Improve Your Sleep with Yoga and Lifestyle Suggestions

sleep-enhancing yoga and lifestyle suggestions

If you are having trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up feeling as energized as you would like, Emma has some easy yoga and lifestyle recommendations that she would like to share with you.

How have you been sleeping? According to the findings of recent studies, a significant number of individuals in the UK obtain fewer hours of sleep per night than the 7–9 hours that are advised for adults.

Some people are able to function on less than five hours of sleep each night.

Studies have shown that the average amount of time individuals spend sleeping in the United States is around seven hours, while other studies indicate that those who get the most sleep reside in Finland and the Netherlands.

One thing is certain, regardless of where on the globe you call home: the quality of your sleep is probably not as excellent as it might be.

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Find out how to make small adjustments now that will enhance your sleep tonight, including how to fall asleep more quickly, increase the quality of your deep sleep, and use the finest yoga and pranayama techniques to quiet your nervous system and optimize the amount of time you spend sleeping.

What Exactly is Sleep & Why is it so Vital to Our Daily Lives?

For a very long time, people believed that while you were asleep, your brain and body were in a state of suspended animation in which very little activity took place.

However, more recent studies have shown that when we are sleeping, some regions of the brain are really up to thirty percent more active than they are while we are awake.

Our slumber is broken up into four distinct phases, each of which is around 90 minutes long and will be discussed in more detail in the next paragraph.

It is still a little bit of a mystery as to why exactly we sleep; nonetheless, there are critical activities that take place when we are sleeping that are required in order for us to live and develop, and the following is a list of some of those processes:

During the second stage of deep sleep, the brain absorbs new information and reinforces previously stored memories.

A significant amount of growth hormone is secreted by the brain during the third stage of sleep, which is referred to as “deep sleep.”

It is important to do this in order to repair and build the muscles and tissues of the body, to maintain a strong immune system, and to ensure that the brain is healthy.

When a person is in a deep slumber, both their breathing and their heart rate drop. This affords the blood vessels and the heart the chance to recuperate from the activity of the previous day.

The level of brain activity rises even more during the fourth stage of the sleep cycle. It is believed that neuroplasticity and learning capacity are vital throughout this period of development.

The glymphatic system sweeps through the brain when we are asleep in order to remove old, damaged cells as well as debris that has accumulated there.

This is now widely recognized as a significant contributor to the overall success of Alzheimer’s disease prevention efforts.

When we are sleeping, crucial hormones are produced that affect how we feel when we are awake. These hormones are responsible for regulating our emotions.

The stress hormone cortisol drops, which contributes to the neurological system being more tranquil. Leptin and ghrelin are two hormones that help manage hunger and fullness signals.

When these hormones are rebalanced, it helps reduce cravings for unhealthy foods the following day.

What Occurs When we Have Bad Sleep?

It should come as no surprise that a lot goes on when we’re resting our bodies in bed. Therefore, if we don’t receive the required amount or quality of sleep, everything else in our lives will suffer as a result.

The importance of sleep for our health and wellness cannot be overstated. When this is disturbed, it may create major problems such as the following:

  • Mood swings
  • Uneven levels of blood sugar
  • Sugar cravings
  • Poor health of the immune system
  • A higher possibility of harming oneself while exercising; becoming overweight; developing cardiovascular disease; suffering from depression; and developing Alzheimer’s.
  • Reduced ability to cope with stress
  • Lack of concentration and attention
  • Injury recovery time is lengthened.

Thankfully, one of the methods that can assist in reducing and even reversing many of these difficulties is to improve the quality of sleep you get.

You may do wonders for not just your health when you’re sleeping, but also for your health in general by using some of the techniques that are listed below.

The Four Stages of Sleep

As was just discussed, the total amount of time spent in each of sleep’s four phases totals somewhere around an hour and a half. One can refer to this as a “sleep cycle.”

During the course of a single night, we go through a number of different stages of the sleep cycle.

