YOGA FOR SLEEP
Battling to shut down your mind and get some much-needed sleep? These yoga moves will help to relax your body and mind – and you can even do them in bed.
If sleep is currently not your friend, perhaps you need to look at how your daytime activities are affecting your night time shutdown. The US National Sleep Foundation (www.sleepfoundation.org) warns that while not all insomnia is linked to stress, those who are under considerable stress can experience insomnia. The good news is that if your lack of sleep is due to stress, alleviating the stress should help to combat the insomnia. Dr Neil Kavey, director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Columbia University Medical Center in the US, in a report written for the National Sleep Foundation, comments that stress not only makes it difficult for you to fall asleep and stay asleep, but also affects the quality of the sleep you do get.
“Stress causes hyperarousal, which can upset the balance between sleep and wakefulness,” he says. The first thing you have to ask yourself is: When did this sleeplessness start? Do your bouts of insomnia come and go with the occurrence and disappearance of stress, or they do persist? Are they situational? Are you frequently anxious (whether or not you are facing unusually stressful time periods)? Is it hard for you to wind down at the end of the day, or to shut off from work? Are you frequently frustrated and infuriated? Do you feel sad, blue or depressed? Are you worried about something in particular, be it work, finances or family? If stress is affecting your sleep (and, by proxy, your waking hours as well), you are not alone. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, seven out of 10 adults report that they experience stress or anxiety on a daily basis, and most say this interferes with their lives. Seven out of 10 of those who experience stress on a daily basis also report that they have trouble sleeping.
Those with a stress-induced sleep concern say they experience bouts of insomnia at least once a week, with more than half of those surveyed reporting that they experience this up to several times a week. Three-quarters of those whose sleep is affected by stress or anxiety also report that their lack of sleep has increased their daytime anxiety; 54% say this stress increases their anxiety about falling asleep; and 52% of men and 42% of women report that this affected their ability to remain focused the following day.
BY THE NUMBERS
According to the Stress and Anxiety Disorders Survey, commissioned by the Anxiety Disorders Association of America:
The number of hours on average an adult sleeps per night.
8 OUT OF 10
The number of adults who have some form of sleep difficulty.
61% OF WOMEN & 45% OF MEN wake not feeling rested or refreshed.
57% OF WOMEN & 38% OF MEN have trouble falling asleep.
The average number of working days missed per year due to sleep-related problems.
The number of adults who have not told their employers the real reason for missing work.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOUR BRAIN DOESN’T SLEEP:
Loss of memories: The hippocampus, found in your temporal lobe, displays a distinct pattern of activity when your brain learns new information. Researchers believe that your brain later “replays” this activity pattern when you are sleeping as a way of “saving” these memories. Loss of sleep means these long-term memories are also lost.
Create false memories: Worse than losing your memories, your sleep-deprived brain may create false memories. Due to altered function in your hippocampus, prefrontal cortex and parietal lobe regions, you may misremember certain events or situations observed after a night without sleep.
Increase in anger: Sleep deprivation means that you are more likely to focus on negative experiences, misinterpret facial expressions and be argumentative.
Slurred speech: The temporal lobe, associated with language processing, is active in those who are well rested, but inactive in those who are tired.
Risky behaviour: Those who are lacking sleep are more likely to make impulsive decisions or embark on risky behaviour, and are less likely to care about the outcomes.
Impaired thinking: A lack of sleep means your brain doesn’t process information the way it should, which in turn can result in a lack of focus or concentration, strained cognitive functioning, or even hallucinations.
TIME TO RELAX
The good news is that you can quieten your mind, relax and get a good night’s sleep. Edward Vilga, a yogi with over 30 years’ experience, and the author of Yoga in Bed: 20 Asanas To Do in Pajamas, and his latest work, Downward Dog (www. www.edwardvilga.com), shares this eight-minute yoga relaxation to relieve tension and ease into a good night’s sleep.
*Sit facing a wall (or your headboard), with your bottom about six inches away from it.
*Lie back and extend your legs up the wall.
*If this is too intense a stretch for your hamstrings, slide your butt farther away from the wall.
*If it’s not enough, shift closer.
*Let your arms rest at your sides, palms facing up, and breathe gently, feeling the stretch in the back of your legs.
WINDING DOWN TWIST
*Sit cross-legged on the bed and exhale as you place your right hand on your left knee and left hand on the bed behind your tailbone.
*Gently twist your torso to the left.
*Allow your gaze to follow, looking over your left shoulder. Breathe deeply, then return to centre and repeat on the opposite side.
NIGHTTIME GODDESS STRETCH
* Lie on your back with your knees bent.
* Place the soles of your feet together, then let your knees fall open, forming a diamond shape with your legs.
*Rest your arms on the bed.
*If you feel any strain, elevate your legs by placing a pillow underneath each knee.
*Sit up comfortably on your heels.
* Roll your torso forward, bringing your forehead to rest on the bed in front of you.
*Lower your chest as close to your knees as you comfortably can, extending your arms in front of you.
* Hold the pose and breathe.
* Lying on your back, hug knees in to your chest.
*Cross your ankles and wrap both arms around your shins with clasped hands.
* Inhale and rock your body up to sit; exhale as you roll back.
*Continue for one minute, then roll back, extend arms and legs, and drift off to sleep.