More and more people these days seem to suffer from insomnia, either having problems getting to sleep or finding it hard to stay asleep and waking up in the small hours, mind racing and feeling anxious. Millions of people consult their doctor regarding sleep problems and apparently a third of adults in the UK have regular episodes of insomnia.
It also seems to me that we are all going to bed later and later. We’re either on our electronic devices late at night or we’re finding things we have to catch up on after we’ve got back from work or completed other responsibilities. So we are likely to be sleep deprived, which affects our physical and mental well being.
Someone was telling me about a meditation ap she’s using for 10 minutes each night, before going to bed, in the hope it will improve her sleep patterns.
A recent article I was reading gives common sense advice, such as avoiding large meals and caffeine later in the day, as well as screen time before bed, and suggests that a course of CBT can be helpful.
I believe that one of the benefits of Yoga is that it can help to alleviate insomnia. In fact it was one of the first changes I noticed when I started practising yoga and, feeling stressed and an inability to relax, was the main reason I turned to yoga.
The combination of slow stretches; calm, deep breathing and relaxation tends to work well, as it helps you wind down and combats stress – a common factor in sleep disorders.
There are particular yoga practices which can be helpful to do before going to bed such as gentle seated or standing forward bends; ‘Pose of a Child’, which involves sitting back on heels and stretching forward, supporting the head on stacked fists or folded arms; calming breathing practices like ujjayi breath and finishing with a particularly relaxing posture called ‘Legs up the wall’ where you lie on a mat or blanket, legs elevated and supported against the wall, perhaps with a cushion under your head and an eye pillow over your eyes.
“When we flip the legs up, the blood can rush back down to the heart,” says Vyda Bielkus, a yoga teacher and trainer. “It has a soothing quality.”
There is a useful book called’Relax and Renew’ by Judith Lasater which gives you further ideas.
If you have time, you could adopt a short practice before bed. And if you wake up in the night, get out of bed and try doing the ‘Legs up the wall’ pose, breathing calmly; you may find you’re asleep in no time.