’m healthy as a hummingbird amongst the flowers, all day long. If not, I come back to my breath again and again. And most mornings, even with a few hours of broken sleep, I can feel refreshed if I don’t stress out and breathe calmly.
So we don’t need those holy 8 hours let’s look at Fascinating Falling Sleep Facts. Reminding yourself of these next time your awaketo ease your mind.
- 6-7 hours sleep a night ensures longevity, more so than 8hrs!
- Most of us wake up 6 times a night but just don’t remember!
- Don’t count sheep, it activates the Left-brain hemisphere = wakefulness. Instead, imagine you feel the sheep’s soft wool, it activates the Right brain hemisphere = rest
- It’s natural to wake up between 3-5 AM, think cave-woman
- Our circadian rhythm determines our sleep pattern, and is controlled by the stress and sleep hormones, adrenalin and melatonin. These both respond to daylight and darkness, levels of stress during the day and moments we allowed ourselves to de-stress through yoga, meditation, prayer, journaling or contemplation.
- Every 90 minutes we’ve been through a complete sleep cycle of sleep, dream sleep and deep sleep. Between these cycles and during dreams we tend to turn and wake up
So, don’t get your knickers in a knot if you ‘only’ get 7 or 6. Maybe that’s all you need. Some people live their whole lives with just 5 hours and feel fresh, alive and fit, when they get up.
The most important is how you feel upon waking.
4 Sleep Robbers
1. Irregularity- causes our nervous system activation. Observe your schedule, eating habits, sleeping habits, and daily routine for irregularity, if more than 2 are irregular, creating more routine/ rhythm will calm to your nerves.
2. Poorly timed activities & exercise- will raise the heart rate, release adrenaline and disturb sleep. Spicy food, coffee, sugar, intense exercise. Remember the adrenaline and melatonin. Intense events in the early part of the day gives us time to rid our body of excessive adrenaline by moving it out of the body. If we don’t have that time to be physically active in the afternoon, Yoga can really help. Intense Yoga practice increases adrenaline.
3. Screens before sleep disturbs our melatonin release. Strong lights, sounds, or screen before bed are best avoided 90-120 mins before sleep. Artificial light and not honouring our body’s signals, and natural cycles of melatonin and adrenalin, are huge contributing factor. Even excessive screen time exacerbates our woes.
Our present sedentary lives doesn’t allow tension release before sleep.
4. Thinking, “I’m not getting enough sleep.”
Simple Yoga Steps for Better Sleep
First, be happy when you wake up after 6 hours. Don’t fret!
Even if you only sleep 3 or 4 hours and feel you need more rest, just remain in bed, don’t turn the light on. Ignore the ‘I must sleep more’ tune and feel your body breathing and sensations within. The body is in the now, the only place you need to be.
• Breathe soft, slow, belly breaths for about a few minutes. Tell yourself it’s completely natural to wake up and allow yourself to let go of any tension you might be holding onto in your neck, shoulders and back body.
• Do some soft gentle movement of the pelvis and hips with pelvic tilts, until you feel more embodied.
• Roll the shoulders gently, releasing any tension from neck shoulder and head.
• Slowly lift the hips up of the bed coming into a semi-bridge then roll them back down. Do it like waves raising and lowering your body, activates the rest and digest system.
• Allow your body to become soft and heavy and come back to the slow belly breaths for a moment.
• Let the mind become calm.
Let your mind rest in the body, even if you wake up in the middle of the night, don’t worry, or even try to get back to sleep. Just say to yourself you’re ok and restoring by not doing anything. Just be.
By not being active your body, mind and soul are getting the rest and integration they need.
In Yoga Therapy for Better Sleep I teach body awareness and effective, simple yoga practice to ensure a deep letting go of any unconscious holding. You’ll learn to turn off the active Nervous System and move physiology into the restorative, the parasympathetic system. We release excess stress from the back body, which often holds all our unconscious stress of the day, preventing us from going into a deeper state of rest.
When you learn to work in tune with your natural cycle, your body, mind and emotions, you can use Yoga as a tool to regulate and integrate your day, your tensions and even your stress.
In my classes and Courses, I teach you to feel what your body, mind and emotions need, and how to use Yoga’s practices and teachings as tools.
I would love to hear from you.
3. Screens before sleep disturbs melatonin.
It is best to avoid screen at least 2hrs before bed; if you are sensitive. Which most people who develop consciousness, are.
Hi Shira! Thanks for your article! What about screens before sleep but with a night shift? Do you think that it is also a sleep robber?)