It is possible that your body hasn’t fully cycled through all of the phases of sleep when you wake up naturally as opposed to when a loud alarm clock wakes you up.

This might be the reason why you feel more refreshed when you wake up naturally as opposed to when a noisy alarm clock wakes you up.

The following is an explanation of the four phases of sleep, along with the predominant types of brainwaves that are present throughout each stage:

Non-rapid eye movement 1 (NREM1) Sleep: 1 to 5 minutes

The brain is said to be in a hypnagogic state’ during this period, which is the transitional phase between being awake and sleeping.

When you reach this point, you will feel as if you are about to nod off. Because the muscles in the body have not yet fully relaxed, you may feel like you are falling or experience twitching.

When someone is in this stage, it is often not difficult for them to wake up. It also happens to be a brain that is most favorable to hypnosis, and it generates alpha brainwaves that are between 8 and 13 hertz.

The ‘flow state,’ in which the brain is peaceful, creative, and able to more rapidly absorb new information, is also associated with alpha brainwaves.

NREM2 sleep: 10 to 60 minutes

During the second stage of sleep, the body enters a more calm and subdued state.

Our body temperature decreases, and the activity in our brain slows down, but there are brief spurts of activity that are called “sleep spindles,” and they help protect us from being awakened by stimuli from the outside world.

Theta waves are the most common kind of brainwave, and researchers think they play a role in the consolidation of memories and the processing of information. They may be found between 4 and 8 Hz.

NREM3 sleep: 20 to 40 minutes

This is the ‘deep sleep’ phase, which is characterized by a relaxation of muscular tone as well as a slowing of pulse and respiration rates.

When a person is in this stage, it is more difficult for them to wake up. Delta waves, often known as slow waves,’ predominate in the frequency range of 1 to 4 hertz in the human brain.

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The healing, recuperation, and repair work that has to be done is predominantly accomplished during the delta period of the sleep cycle.

Deep sleep is when growth hormone is produced, and this hormone plays a crucial role in the maintenance, construction, and repair of healthy tissue in our brain as well as in other organs.

It is also essential for accelerating the recovery process after injuries and for repairing muscle damage caused by exercise.

This phase may also improve the immune system and aid insightful thinking, creativity, and memory. During this phase, the moon is in a waning gibbous phase.

REM sleep: 10 to 60 minutes

During the fourth stage of sleep, the activity in the brain begins to ramp up, getting it ready for wakefulness.

During this period, the body also goes through a state known as “atonia,” which is a natural, temporary paralysis of the muscles (with the exception of the muscles that control breathing and eye movement).

Memory, learning, and creative thinking are only a few of the cognitive activities that can’t work properly without REM sleep.

Dreams may take place during any stage of sleep, but the rapid eye movement (REM) phase is when they are at their most vivid and powerful because of the dramatic rise in brain activity.

During a normal sleep cycle, rapid eye movement (REM) sleep doesn’t typically begin until around 90 minutes have passed.

On the other hand, babies spend almost half of their total sleep time in the REM stage, which occurs between 4 and 8 hertz.

Here are Four Things You Can Do to Get Better Rest

Now that you have a better understanding of why we sleep, what takes place when we are asleep, and the four stages of sleep, I will share with you four techniques to enhance your sleep via the practice of yoga, pranayama, and other lifestyle habits:

1. Ensure That You Get a Sufficient Amount of Light in the Morning but Not too Much Light in the Evening

Light and darkness are perhaps two of the most significant aspects that have an impact on the quality of our sleep.

There is a receptor in our brains called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), and it is responsible for sensing both light and darkness.

The SCN tells the brain and the rest of the body that it is daylight when it detects light, and it also triggers a cascade of chemicals that are necessary for us to feel awake and aware.

When the SCN detects that it is becoming dark outside, it triggers the production of chemicals that are necessary for us to feel tired and get ready for bed. It seems straightforward, doesn’t it?

One of the most significant issues associated with contemporary living is the near certainty that it will interfere with our ability to sleep.

That is, until we are conscious of how potent both darkness and light are and are able to make little adjustments to the amounts of both that we are receiving.

