Sleep quality is something we all need to examine in our lives. Well rested people are often happier, healthier, more flexible (in their mindset), relaxed and focused. We all want more of those things! Whether you have unexplained insomnia or just the occasional sleepless night triggered by yet another stressful day, we all know what the next day feels like. You’re lethargic, on edge and everything around you pays the price. Your work, your family and friends, they are all effected because you sometimes snap at them for no apparent reason. (I’m sorry to everyone who has suffered from my wrath after a sleepless night!)
Sleep disorders are tricky because there are so many variables that can affect a restless night. Was it diet related? Did you work out too close to bedtime? Are you over-exhausted? Are you too worried about something and can’t get your brain to stop thinking and let it go? Even if you can’t pinpoint the exact cause, there are ways to help shake that restless mind & body and finally fall into the deep sleep your body craves.
How Lack of Sleep affects the Brain
Sleep plays a critical role in alertness, concentration, reasoning, memory, judgement and problem solving. A 2010 study, by the UCSD School of Medicine and the Veterans Affairs Healthcare System in San Diego, used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) technology to monitor activity in the brains of sleep-deprived subjects performing simple verbal learning tasks. They found that the prefrontal cortex of the brain, where we process memory and logical reasoning, was more active in the sleep deprived subjects than in non-sleep deprived subjects. They interpreted this difference by indicating that the brain of a sleep deprived person had to work harder than their well rested, peers. The study goes on to point out how all parts of the brain don’t work as efficiently without sleep, but it’s not the only organ who suffers when we don’t sleep. “We know that a lack of sleep can lead to all kinds of problems,” explains Dr. Neal Maru, a neurologist and sleep specialist with Integrated Sleep Services in Alexandria, VA. “Poor sleep can affect our immune systems, our cardiovascular health, hormone stability, weight and, of course, memories.”
How to get Quality Sleep
So now that we understand a bit about what happens to our bodies if we don’t sleep well, I want to share some of my favorite remedies to help you get the sleep your body needs in order to function the way it’s supposed to. The key is to calm the central nervous system which means relaxing your mind and your body, so go through these tips and try each one till you find what really works for you. Remember that regular exercise is one of the best ways to regulate sleep and improve the quality, I see it happen all the time with my clients! So if you’re not exercising regularly than add in 30min of movement daily. It should help! Good Luck!
8 Night-time Rituals for Quality Sleep
1. Stop eating 2-3hrs before bed
2. Drink caffeine free, herbal teas to ease late night cravings and to calm down
3. Soak in an epsom salt bath for 15min to relieve muscle tension
4. Drizzle lavender oil on pillow or use topically
5. Turn off electronics about an hour before bed
6. Do night-time yoga, while thinking of what your grateful for during that day
7. Practice breathing technique
8. Read or write in a journal, in bed about 15-20min before you want to be asleep
Night Time Yoga
Your goal while doing night-time yoga is to fully relax. This sequence is full of gentle, basic postures. The flow should be slow-paced, filled with deep breathing and finished with seated meditation or Corpse pose.
sit on heels, palms up, close eyes and breathe
6 count breathe in through nose…
3 count hold…
8 count exhale through back of throat
Inversions reverse blood flow through the body, helping to bring new vitality and relax you before going to sleep. *inversions, like Wheel and Plow pose, are good for more advanced practitioners who can get into them easily
Bridge & Wheel
Beginners, do Bridge before advancing to Wheel.
Bridge opens the chest so the lungs can function better, it stretches the muscles of the chest, belly, hips and legs, while engaging & strengthening the muscles on the back body. Wheel stretches the organs in the belly, stimulating circulation and increasing the functioning of the organs. It also massages the kidneys and stimulates the adrenal glands, which make us feel more energized and alive.
Plow is an effective, therapeutic, power house of a pose that can relieve and remedy chronic back pain, digestive dysfunctions, hormonal disorders, headaches, stress while offering relief to those who suffer from asthma, coughs and colds as the accumulation of phlegm and mucus in the sinuses and respiratory system is alleviated and flushed from the lungs.
The spine and shoulders are actively stretched while the back muscles, hamstrings and abdomen are strengthened. It also releases tension often held in the neck and throat.
*Halasana should be approached and carried out with care, especially if you are or suffering from existing ailments that correspond with the targeted therapeutic body parts, glands and systems. Halasana should be avoided if you suffer from neck or disc problems, high blood pressure, an enlarged thyroid, liver or spleen, and women who are menstruating or are pregnant should avoid Halasana all together.
Hip & Hamstring Opening Sequence
Since most of us have tight hips and hamstrings I decided to add this bonus sequence. Relieving the tension we create and store in our hips can make you feel so relaxed. Sometimes I only do this sequence before bed since I, like most people, need relief in my hips and back of the legs more than any other area on my body.
And don’t forget how a quality mattress will affect your sleep. Casper Mattresses are top rated and high-tech so if you’re in the market for a new mattress check them out!
references: cnnhealth.com, nih.com, bed time story by:Dr. John M Berardi, Ph.D.