Insomnia Help: Try Yoga For A Better Night’s Sleep

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Lately I’ve been having a lot of trouble falling asleep. Even though I’m totally exhausted, when I turn out the lights it takes forever to actually get to sleep. Do you have any yoga or breathing exercises that might help?

A Fitness Expert’s Answer:

Ah, the sleep issue! Most of us experience trouble falling asleep at some period in our life. The first thing I ask my clients when they have trouble sleeping is:

Are you experiencing any new stresses in your life?
Did you drink caffeine or other stimulants (alcohol, soda) close to bedtime?
Did you exercise too close to bedtime?
Did you eat less than three hours before going to bed?

If the answer to any of the above is yes, those factors may be contributing to your nighttime frustration, and should be addressed accordingly.

But regardless of the cause of your sleep troubles, here are some exercises that can help you relax and ease into dreamland. They can all be practiced in the comfort of your own bedroom.

Counting Breath
Breathe in for the count of 4 (or 5 or 6), breathe out to the count of 4 (or 5 or 6). If your breathing is too shallow, it can cause an increased heart rate, which signals to your body that there is some kind of stress going on. Deep, calming breaths keep your heart-rate down and encourage your body to relax deeply. This helps prepare your body for sleep.

Autogenic Relaxation
From head to toe, go through each body part and mentally encourage it to release. Example: Say to yourself: “My feet are relaxed, my feet are relaxed, my feet are completely relaxed,” then repeat with each body part. By focusing on every area of the body, you are releasing unnecessary tension and allowing your body to come into a state of rest.

Yoga Poses
These are my three top yoga poses to bring on a good night’s sleep. You can try one or all three. All of these yoga poses are restorative in nature. They release tension in the spine, and are calming postures for both the body and the mind.

Legs-up-the-wall Pose

Gentle Spinal Twist

Child’s Pose

For added relaxation, you might want to try placing an eye pillow (flaxseed or lavender) or small towel over your eyes during any of the above exercises. This will encourage a calming of the central nervous system that will, in turn, trigger your body’s relaxation response.

Combined with a quiet, dark sleeping environment, the above exercises should help when you have difficulty drifting off. If the problem persists, however, you should definitely consult your healthcare provider.

May you have sweet dreams!

About the Fitness Expert:

Annabel Fitzsimmons is a yoga and Pilates teacher, runner, writer and mother of two young children. Her online yoga, Pilates and meditation studio is at www.annabelfitzsimmons.ca/

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