Yoga for a good night’s sleep

There are so many things that we do in our lives when we try to reclaim our health. We eat better, we juice instead of drinking beer, we have tea instead of wine, we exercise, we do everything right. However, one huge aspect of good health often gets overlooked – sleep.

It’s not a big surprise that it does. Sleep is boring. Sleep is for the weak! Right? Wrong.

I get the sleep sacrifice, I really do, because I am often guilty of it myself. I’m not a morning person so I struggle with getting out of bed during the week when my alarm goes off at 7 am. I wake up for awhile (fresh air while waiting for the bus helps), but then I start dragging again around 3 or 4 pm. On the other hand, once I hit the evening hours I get refreshed and could easily stay up far too late.

There are so many reasons to stay up past a reasonable bedtime. All day I’m busy doing things for other people; at night I can finally do some yoga, watch TV, read a book, hang out with my husband, or even just browse the internet mindlessly. It’s my time, just for me and what I want to do.

There are also many reasons why this isn’t the best idea. Everyone knows that a good sleep is necessary to keep ourselves healthy, happy, and to let our bodies repair themselves while we’re dreaming.

The question is, what do you do when you know you need to sleep, even WANT to sleep, but can’t unwind enough to get there? The other night I went to bed way too late; it was the season finale of The Walking Dead (my favourite show!) and it ran until 11:30 pm my time. After that I wanted to watch the aftershow, The Talking Dead which ran for another hour. By the time I got into bed it was 12:40 am and I had to get up for work at 7.

You’d think it would be fine. I was tired, it was late, no problem. But although I fell asleep immediately, I woke up a little past 1 am and never really got back to any real sleep. Forget TV shows about zombies, by the time I arrived downtown on Monday morning *I* was the walking dead!

I should have been smart enough to remember my own yoga sequence that I recommend to people. Be smarter than me. Try this before bed and see what a difference it makes!

There are other things you can do to ensure a good night’s sleep. You probably already know them but sometimes we all need a reminder.

1. No caffeine in the late afternoon or evening. If you drink coffee, keep it early in the day. Evenings are better suited to decaf or herbal tea.

2. Take it easy on the night caps. It seems like a glass or three of wine or a nice gin and tonic would be the perfect way to unwind, and indeed you may fall asleep quickly when you get into bed. Your body is not resting properly though, it is simply spending extra time processing the alcohol and you will wake up unrested. I’m not saying you can’t enjoy a little adult beverage, just don’t go overboard because it hurts more than it helps (and not just for sleep).

3. No heavy meals in the two hours or so before bedtime. Just like the alcohol in the point above, if you eat something really heavy right before bedtime your body wastes a lot of its sleep time digesting. Again, you will not feel rested in the morning. On the other hand, you don’t want to be lying awake with your stomach growling all night so go ahead and have a snack but keep it light.

4. Beware the blue light of screens! Getting into bed and then scrolling through your Facebook feed on your phone may be counterproductive. Many people are sensitive to the blue light emitted by most devices. I try to read on my Kindle which is not backlit, and if I must look at my phone, I dim the screen. You can also download apps that put a red tint to the screen when activated so that you don’t get all that blue light disrupting your sleep.

5. Don’t over-stimulate. Reading in bed is good and even watching television is okay (though I prefer not to watch TV in bed, I stick to the couch and then go to bed when my show’s over). Some people may have trouble unwinding though, if they watch something too stimulating. Despite my troubles, a show like The Walking Dead doesn’t normally keep me up, but I wouldn’t want to watch the news before bed.

6. Drown out sound. Turn your phone to silent. If you need to keep the ringer on for emergencies (I do) at least turn your notifications to silent. There is no need to be woken up every time someone likes your Facebook status. Also, if noise is an issue, use some white noise to drown it out. I use an old cell phone with a static-y sound that is very soothing to me. I also have earplugs that help when it’s especially loud around me (my bedroom faces a fairly busy street and we got a lot of snow this winter, so I used both the white noise and the earplugs frequently in order to block out the noise of snow plows scraping by.

Do you have any other tips for getting a good night’s sleep? What’s your favourite yoga pose to get yourself ready for bedtime? Let me know how the yoga routine works for you!