The circadian rhythm, sometimes called the “body clock” or the “sleep-wake cycle,” governs the way in which our minds and bodies function.

Our circadian rhythm is meant to make us feel awake and aware during the hours when it is light outside and to make us feel sleepy and ready for bed during the hours when it is dark outside.

When our circadian cycles are in sync with those of the natural world, we have a greater likelihood of feeling well and sleeping well.

On the other hand, disruption of our circadian rhythms may lead to low levels of energy throughout the day and problems falling or staying asleep at night.

The following is a guide on how to utilize darkness and light to help you sleep:

As soon as you open your eyes in the morning, make it a priority to get outdoors and into the natural light as soon as you can.

Your circadian rhythms will be easier to reset as a result of this, and your SCN will get the message that it is now daylight.

Hormones that promote sleep, such as melatonin, begin to break down, while hormones that help us feel motivated and alert throughout the day, such as dopamine and adrenaline, begin to be produced.

According to a body of research, a lack of exposure to early light is associated with poor mood and sadness. Because of this, this is a really important time of the day to take care of your mental health.

You may combine exposure to early morning sunshine with a few rounds of sun salutations, a little stroll, or even just sitting outdoors and having your tea in the morning.

On days with plenty of bright sunshine, it will take you just around five minutes to convince your brain that afternoon has arrived.

However, in order to resynchronize your internal clock on overcast days, you may need to go outdoors for thirty to forty minutes.

When the sun goes down, make an effort to soften the lighting in your house by using lamps rather than harsh overhead lighting.

The blue light wavelengths emitted by screens are well-known for their ability to significantly impair sleep. Instead of viewing anything on a screen, try meditating, reading a book, or having a conversation with your family.

You may utilize applications like Nightshift or f-lux if you find yourself spending a lot of time in front of a screen in the evening.

These either lessen the brightness of the screen or alter its “color temperature,” causing it to display warmer tones that include less blue light.

You may also want to consider wearing glasses that filter out blue light.

Because they successfully prevent the waves of sleep-disrupting blue light from entering your eyes, you should consider using them if you spend time in front of electronic devices in the evening.

2. At the End of the Day, Take Some Time to Relax & Calm Your Nervous System

We not only have circadian rhythms but also natural cortisol cycles that occur in our bodies. Because of this, we are able to wake up feeling awake and focused and wind down in the evening feeling peaceful.

Although it is often referred to as the “stress hormone,” cortisol is really essential to our health when present in the appropriate quantity.

A natural surge of cortisol is produced by our bodies in the morning to assist in getting us out of bed and into the swing of things for the day.

The levels of cortisol continue to be rather high for the first half an hour after waking up. The remainder of the day sees a slow and steady decrease, culminating in a precipitous fall overnight.

What’s the issue? Many of us are subjected to persistent stress, which may leave us feeling exhausted and sluggish upon awakening and “wired and tired” in the evenings.

All of these symptoms point to a cortisol imbalance, which in turn might make it difficult to go to sleep.

It is essential to get your cortisol levels down at the appropriate time in order to help decrease your cortisol levels at the end of the day and help your body wind down in preparation for bed.

The following are some ways to lower your cortisol levels:

Your goal should be to spend a few minutes at the conclusion of each working day focusing on purposefully relaxing your nervous system.

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This is really important because if you go directly from working mode to being active with your family, you may still be carrying some of the tension from the previous day with you.

Restoring harmony to your neurological system may be accomplished with the help of something as simple as practicing consistent breathing.

It makes you feel peaceful without making you sluggish, and you are able to go on with your evening activities as usual.

Find yourself a timer or a watch that displays the passage of the seconds so that you may practice breathing in a coordinated manner.

Take a 6-second breath in, followed by a 6-second breath out. Apps and timers designed specifically for coherent breathing may also be found on the internet.

HRV, or heart rate variability, may be improved via the practice of continuous and coherent breathing. HRV is an important indicator of excellent general health and a robust nervous system.

