There are many benefits to a regular yoga practice, and getting better sleep is one of them. Let’s take a deep dive into the ways that a regular yoga practice can help an individual get better sleep.
Why do we desire or why should we desire getting optimal sleep?
Being awake is catabolic, meaning it breaks you down. Being asleep is anabolic, meaning it builds you up. Basically, sleep rebuilds you and keeps you youthful. When we become sleep deprived, there is a reduction in glucose to the brain. The brain needs glucose to function. This reduction in glucose leads to poor decision making and can compromise our quality of work. We start to crave sweets and starchy foods because the body is trying to get glucose to the brain ASAP.
Tip #1: Know the value of your sleep. “Sleep is a natural state your body requires to boost your hormone function; heal your muscles, tissues and organs; protect you from diseases; and make your mind work at its optimal level.” (Sleep Smarter, Shawn Stevenson).
Tip #2: Re-frame your idea of sleep. Instead of seeing sleep as an obstacle, something you have to do (or that you will catch up on when you’re dead), start seeing it as a special treat- something you get to do. Let go of any stress surrounding sleep and allow yourself to enjoy it.
This is where the practice of yoga comes into play. Sleep is a function
of the Parasympathetic Nervous System, also known as rest and digest mode. When we are stressed our Sympathetic Nervous System, or fight or flight mode, is activated. In our modern lives ,we tend to be in a chronic low grade state of fight or flight, triggering the stress cycle to start. With your yoga practice, practice on the mat is practice for real life off the mat. Your yoga practice helps you learn to come back to the rest and digest mode quicker, thus helping your body know how to get to the proper state for optimal sleep.
Tip #3: Practice acceptance. In yoga, we practice accepting the present moment, and accepting the state of our body as it is in that present moment. If you are having trouble sleeping, accept in the present moment that you are awake. By this acceptance of being awake, it helps to relieve the stress of not being able to sleep. Enjoy the time being awake as quiet “me time” rather than feeling angry about not sleeping.
Tip #4: Practice Savasana (sha-VAH-suh-nuh) daily. Savasana is the practice of not doing, and just being. It is a practice of surrender. Falling asleep is total surrender. Savasana is usually practiced at the end of a yoga class, but it can also be practiced any time of the day when you need a rest. Practicing Savasana also serves as a reminder that you are capable of surrender.
I hope these tips help you to get a better night’s sleep! I have experienced huge benefits in my health since adopting these practices, and it is my desire for you to experience better health as well.
Nadine Corda, RYT200 Yoga Instructor
Sleep Smarter, Shawn Stevenson
YogaMotion Life Enrichment and Teacher Training, Nancy Ruby