As a yoga teacher who only occasionally suffers from insomnia, I’ve studied its causes over the years anyway. Why? Mainly because a dear friend of mine suffers from chronic insomnia and over time I’ve noticed what he does and doesn’t do. And pretty much he does all the “wrong” things, the things scientists and my own yoga/health studies tell me cause the problem! But with some awareness of our “sleep hygiene” (as scientists are now calling it,) you can have an impact on this potentially serious condition.
You may have heard about the negative health effects of long-term insomnia. So lets look at some habits that could be making it hard for you to get to sleep.
A key reason for insomnia when looked at from a holistic perspective is: over-stimulation of the nervous system. Basically if the body cannot shut off the “flight or fight” mode in the nervous system then sleep will be elusive.
Again these may seem simple but you may be surprised at the cumulative effects of simple habits.
- Darkness: are there lights on in your bedroom, while you sleep? Lights from electronic devices, clocks, music players etc. Many people have an alarm clock right by their head that glows all night. Also relates to problem #3.
- Cover lights being emitted by devices before bed. I put little folder cards over lights and buttons.
- Close blinds
- Noise: are you watching that action, sci-fi film loudly close to bedtime? The nervous system relaxes when it’s quiet. Watching violent or action films close to bedtime can subtly trigger our nervous system.
- Turn of loud audio/visuals at least 1 hour before bed.
- Have a routine that is calming.
- Make bedroom as quiet as possible. Consider a white noise machine.
- Stimulation: scientists are now finding that reading from light emitting devices like e-readers, computers and phones delay falling asleep; and you wake up feeling less rested. The eyes of course are directly tied into our brains and glands that sense light. Evolutionarily we are meant to sleep when it’s dark.
- Stop reading from computer or electronic devices at least 2 hours before bed.
- Read an old fashioned (paper) book
- Food: Do you eat late at night? If your body is digesting food it interferes with getting deep, restorative sleep.
- Try to have your last meal a few hours before bed.
- Or have something you digest easily, I find a simple fruit does the trick, especially a banana. Something that is light and just satisfies hunger but not beyond.
- Physical Tension: Since you are a reader of this blog, you may already practice yoga. Do 1 or 2 simple forward folding postures-which are said to calm the nervous system. Poses like a seated forward bend or child’s pose. And hold it for 5-10 deep breaths.
My friend does in fact do every one of these no-no’s. What about you?
Pick just one of these suggestions and build a new habit to improve your sleep hygiene, and you will see an improvement over time. Sweet dreams.
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