Between a third to almost a half of 18-65 year-old Americans fall asleep unintentionally during the day. Just ponder that for a moment. As many as 45% of American fall asleep BY MISTAKE every day. Think about those people who are driving buses, trucks or trains; or are looking after your loved ones in hospitals, daycares, schools. Scary right?
So, you go to your Doctor for help. 75% of Doctor visits end up with drug therapy. Here – take some medicine to deal with this symptom. I seriously considered this approach when my now 8 year-old son was diagnosed with cancer as a 2 year-old. And again when my marriage started falling apart. And again when my beloved cousin was diagnosed and ultimately died of leukemia. But I decided that as a healthy woman in my 30s, I did not want to start a sleeping pill habit. So, I turned to yoga & meditation. Here’s what I found worked for me.
Sleep hygiene: these are the habits and practices that you can cultivate to sleep better. This is where you should start. Avoid caffeine after noon. Finish eating by 7pm, so your body is not trying to digest food as you sleep. Refrain from stimulating activities such as TV, vigorous exercise, computers/smart phones after 7pm so that the hormone Melatonin (which regulates your sleep/wake cycle) can be produced without interference from the blue lights from technology. Take a shower or warm bath – as the body cools, sleep is induced. Get into some stretchy pajamas, dim the lights and get comfortable!
1) The 4th Limb of Yoga (there are 8): Pranayama or Breath Practice!
Sit with legs crossed on the floor, or in a chair with your feet on the floor. Inhale the breath from your pelvic floor to your crown, exhale from crown to pelvic floor, repeating this inhale up the spine, exhale down the spine 4 or 5 times. Then inhale up the left side of the spine (about 1 inch to the left, inside the body) noticing the organs you pass (digestive organs, reproductive organs, heart, left lung and so on), exhale the breath down the whole right side of the body, extending out about 2 feet. Inhale up the right side of the body, noticing the inner organs you pass with your attention, exhale the breath like rain down the left side of the body. Repeat 4 or 5 times. Inhale up the center of the spine, exhale breath, like rain down over the whole body surrounding about 2 feet, like a cocoon. Inhale from the heavens to the pelvic floor down the spine and exhale the breath cocooning the whole body from lower to upper body. And then let the breath return to normal.
2) The 8th Limb of Yoga: Dhyana or Meditation
Sit with legs crossed on the floor, or sitting in a chair with your feet on the floor. Drop your gaze and focus on the inhale and exhale. As thoughts pop into your mind, label them thinking and gently let them go, coming back to the inhale and exhale. Time yourself for 5 mins. Then say out loud 3 things that you are grateful for (it will make you happier and you will treat those you live with better!)
3) The 3rd Limb of Yoga: Asanas or Poses
Sitting down, roll your head, left to right, right to left; then chin to chest right to left, left to right.
Scrunch your shoulders up by your ears, relax them down, roll them forward and backward.
Interlace hands and reach palms to sky; change interlace to opposite thumb on top; keep shoulders soft as you reach up
Garudasana arms: Bend your elbows, left elbow under right, winding forearms to that backs of hands touching, or maybe palms touch. Repeat other side, with right elbow under left.
Gomukhasana arms: Inhale your right arm up, palm facing back, bend the elbow and pat yourself on the back. Extend left arm out to the side, spin your thumb down, bend the elbow and walk the left hand up the back towards the righ fingers, connecting them if they can. Repeat on the other side.
Lie on your back. Hug your knees into your chest, drop your knees to the right, turn your gaze to the left. Other side.
If you’re still not feeling totally chilled out and ready for some deep sleep now, you can listen to my Yoga Nidra podcast and read about Yoga Nidra here.
And in the morning, don’t be tempted to hit that snooze button! Research shows that you will find the day harder to start and you will be less efficient!
©Tamsin Astor-Jack, Yoga Brained LLC