Do you have a difficult time falling or staying asleep? You are not alone. Although some call it involuntary, allowing ourselves to experience a restful night’s sleep is perhaps the ultimate form of self-care, and is extremely important for our physical health. When we are asleep, our bodies quickly get to work healing and repairing our heart and blood vessels. As we experience rest, we support healthy brain function, invest in strengthening our memories, and prepare our minds for the day to come. Still not convinced you need to stop binge watching House of Cards and get some shut eye? Consider this: a solid night’s sleep builds immunity, reduces chronic pain, boosts metabolism, and decreases stress, as well as chances of depression, anxiety, and other emotional disturbances. And not for nothing…but according to a poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation, up to 26% of people say that their sex lives tend to suffer because they’re just too tired…You do the math.
To help you experience more restful and serene sleep, here are 7 tips that you can begin to incorporate into your life tonight!
1. Be Conscious of What You Consume
The road to better sleep doesn’t begin when your head hits the pillow. By cutting out the food and beverages that contain high levels of sugar and caffeine, you limit the amount of stimulants in your system, almost assuring a quality night’s sleep. Additionally, you may want to try making dinner your lightest meal of the day, and finish it a few hours before bedtime. Spicy or heavy foods also have the potential to keep you awake with heartburn or indigestion and should be avoided at night. On a similar note, I’m sorry to report that a night cap is not the answer to help you fall asleep. Although alcohol can help you to initially feel drowsy, it ultimately disrupts the pattern of sleep and intercepts the brainwaves that help you feel refreshed in the morning.
2. Design a Schedule and Consistent Routine
Ease into the transition from the waking hours into the night by performing the same set of gentle, soothing, and self-loving tasks each night as part of a ritual or routine that you create for yourself. Doing the same things each night at approximately the same time helps your body know that it’s time to wind down, and over time, helps to regulate your internal clock. Before you know it, you will be falling asleep, resting well, and awaking completely refreshed relying only on your circadian clock!
3. Create a Sleep-Friendly Environment
Make your bed and bedroom as conducive to sleep as possible. Bedeck your bed with soft, inviting sheets, cozy down comforters, and plush pillows to properly support your neck after you zonk out! Invest in a memory foam mattress topper. Create a dark, soothing atmosphere to prevent over stimulating your eyes. Perhaps most importantly, keep stressful items like work, homework, or arguments and negative energy away from your sleeping quarters. Internally, you associate your bed with the things that occur on or near it. Let your bed be a place for rest, relaxation, cuddles, and quiet time.
4. Hit the Off Switch!
A National Sleep Foundation (NSF) survey found that nearly all participants used some type of electronics, like a television, computer, tablet, or cell phone, within the last hour before going to bed. The glowing screens of these devices disturb sleep and obstruct your circadian rhythm by mimicking daylight—especially those in the blue wavelengths. Avoiding these devices boosts the production of melatonin that you need for a good night’s rest. Instead, try being lulled to sleep by the soothing sounds of slow classical tunes, nature sounds, a guided meditation, or a book on tape.
5. Incorporate Light Yoga
Consider adding a gentle yoga routine, ending with a lengthy savasana, as a part of your evening ritual to help soothe your nerves, stretch your tired muscles, and help you quietly recuperate and center after a long day. Although regular workouts (especially cardio) do improve overall sleep quality, make sure that any serious exercising takes place at least 4 hours before you attempt to fall asleep. Try a short and simple routine like this one by the amazing Sun Kissed Yogi to begin with.
Legs up the wall “Waterfall pose”
Find yourself some wall space, scooch your booty as close to the wall as you comfortably can, and prop your legs up onto the wall! Easy peasy! Rest here for several deep breaths.
Rock N’ Roll
While lying on your back, bring your legs into the chest mimicking the look of a ball. Tuck the head toward the knees and rock side to side, and then back and forth until the body rolls up and back down. This easy yoga pose can be done for about a minute and is a great way to massage the spine.
