If you’ve ever had one of those nights when you just can’t fall asleep, you’ll appreciate how frustrating and exhausting insomnia can be. I count myself lucky that those times are few and far between but, for some, it’s a nightly battle.
There are many causes of insomnia. Unsurprisingly, stress is one of the main culprits but a multitude of other factors can influence whether or not you get a good night’s sleep: diet, exercise (or lack of), overstimulation (caffeine, alcohol, technology), hormones, moon phases, seasonal shifts can all play a part.
Fortunately, there are many methods of combating sleeplessness that don’t involve drugs, including practising Yoga. Here are just a few of the ways Yoga can help to promote better sleep:
- The regular practice of asana, pranayama and meditation can change the way we deal with stress. Through our Yoga practice we can learn new methods of coping with feelings of overwhelm, negativity and mind chatter, making it easier to drop off at night.
- Expending energy through an asana practice is a healthy way to reduce feelings of restlessness, encouraging calmness in both body and mind and ensuring you’re ready for a good night’s sleep.
- Slower, more passive, practices such as Yin and Restorative Yoga can be especially helpful during periods of insomnia as they soothe the nervous system and encourage relaxation.
Supported Savasana is one of my favourite Restorative Yoga postures and is brilliant if you’re having trouble sleeping. Practise just before bed to bring your para-sympathetic nervous system into dominance and ensure a restful night’s slumber:
- Come to lie down on your back with a bolster or bed pillow(s) under your knees. You may want to support your ankles with a rolled blanket or towel. Place a folded blanket under your head and a blanket over your body - it’s important you’re warm and comfortable.
- Dim the lights, better still, light some candles and if you have an oil burner add some lavender oil (seek advice on using essential oils if pregnant). Make sure you can be undisturbed.
- If you have an eye pillow, place this on your forehead to help quieten your mind.
- Allow your breath to be natural and your body to soften. Notice your thoughts but try not to get caught up in them. When this happens (as it will!) come back to the breath.
- Stay for at least 20 minutes if you can.
- After your practice: avoid caffeine, instead try this Golden Milk recipe which aids relaxation and also boosts the immune system; don’t be tempted to turn on the TV or laptop. Instead, leave the tech in another room and snuggle up in bed.
- Sleep tight!
By Katie Phelps
Katie teaches Vinyasa and Restorative Yoga at YogaVenue. She also has an upcoming workshop on Yoga for Better Sleep on Saturday 18th March - click here for more information and to reserve a space.