Up to 50% of people report having difficulties with sleep –  Not enough sleep, poor sleep, insomnia, or disturbed sleep ie due to medical or psychological issues.

Sleep is important for our brain function, memory, learning & emotional health.

Sleep is vital to our health – poor sleep can lead to cognitive decline, obesity and chronic conditions like heart disease. Poor sleep may also increase falls risk, as a study found poor sleep led to reduced ability to control posture & balance. Interestingly poor sleep or too much sleep has been correlated with increased inflammation markers in the body associated with chronic inflammation & increased risk for chronic disease. Lost sleep first affects cognition, then causes activation of the stress pathways & cellular changes. In rats, not sleeping has caused death.

Screens & devices like smart phones do affect the quality of our sleep – so give yourself time out.

What is sleep?

Sleep is an alternating phase between Deep restful sleep, which has the role of clearing waste, maintaining brain synapses, moving memories around, and so forth, and Dreaming sleep, which includes REM & Non REM time, which seems to aid learning, as it appears to help keep our waking brains surprised in the real world. Emotion aids better learning.

Sleep medications enable deep sleep, but not REM sleep, which is why sleep never feels quite as good when using sleeping medications. They are best left for short term or emergency use.

Normally children need more sleep, and older adults need less. Sleep needs can range from 5 to 14 hours. If you are very active you will also need more sleep.

Insomnia & Disturbed Sleep

People can develop acute insomnia often related to a stressful event, which resolves when the event eases. However, some people can be sensitive to developing chronic insomnia, which may be associated with medical issues like sinusitis, gastric reflux, asthma, psychological-like anxiety which can lead to worrying thoughts, or pain conditions like arthritis or chronic back pain. Sleep disturbance can also be associated with restless leg syndrome, and sleep apnea.

Sleep problems can include difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep or both. Research suggest that insomnia is a disorder to the brain where it is unable to stop being awake. There is a drive to keep us awake, and a drive to cause us to go to sleep. When there is imbalance of too much awake drive or too little sleep drive, then problems can occur.

It’s important to remember that sleep disorders can also be lifestyle based due to poor sleep behaviours. This may be related to working (especially with a screen) too late at night, taking too long naps in the day, getting up too late related to your normal cycle, or shift work.

The worst thing is talking yourself into not being able to sleep, such as worrying thoughts “I will never sleep” when trying to go to sleep at night. Avoid tossing & turning, and get up and do boring or calming tasks.

If you have severe sleep issues seek advice from your doctor.

Other facts about what affects sleep

• Excess alcohol, smoking, heavy meals and caffeine (for most people) aren’t helpful before going to sleep.

  • Did you know that 17 hours of sustained wakefulness leads to lost performance equivalent to drinking alcohol?
  • If it takes less than 5 minutes to fall asleep at night, then this indicates you’re are sleep deprived. Normally it takes 10 to 15 minutes to fall asleep naturally.

• To drop off we need to cool down a little. This why sleep is more difficult on warm nights, As we get older our temperature comfort zone reduces from 18 to 30 degrees to 23 to 25 degrees.

  • Light can disrupt sleep, as can noise.

• 24 hour access to the internet is one of the major disrupters to getting enough sleep.

  • Research suggests that moderate exercise in the evening doesn’t affect sleep, though vigorous exercise like running 1 hour before sleep, may make it harder to get to sleep. Check for yourself to see whether exercise in the evening aids, hinders or has no effect on your sleep.
  • One of the keys to falling asleep is not to pay attention to falling asleep. Be aware, without focusing or paying attention to the process. Awareness does not mean analysis.

Yoga to the Rescue

√ Yoga helps to reduce the body’s natural response to stress & anxiety, helping you to unwind, by:

• Calming the breath

• Calming the nervous system

• Calming the mind

√ Yoga can help guide the sleep process by activating the brain’s sleep centre and helping to release hormone melatonin which aids sleep.

√ Yoga can provide a night ritual to aid sleep.

√ The light emitted from your screens can wake you. Give yourself some time to unwind before bed. Try a simple yoga routine before sleep. (See details below)

√ Some research has found that regular yoga can not only aid going to sleep but also improve the quality of your sleep, especially in older adults. Yoga was practiced twice per week for 12 weeks to get benefits. They were also encouraged to practice meditative yoga daily. Better outcomes occurred with more yoga practice.

√ Slow Yoga helps you to slow down, relax deeply and become mentally calmer.

√ A YOGA ROUTINE WORTH TRYING:

a Meditation at the right time

b Relaxing Breathing – focus on a longer exhalation or try Nadi Shodhana

c Foot & head massage

d Calming yoga postures – it’s important that the moves feel calming, relaxing & pain free for you. Fro example:

Wide Knee Child Posture

Slow rhythmic Cat stretch

Standing Forward fold

Supported Bridge

Wall Dog

Reclined Bound Angle with Bolster

Legs up the wall or legs up on a chair or sofa

Relaxation posture with T Pillows

Come along to our next Course on Yoga and Improving Sleep. Radhika from Yoga Plus Therapies  is offering a 4 week Yoga course to learn simple yoga tools to aid sleep & help establish a good routine to aid sleep. Beginning on Monday 11th March for 4 weeks, 6.15 – 7.15pm, Parooba Ave Camp Hill Studio.  Only $66 for the 4 classes.

Book in now… your sleep will thank you.

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