Research from sleep neuroscientist Professor Jim Horne shows that only three in 10 Irish workers get seven to eight hours sleep a night. According to the National Center for Sleep Disorders Research at the National Institutes of Health in USA, some 30 to 40 percent of adults suffer symptoms of insomnia within a given year. Then add in what we have been experiencing this year!Stress and sleep deprivation are one of the most vicious cycles around. We will often find it difficult to fall asleep due to our worries and stress, and in turn, the next day we will undergo even more stress due to lack of sleep.
If you sometimes suffer from sleeplessness here are some simple strategies that may help. You can try each one on their own or together.
1. Night Time Prep
A bedtime ritual lets your body and mind know that all activity is finished for the day and it’s time for rest. Look at the food you take in at evening time – is it easy to digest?Sensory over stimulation from watching the news before you hit the hay can play on the nervous system. Even watching what thoughts you take in and absorb before you rest. Think about finishing eating two hours before going to bed.Don’t watch the news at 9pm, put aside your mobile (or small computer as I call mine!) or laptop at least a half an hour before getting ready for bedtime. Consider setting the Do Not Disturb function on your phone (they will allow calls etc. from favourites – in fact switch off Social Media notifications altogether!When you get into the bed, take a moment to check in with the body. Invite it to settle and be comfortable. Be warm and cosy. (Warm socks for cold feet have been proven to aid in sleep). Give a little gratitude and thanks that it has gotten you through the day – the same with the breath. Notice and give thanks. This is the precious container that holds you and allows you to experience the world.
2. Stretch, tense/release and calm the body
Rest on your back and give a stretch from head to toe. Stretch and relax the whole body three times.Then stretch out one foot and reach the opposite arm overhead. Gently tense and release the leg and arm muscles three times. Alternate sides. Bring your arms across your body and give yourself a hug. Hold for a couple of seconds and then let go. Repeat 3 times.Give your temples a massage. Circling lightly 3 times in each direction. Yawn three times. Did you yawn reading this? That’s another blog post!
3. Rest and let the earth take the heaviness
Either in bed or on your yoga mat, come into a Child’s Pose with your knees wide apart and forehead resting on your hands. If this is too much in the knees then lift up a little/ high blood pressure – rest head at same level as heart with pillows. Take a long, slow, deep breath in and then as you breathe out release the demands of the day and any heaviness into the earth. Do a couple of times and settle into the pose for at least a minute.
4. Breath awareness and letting go
Lie flat on your belly, rest your head on your hands. Notice where the movement of breath is in the body as you inhale and where it moves as you exhale. Each time you breathe out imagine the body melting a little bit more and settling down. Try this for 10 breaths. Then, gently, roll onto your back. Bring your fingers to the belly, notice again the movement, the rise and fall as you take 10 more breaths. Again with every exhale, let yourself settle and dissolve into the bed or floor. When you have completed this, (if it is comfortable for you) roll onto your right side and rest. You may even float off to sleep.
Consider practising Yoga Nidra with me every Monday live on the Insight Timer app from the comfort of your space (even bed!) at 9.00pm IST Irish Standard Time. This is a super deluxe guided relaxation to help facilitate rest and healing.
If you’ve had sleep problems ongoing for a month or more, it could be more than “just stress”. You may want to contact your Health Professional for advice.