I’m really looking forward to running my one day “Sleep Better With Yoga” workshop on Saturday February 22nd 2020 – nr Cheddar, Somerset. From personal experience I know that gentle yoga, pranayama (yoga breathing) and tips from Ayurveda work – so come and join us! See HERE for full details/booking.
Some years ago, when I was extremely ill with ME/CFS (chronic fatigue syndrome), my sleep was pretty non-existent. With a nervous system stuck on “hypervigilant”, and an immune system way below par, I would crawl into bed at night and pray for sleep…at most I probably got around 2 hours a night, for months on end. It felt as though my fingers were plugged into an electrical socket – I was totally “wired”.
So I know first hand what a waking nightmare lack of sleep can be. Exhausted, brain fog, irritability, snapping, depressed, eating for “energy”, tea or coffee to keep you upright, immune system depletion, hormones out of whack…it can be hellish.
Whilst my experience was due to an extreme health challenge, many people experience sleep disruption or insomnia for a multitude of reasons; anxiety, stress, depression, a build up of tension in the mind (and therefore the body) during the day/weeks, unconsciously held issues (past or present that are suppressed), hormone imbalance, alcohol (a common misconception that it helps you sleep), diet, or other imbalances.
In the western world sleeping tablets can be a life-saver – but can also be addictive and leave you feeling drugged in the morning. So what drug-free options are there?
- Gentle, restorative yoga both before bed and/or during the day soothes the nervous system and calms the mind. It switches off the sympathetic nervous system ( the active part) and switches on the parasympathetic nervous system (think parachute – slowing down). A favourite posture is “feet up the wall” – scoot yourself alongside a wall and turn so your rest your legs up the wall – knees bent or straight depending on your flexibility. Hands on your tummy or alongside the body – 5 minutes, doing nothing but following your breath…it is soooo calming.!
- Yoga breathing – Pranayama – offers multiple ways of improving and changing our breathing to not only calm the mind, but to bring balance to our many internal systems. A simple technique is to make the exhale slightly longer than your inhale (i.e. inhale for a count of 4 exhale for 6) – calms the nervous system. Here’s another way
- Diet – different things suit different people and Ayurveda, the sister science to yoga, offers individualised suggestions about what you eat to bring balance to your body-mind. Warm milk at bedtime (cows or almond) with a pinch of nutmeg is said to soothe your system. Eating your main meal (higher in protein) in the middle of the day when your digestive “fire” is stronger means there’s less for your digestion to do at night. Equally, eat an earlier, lighter dinner by 6pm also rests your system.
- Sleep Hygiene – Setting yourself up for a good night’s sleep doesn’t begin 10 minutes before lights out. Wind down time is important to switch from an active mind to one ready for good quality sleep. Turn the TV off (record things to watch the next day), get off your screens (phone, tablet, computer) and it is suggested no caffeine after 4pm (!)
- Meditation – Whilst Mindfulness is very much a popular choice – Transcendental Meditation is also excellent (working with a silent mantra or sound). In its true form meditation is being in the present moment with “what is” – not clinging on to the “good” nor rejecting the “bad”. It’s an excellent practice in whatever form you choose and re-trains the brain to let go of things rather than the constant “story telling” we all engage in. Perfect for beginner’s is my Path To Calm meditation MP3.
- Alternative medicine – working with a trained practitioner, herbs, homeopathy, acupuncture, talking therapies, or a 1-2-1 yoga or shiatsu therapist are all popular options to consider.
“Don’t suffer in silence…”
Sometimes you have to look and think “outside the box” to get the answers you need; when struggling with ME/CFS I certainly did! Gentle yoga and Ayurveda supported me – ancient philosophies for 21st century living. The Better Sleep workshop details are HERE
Sarena specialises in gentle, holistic yoga (courses, workshops and 1-2-1), positive psychology & resilience well-being coaching, and is a cross-cultural music and sound therapist.