Sleep is one of the best things you can do for a healthy mind and healthy body. During sleep, your blood pressure drops, your muscles relax, your tissues grow and repair, hormones are regulated and energy is restored. Despite the benefits, many people struggle to get a good night’s sleep. The struggle for sleep comes from bad habits like eating and working late, but much of it comes from chronic stress that builds up over the day. Regulate your stress with the following 8 key habits and you will get the sleep you need and deserve.
1. Practice a few relaxing yoga poses before bed. There are a few qualities of yoga poses that will help you relax. Getting the legs up above the head will allow draining of blood and other by-products of standing. Lying on your back, lift your legs up and lean them against a wall. This “Legs Up the Wall” pose will provide a restful position from which you can then transition to bed.
Another pose is supported Child’s Pose. Using a blanket under the knees and a yoga block under the head, come down to hands and knees and let your hips drop down to your heels. Then walk your arms forward until your head relaxes on the block.
In both of these poses, take 10 deep breaths and then retire to bed.
2. Go to bed and wake up as close to the same time every day. Our lifestyle can make this a real challenge but it should be our goal to hit the sack at the same time each night. Even on the weekends when you’re tempted to sleep in, try to get up around the same time as you do during the week. Your body will get used to the routine and over time, will resist you less when it’s time to sleep.
3. Turn off TV, phone and computer at least half-hour before bedtime. Sleeping with your SmartPhone next to your bed may seem like a good idea, but when you check your email at 2 am and then can’t sleep because you’re obsessing about the content of a message, you’ll realize it was a bad idea. The same holds true for falling asleep to the sounds of the TV. Even if you think gives you a distraction, it still stimulates your nervous system to some degree. The idea is to let your body relax naturally so sleep can take over.
4. Monitor your caffeine and food intake. Generally speaking, decaffeinated drinks are best, but everyone has a different tolerance for caffeine. If you think caffeine is affecting your sleep try eliminating caffeine in the afternoon. Light protein snacks and food that contains tryptophan are good foods to have before bed. Good foods to eat before sleep include bananas, a little protein snack, like almonds, hard boiled eggs, lean meat or cheese.
5. Set up your room and bed to encourage sleep. Just as a clean desk is the sign of a clean mind, a clean bedroom will encourage your mind to relax so you can rest. Dirty clothes on the bed, laptop and cord wrapped up at your feet, an old worn comforter or papers piled on the bedside table all provide distraction and send a message that you really don’t value your sleep all that much. Make your bed as soon as you wake so you’ll have a clean area to return to at night. Take a few minutes to clean up and put away before sleep. This all will help relax your mind so you can rest.
6. Place a notepad on your bedside table for intrusive thoughts that disturb sleep. It’s common to have racing thoughts while meditating as well as starting to fall asleep. Sometimes, it’s hard to let go of these thoughts and fall asleep because we’re afraid we’ll forget that important chore or call to make. Leave a notepad by your bed and write down anything that pops into your mind. You’ll sleep easier knowing you wrote it down for action the next day.
7. Lie with your eyes closed and slowly scan the body to release tension from crown to toes. When you’re in bed on your back, close your eyes and start at the crown of your head as a point of focus. Start to scan your body with your mind, working your way down the front and back, all the way to the toes. If it helps, use a mantra like, “ Releasing tension,” or “Relax and let go.” Even if it’s symbolic, it’s the start of using mindfulness to calm the mind. Try not to get frustrated and judge the process. Just use the process as part of developing a nighttime routine.
8. Say a prayer and/or think of one positive thought from the day. I’ve said the same prayer, in the same sing-song way from when I was three years old. It’s comforting because it reminds me of the happiness of being a kid. If you have a prayer you like to say, use that. If you have a mantra, or saying, that you can adopt, focus on something positive like, “Peace in my body, love in my heart.” Another good habit to develop is to acknowledge yourself for one good thing from the day.
We wish you 20 minutes of mindfulness every day!
By contributing writer, Karen Fabian, Certified Baptiste Yoga teacher, founder, www.barebonesyoga.com.