That moment when your alarm goes off in the morning, you open your eyes and wonder if you ever fell asleep at all: those mornings are not fun. Whether that happens occasionally, or all the time, I want to help you. As someone who used to struggle with anxiety-induced insomnia, and both a teacher and a student of yoga therapy, I’ve discovered some really accessible tools to help change your sleep, and therefore, change your life.
If you’ve ever had a night where you don’t sleep well, you know at least some of the negative effects that happen in our body and minds when we are sleep deprived, but according to this article from the Cleveland Health Clinic, there are many including:
- Lack of alertness
- Impaired Memory
- Daytime sleepiness
- Relationship stress
- Quality of life
- Higher likelihood of getting into car accidents
According to Dr. Foldvary-Schaefer, a doctor who specializes in sleep, “We need sleep so we can restore nutrients, replenish the spirit and refresh the mind.” Dr. Foldvary-Schaefer continues, “Hidden health hazards accumulate during periods of sleeplessness, and they can’t be covered up with concealer or reversed with caffeine.”
So let’s get into it. There are many therapeutic tools to help improve sleep that I teach my clients as a Yoga Therapist. I want to share three easy tips for getting a good sleep with you, but know that every body is different, and with anything else, sometimes these practices take a little bit of dedication and consistency to learn and truly see the effects from them.
Using Your Breath as a Natural Remedy to Sleep Better
One of the most important things to understand when it comes to sleep is that your body needs a certain amount in order to function properly. Our nervous system cannot function optimally, and therefore our body does not function properly, when we are sleep deprived.
One of my favorite ways to help bring the nervous system into balance is by utilizing your breath. That’s right, you can sleep better by paying attention to and shifting your breath–it really is THAT simple. Our breath is directly connected to our nervous system, so it’s no wonder that the way we breathe can create a certain effect on our bodies. According to CBC, with a slow and steady inhalation and exhalation ratio, we send a signal to our nervous system to calm the body.
Here are a couple different breathing patterns for you to explore that will help you fall asleep more easily and allow you to sleep more soundly. If these breath practices help but you want more support through audio, I have an affordable yoga therapy monthly membership program called Aligned that includes a bunch of different breathing, and sleep specific, practices to help you.
- Pay attention and slow down your breath. It’s nearly as simple as that. Start to notice your breath, and if possible, start to create a more balanced inhalation and exhalation. Let both parts of your breath get longer, slower and more steady.
- Let your exhalation get longer. When we focus on elongating our exhalation, we can send an immediate signal to our body to relax. You can do this by starting to pay attention to your inhale and exhale: notice and count the length of both, then start to slowly let your exhalation get longer, one count at a time. It may take several rounds but see if you can stretch your exhalation so that it becomes double the count of your inhalation.
Give these two exercises a try before you go to bed at night and watch your mind and body start to calm the more you do it.
Legs Up the Wall and Stretching
Another go-to sleep aid is putting my legs up the wall before I go to bed. Sometimes I do this on the ground, and sometimes when I can’t sleep, I turn around on my bed and put my legs up the headboard. Whatever way you choose, this is a really good pose and practice to support better sleep patterns.
For starters, this pose targets your nervous system promoting better sleep. Bonus points by adding in some slow breathing practices to help. In addition, this improves your circulation and it helps to relax the muscles of your back, shoulders, your facial muscles, and your jaw, helping to reduce unnecessary tension in the body.
Try this by sitting on the ground with one of your hips next to a wall or your bed and your legs bent. Slowly start to lower your spine onto the ground as you move your legs up the bed or the wall. If it’s too intense of a stretch, you can move your hips away from the bed or wall and/or start to bend your knees slightly. I recommend staying here for 2-5 minutes at minimum to get the full effects.
If you want to find more poses and practices like this easy one that will help you sleep better, consider joining Aligned Online Membership, an affordable yoga therapy program to help you ditch pain, live without stress and anxiety and feel more awake and alive within your body!
Body Scan and Guided Relaxation to Help You Sleep Better
A guided body scan meditation is one of my all-time favorites for going to sleep, or when I randomly wake up in the middle of the night and can’t fall back asleep. And it’s SO EASY! According to The National Sleep Foundation, 30 to 40 percent of adults have trouble sleeping, and 10 to 15 percent suffer from chronic insomnia. This is the exact reason meditation can be a powerful tool for improving your sleep.
You can do this before, after, in addition to or separate from the previous two practices I shared with you. You can do this seated but I find it most effective when you’re lying down. There are many different ways to practice this doing a body scan guided meditation so explore the practices below and see which one tickles your fancy. If you want to try being guided by someone else’s voice through this, check out the meditations on Aligned Online here.
Before you dive in make sure your body is in a comfortable position, supported, and free from tension. Start by connecting to your breath and closing your eyes if that feels safe. As you bring your awareness to different parts of your body, try to allow your body to find it’s own sense of relaxation, free of the mind’s work. Don’t stress about relaxing each area fully, as simply bringing your awareness to each body part will aid in relaxation.Head to toe. Start from your head and work your way down to your toes.
- Move your awareness from top to bottom of the body, slowly and consciously relaxing different parts of your body, then moving on to the next until you reach your toes. If your mind is still active, you can work your way back up to your head.
- Left to right. Start by naming different parts of your body on the entire left side, then when you are complete, switch to the right side of your body.
- Back to front. You can start by bringing awareness to all of the areas on the back side of your body then slowly move your awareness to the front of your body including the muscles of your face.
My best recommendation is to follow the one that feels most relaxing with the least mental strain. This can take a while to get comfortable with so be patient with the process. If you find that guiding yourself through it does not support relaxation, jump inside Aligned Online Membership and enjoy some guided ones for you.
Sleeping Better Will Change Your Life
When you start to implement these three practices into your daily life, I can promise you that you’ll start to feel a difference. As I talked about earlier, when our nervous system is functioning optimally, the health of our whole body is set up for success. Since all of these practices positively affect your nervous system, you are doing an amazing thing for your WHOLE BODY.
If you’re interested in getting further support and practices that will improve your sleep, and also help you to say goodbye to aches, pain, stress, and bad posture, check out Aligned, my monthly membership program. If you have any questions at all about these practices, don’t hesitate to comment below or drop me an email so we can chat: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cheers to healthy sleep and a happy life!