Doing some yoga as you wind down from the day is, of course, a great way to help your nervous system relax and unwind after a long day.

Evening is the ideal time to engage in yin and restorative activities since they help bring tranquility to both the body and the mind.

Practices for peaceful acceptance include the Yin style with David Lurey, the restorative reset style with Paula Hines, and the super-sleeper style (Yoga Nidra style) with James Reeves.

3. Yoga Positions for Better Sleep

Viparita Karani, often known as “legs up the wall pose,” and Child’s Pose are two of the most effective yoga poses for enhancing sleep quality.

If you are physically exhausted yet intellectually engaged, putting your legs up the wall for 10 to 20 minutes at a time may be an effective approach to quieting the nervous system.

This is especially true if you practice this pose for longer. In addition to these benefits, it also reduces inflammation and the heart rate, helps alleviate fatigued legs, and decreases the compression that may lead to back discomfort.

Child’s pose is an excellent technique to offer the body an inward-facing and soothing position, which is particularly beneficial after a long and hectic day.

You can give your body some support and envelop yourself in coziness by using a bolster and a blanket. While you are working on your skills, you may like to listen to some soothing music.

Before getting into bed, you should aim to practice the legs-up-the-wall posture for ten to fifteen minutes and a supported restorative child’s pose for five minutes.

4. Make Your Bedroom a Place that is Tranquil & Comfortable to Spend Time In

In addition to preparing our bodies for rest, it is essential to also work on enhancing the quality of the environment in which we sleep.

According to research, the optimal temperature for getting a restful night’s sleep is around 18.3 degrees Celsius.

It also demonstrates that a cool setting is considerably more favorable for attaining deep sleep, making cold environments a better choice overall.

If you wake up throughout the night because you are too hot, consider some of these strategies to cool down both your body and your bedroom in order to get a better night’s rest:

  • It is best to avoid vigorous activity at least two hours before going to bed since this generates an increase in cortisol as well as a higher body temperature.
  • Because eating raises the core temperature of the body and might disrupt sleep, aim to complete your last meal around three hours before going to bed. Try taking a little snack before bed to help you remain asleep if you tend to wake up between the hours of 1:00 and 3:00 in the morning.
  • You may keep the temperature in your bedroom comfortable by cracking a window, turning on a fan, or adjusting the temperature on your air conditioner to 18.3 degrees Celsius.
  • It’s been shown that taking a hot bath around an hour and a half before going to bed will help bring down the core body temperature. When you get out of the shower, a region of the brain called the hypothalamus sends a signal to the rest of the body to speed up the cooling process. Melatonin production is also encouraged as a result of this action on the hormone.
  • Ascertain that your bedroom is dark. The presence of light in the bedroom between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 a.m. may create sleep disruptions and is associated with an increased risk of clinical depression. Make sure there is no light coming in by covering any cracks or holes with tape or investing in blackout curtains.
  • For bedding that is both breathable and able to regulate temperature, choose bedding made from natural fibers such as wool, cotton, or linen.
  • If you’re having trouble falling asleep, try some relaxing pranayama techniques like coherent breathing, breathing via the left nostril, or 4–7–8 breathing.
  • Maintain a consistent schedule, and keep in mind that just as nature operates according to cycles and rhythms, so do we! When we are able to perform something on a consistent basis, we significantly increase our odds of having restful sleep and waking up feeling refreshed. Make it a goal to go to bed and get up at the same time every day, preferably going to bed before 10 p.m. and getting up at the same time every morning.

Because everyone of us is unique, you should choose the sleep advice that speaks to you the most and then build on that foundation in order to get a restful night’s sleep.

Give yourself a few weeks to adjust to the new routine, and then report back to us with what works best for you.

I would be very interested to hear how things go for you, and if you have any queries regarding how to achieve better sleep, please let me know.

Your MASTERY OF LIFE begins the moment you break through your prisons of self-created limitations and enter the inner worlds where creation begins.

-Dr. Jonathan Parker-

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