So many of us would like to be able to sleep better, and we often short change ourselves by not getting enough sleep. But it’s really important to put sleep at the top of your priorities. It’s just so important for a healthy and happy life, in fact science has now proved the adequate sleep is vital for many of the body and brains functions. When we don’t sleep well we reduce the body’s innate healing and restoring capabilities.
Preparing the mind and body for sleep is key. So here’s 5 top tips that I have gathered (and personally tried in my quest for sleep) to aid your journey to the land of nod.
1) Turn off the tech Stop all work and screen based activities at least one hour before bed. So sneaking a check of your phone in bed. Science has now proven the blue light emitted by our computers, phones and tablets stimulate our brains and so keeping us awake. That means trying a paper book rather than a kindle in bed is a good option too. Shutting off all screens an hour before bed allows the body to release its natural sleep inducing hormones.
Also giving the mind sufficient time to wind down after work is vital. Otherwise we go to bed wired and wonder why our brain is still in problem solving mode when we are trying to sleep.
2) Take a bath Taking a bath can be a great way to warm and sooth the body before bed, and soak away tension. Adding essential oils such as lavender can be gorgeous, as lavender is deeply relaxing and helps to prepare you for sleep. You can also add a few drops of lavender to your pillow to continue the benefits.
Magnesium can be a great insomniacs tool, it’s know as ‘natures valium’ and you can simply add magnesium-rich Epsom salts (buy from your local chemists) to gain the benefits. Or alternatively buy a Magnesium Oil Spray (such as BetterYou Goodnight Spray).
3) Enjoy a night time drink No not a whiskey before bed (sorry), try instead a soothing and calming chamomile tea. Or there are special ‘sleep tea’ blends available, containing ingredients like lavender, chinese red tea, chamomile and rose (try yourtea.com) If you really struggle sleeping don’t drink caffeine after lunchtime (or at all), and no dark chocolate in the evening either (sorry).
4) Do a Body Scan Once you get into bed (after turning off the tech, taking a bath and having a brew!) you can try a really simple body scan exercise. Lie on your back in a comfortable way, close your eyes and start to bring your awareness to each part of your body in turn. Starting from the crown of your head and pausing to check what you feel there, and slowly moving your attention all the way down through your body, finishing with your toes. It gives your mind a focus so it doesn’t get drawn back into your thoughts and the busyness of your day, and it’s deeply relaxing for the body.
You can try a recorded guided body scan I’ve recorded (sometimes when you start with this technique it's easier to be guided through it) http://www.yogaformodernlife.com/audio-downloads/ You can listen via the link, or download it for free.
5) Try Breath counting Counting the breath backwards is one of my favourite (and most often employed) techniques for getting to sleep / back to sleep. I first learned this practice from Erich Schiffman wonderful book “Yoga - The Spirit & Practice of Moving into Stillness.” You can also use it if you wake in the night and need to get back to sleep. I found it especially useful when I had small (and not so small) waking babies constantly breaking my sleep (and my sanity!).
You simply count backward from fifty to zero, synchronizing the counting with your breathing. You'll count the even numbers as you exhale and the odd numbers as you inhale. Lie comfortably in bed, and begin by breathing in gently and fully. As you exhale, mentally say "50." As you breathe in again, mentally say "49," exhale "48," inhale "47," exhale "46" ... and so on. Then when you reach "20," count only on the exhales. Silently count "20" as you exhale. Then, instead of counting "19" on the in-breath, do nothing, just inhale. With the next exhalation count "19" ... and so on until you reach zero.
When you reach zero, stop counting, but stay aware of the natural flow of breath in exactly the same way as when you were counting. In all likelihood you’ll be asleep before you reach zero but if not, or if you loose your place, simply start again at 50. As you do this exercise breathe normally, do not control the breath in any way. Allow it to flow freely in and out at its own natural pace, yet softly stay aware of the breath.. There should be no strain in your breathing as you do this. Keep it soft and easy.
I hope these tips help you in your quest for sleep. If you would like any more yoga postures to practice before bed, check out the blog post http://www.yogaformodernlife.com/blog/yogaforsleep