Reclined Goddess Pose
From butterfly pose (soles of the feet together, knees wide) slowly begin to lean backward, bringing your elbows to the floor. Lower the back all the way to the floor. Stay here several minutes. To come out, roll over to your side and sit up, using your hands to support you.
*Beginners: If you are not comfortable reclining to the floor, you may use a bolster, blocks, or several folded blankets to support the spine.
Easy Seat Twist
From Sukhasana (cross-legged seated pose), place your right hand on the floor behind you. Bring your left hand to the outside of your right knee, exhaling as you gently twist to the right. Inhale again as you lengthen your spine, and exhale as you twist deeper. Gaze over your right shoulder. Do not push hard against your knee to force a deeper twist. Stay here for up to 10 breath cycles. Exhale as you come back to the center. Change the cross of your legs and repeat the twist on the opposite side for the same length of time.
Start on all fours in table top pose. Slide the right knee forward toward your right hand. Then, slide your left leg back as far as your hips will allow. Keep your hips square to the floor. If you’re not feeling a deep stretch in your right glute, slide the right foot forward, little by little, toward your left hand. Hold this pose for several minutes before repeating second side for same length of time.
Begin on your hands and knees. Spread your knees wide apart while keeping your big toes touching. Sit up straight and lengthen your spine up through the crown of your head. On an exhalation, bow forward, draping your torso between your thighs. Rest your third eye (space between the brows) gently against the floor, awakening a sense of peace and calm throughout the body. Keep your arms long and extended, palms facing down.
6. Diffuse Sedative Essential Oils
Use a diffuser to fill your room with the relaxing aromas from essential oils. Sedative scents such as Bergamot, Roman or German Chamomile, Lavender, and Ylang Ylang activate the alpha wave activity in your brain, leading to relaxation and improved slumber! Make sure that your diffuser is on a timer, as prolonged exposure to essential oils can cause adverse reactions, especially in certain individuals. Set your diffuser to release scented steam for about 20-30 minutes as you relax into sleep, or allow yourself to sniff 2-4 oil droplets released onto a handkerchief or napkin, on-and-off for approximately 10-15 minutes.
7. Find Peace Through Prayer and Gratitude
As part of your routine, include time for yourself to release the woes and worries of the day up to the Universe through prayer, and to reflect on the blessings you received through moments of gratitude. This is not only a great way to fill the time you otherwise would have spent scouring Facebook or Instagram (helping you to avoid the use of electronic devices!), but is vital for emotional and spiritual health. You build a stronger relationship to Spirit when you surrender stressful thoughts up to your Higher Power, and believe in your heart that you are heard and helped in solving your situations and dilemmas. Equally important, include that which you are grateful for in the day that has passed. Perhaps it was as big as a promotion or raise at work, or as small as a kind smile from a unfamiliar passer-by. Allocating time to recognizing and appreciating your blessings only makes room for more abundance and miracles in your life. Ahhhhh, let it all go and rest easy knowing that you are supported, protected, and blessed!
Carving out time for yourself at the close of each day to center prepare for restful sleep is crucial for your well-being. You are deserving of all things good—including proper sleep and optimal health! Which of these tips will you commit to in order to help you improve your rest?
Which of these tips are you willing to integrate into your routine to help you end your day with serenity and self-care?
Also, thank you to our yogini, Paige!
About Sun Kissed Yogi…
Paige first discovered the emotional healing benefits of yoga after struggling with an eating disorder, anxiety and depression. Searching for a better alternative to medications that she had been using to treat her symptoms, she instead decided to treat the issues that were causing them. While building her inner strength, she noticed her body was getting stronger as well. Paige received her 500-hr teaching certificate from The Southwest Institute of Healing Arts in Tempe, AZ. Paige is currently teaching Yoga and Mindfulness in Los Angeles, California.
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Photo: Sun Kissed Yogi