From Aums to ZZZs – How yoga can help improve your sleep
Posted by IYTA Admin, 04-Feb-2019
Do you wake up feeling refreshed and energised? Or are you more likely to want to pull the covers over your face and fall back to sleep?
Sadly in today’s fast paced world many of us are not getting enough good quality sleep. In fact a 2016 report by researchers at the University of Adelaide states that nearly half of Australian adults have two or more sleep problems, like difficulty getting to sleep, difficulty staying sleep or daytime sleepiness or fatigue.
But the good news is – yoga can help! Here’s how and why
- Improve wellbeing: It may sound obvious but it’s good to remember that you sleep better if you enjoygood general health.In fact Dr Carmel Harrington, sleep therapist and Managing Director of Sleep for Health argues that sleep is one of the three pillars of health, the others being food and exercise. Yoga greatly improves our physical, mental and emotional well-being. Better circulation, physical tone and flexibility, nervous system functioning and hormonal balance are among the myriad of benefits of yoga practice.
- Routine and regularity: A yogic lifestyle involves regularityin the day: rising, eating and going to bed at the same time each day. This helps to regulate our sleep-wake cycle. Yoga also encourages mindful eating of fresh seasonal food.
- Keep calm! Yoga can enhance sleep by reducing anxiety and worry. Full slow yoga breathing emphasising a relaxed abdominal movementactivates the parasympathetic nervous system(PNS). This is the part of your autonomic nervous system that calms you down, slows the heart and breathing rate, reduces blood pressure and stimulates peristalsis and bile production for digestion. It is designed to enable the body to digest, assimilate and conserve energy, as well as to promote rest and repair, as opposed to your sympathetic nervous system which prepares you for action and is responsible for your stress response.
- Be a witness not a worrier: Meditation techniques like observing sounds, physical sensations, breath flow and thoughts help to develop the attitude of a witness, so that you are less inclined to identify with these anxiety thoughts and emotions. This self-awareness also allows you to recognise signs of any build- up of physical tension (not a useful sleeping companion!) which you may then alleviate by using breath awareness in that part of the body.
- Try Trataka: This is a classic technique of gazing with soft eyes at an external object like a flower or some simple image. Avoid the traditional candle gazing if you are doing this just before bed, but at other times of the day it’s fine.
PLUS – Check out the next issue of International Light for a Yoga routine and Pranayama practices designed to soothe you to sleep!
Adams, R., Appleton, S., Taylor, S., McEvoy, D. & Antic, N.Report to the Sleep Health Foundation 2016 Sleep Health Survey of Australian Adults.The University of Adelaide & The Adelaide Institute for Sleep Health.