In a recent poll I took on my instagram page, I discovered that 85% of respondents were having issues with their sleep. We all know how important sleep is for the rest and repair of our body, mind and soul. Performance athletes have their rest periods built into their working days and depend on this period to rebuild and prepare for their training ahead. Yet for the average person, we don't always give it the time and respect it needs and deserves.
Insta scrolling in bed…..check!
When our sleep is off, it can make daily life really difficult. Here are some resources that can help to ensure that you get a good and beautiful night’s sleep. These have really helped me during nights of insomnia and disturbed sleep.
Yoga nidra or yogic sleep is a state of consciousness between waking and sleeping. During yoga nidra practice you are prompted to feel your body and your breath using a specific technique that takes you out of “fight-flight-freeze” state and triggers a relaxation response.
in the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system. This shift to restful mode in turn aligns the activity of your right and left brain hemispheres. In the process, your brain shifts from beta brain waves (state of awakening with lots of brain activity), to alpha brain waves (a more relaxed state which is associated with sitting in a relaxed position with eyes closed and visual channel disconnected.)
In alpha, the mood-enhancing hormone serotonin gets released, and brings about a feeling of calm. As you move into alpha-state, you are slowing down the brain activity and beginning to shift into a state of rest.
From alpha, you continue to transition into a deep alpha and theta brain-wave state, which is also referred to as “the dream state”, or REM state. Your thoughts slow down even more. Here, you are more likely to experience an enhanced learning process and this is the state where we process our emotions, and release the ones that no longer serve us. This state is associated with hearing sounds or seeing images – just like you do when you are dreaming.
After theta, you dive into blissful delta brain wave state. Your thoughts continue to slow down. This is the most restorative and restful state, in which your organs regenerate and the body metabolises cortisol – the stress hormone, and moves it out of your system.
Sadly, very few of us get enough delta-quality rest on a regular basis, which means we are not allowing our bodies, brains and vital organs to regenerate fully. This is why adding yoga nidra to your menu of self-care practices is so important. It really is a beautiful way to wind down and get the body and mind ready for sleep by bringing it into a deeply restful state.
Check out this selection of yoga nidra from the Yoga Nidra international network.
In a report by’ Psychology Today’, magnesium is described as the ‘original chill pill’, helping de-stress the mind and body. Magnesium can suppress the ability of the hippocampus to stimulate the ultimate release of stress hormone, it can reduce the release of ACTH (the hormone that tells your adrenal glands to pump out cortisol and adrenaline), and it can reduce the responsiveness of the adrenal glands to ACTH. In addition, magnesium can act at the blood-brain barrier to prevent the entrance of stress hormones into the brain. This soothing effect ultimately leads to a sense of zen, which can then translate into a good night’s sleep.
Try some magnesium salts in your bath at night or if you don't have a bath, try some in a bowl of water and soak your feet in it for 15 minutes before bed.
Good Sleep Hygiene
The importance of the basics like :
not going on screens two hours before bedtime,
not drinking caffeine after 6pm
Set your phone for "Night Shift" from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. The Night Shift function alters the colors of the phone's display to the warmer end of the color spectrum, so you're exposed to less blue light that way.
Avoid large meals two hours before bedtime
Set up your sleep space for sleep, ideally in a cool, quiet and darkened room
Declutter the junk.
Change your bed sheets regularly and invest in decent, breathable bed linen.
Some forms of breathwork are great for calming the mind and body before bed. I have included links for two of these below. Please do read the contra indications before you practice and get in touch if you have any questions regarding the technique for either of these pranayama.