More than a third of Australian adults are not getting the sleep they need… nearly 80% of women say they have trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep. A great remedy for a good night’s sleep could be yoga. But first let’s review a few truths about sleep.

Sleep – you can’t do without it
You need sleep for recovery of mind & body. It aids many things: immune function, heart health, growth, healing, control of appetite & weight, attention, memory & learning. Poor sleep can also lead to you being accident prone. Lack of sleep can lead to lowered performance, poor health & well being.
Sleep, like diet & physical activity, is a vital part of physical, cognitive and emotional health.

Common sleep problems include insomnia, snoring & sleep apnea.
Shift work can have a big impact on your sleep & health, unless you work out your schedule.

So how much sleep do you need?
Well it depends:
Children need a lot of sleep – over 10 hours
Teenagers around 8 to 10 hours
Adults need 7 to 9 hours
Older adults 6 to 8 hrs

But it also depends on your lifestyle, activities & stress levels. Higher stress & activity levels may need more recovery time sleep. If you have an illness you may also need more sleep.

Getting less sleep than you need can lead to sleep deficit, leaving you feeling tired until you have caught up with your sleep. Also generally speaking you can’t train yourself to need less sleep. It will eventually catch up. Sleeping less than you need can reduce REM sleep and lead to emotional irritability ie temper tantrums!!!

When is the best time to sleep?
Did you know that there is no evidence that “getting to bed early & rising early” is the best for sleep? It actually depends on your preference: are you an early morning riser, a late night get about, or some one in between? So ideally you need to work out your day schedule around this. Don’t struggle to exercise in the morning if you’re an evening type. Do it later & give yourself more sleep, and don’t go about late at night if you are an early riser.

Don’t worry if you wake up sometimes
Waking up for brief periods a few times per night is not bad or unusual. So don’t stress yourself about it, especially if you get back to sleep quickly. If you have long periods of not sleeping, then you should seek help from a sleep specialist.

Have a break from your phone
The Blue light from your electrical devices such mobile, laptop & pad can also play havoc with your sleep & melatonin levels. It makes your brain think it’s day time. However it isn’t enough to turn them off just before bed. You need to reduce the blue light a few hours before sleep. Try using an App or glasses which may reduce blue light, if using in the evening. Better still just give yourself a break, especially if you have been using all day.

Manage stress over the day
Taking a few minutes out to relax & relieve stress before bed is not enough. Work to be mindful & reduce stress throughout your day for a better night’s sleep.

What about caffeine?
If it is an issue for you, avoid caffeine for a few (4 to 6) hours before sleep, but it is important to realise that if you are having trouble switching your mind off at night, stress far out weighs caffeine.

Be active enough
Also getting enough physical activity & exercise can aid sleep, but be mindful that to aid sleep your body needs to cool down. Avoid exercise which markedly increases body temp too close to bed.
This is also why it can be hard to sleep on those hot evenings. Find strategies to cool yourself gently.

Yoga – the secret to a good night’s sleep
People often observe that they sleep better on the night they attend their yoga class. This observation is also supported by the evidence. Yoga can help you sleep better, especially if you practice regularly.

It helps you to sleep longer…, fall asleep quicker…, if you wake during the night, helps you to fall asleep faster again…, and helps you feel better through the day.

It’s been shown to be helpful for older people, pregnant women, and even people with ongoing cancer treatment.

Yoga can help relieve stress, calming anxiety, slowing our mind & reducing excess thinking, and a great aid in “winding” you down.

If you are doing yoga in the evening before sleep, make sure it is calming yoga. Relaxing postures & practices can include: slow abdominal breathing, the wide knee child’s posture, lying cobbler with support, legs up on a chair or the wall posture, relaxing forward bends, and the corpse relaxation posture may be worth a try.

Why not give it a go?

(If you are interested in a Yoga for Sleep workshop or special yoga classes, let us know. Email)

References
• Hirshkowitz M “The national sleep foundation sleep time duration recommendations” Sleep Health http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.sleh.2014.12.010
• Jennings-Edquist G “Sleep myths: Experts debunk common advice for sleep problems” ABC Life
• Wei M MD “Yoga for better sleep” Harvard Health Blog
• Waters L “Six benefits of yoga for severe sleep deprivation” The Telegraph 21/11/2017
• Halpern et el “Yoga for improving sleep quality and quality of life in older adults” Alt Therapies May/June 2014