Having trouble sleeping? You’re not alone—and it could be costing you more than just a restless night and sleepy day, according to recent research, which showed that people with insomnia are much more likely to experience associated health problems such as anxiety, depression, obesity, diabetes and congestive heart failure.
Unless you are secretly a superhero, your body requires sleep. But very often when bedtime comes at the end of a busy day, it’s hard to allow the body and mind to slow down. You check email, you scroll through social media, you binge watch Netflix and you fall down the rabbit hole. Before you know it, it’s 1:00 AM. I know this scenario all too well. Prior to starting a daily yoga and meditation practice, I couldn’t fall asleep without taking Ambien. I became addicted to it quickly, I loved how the pill would knock me out for a solid 5 hours…yep only 5 hours (7-8 is the recommended amount of hours). I started with 5mg and after a year my body became immune to the dosage, so my doctor upped me to 10mg. On 10mg, I started to do very strange things while sleeping—sleepwalking and eating and having late night conversations with friends—all of which I had no recollection of the next morning. I got a huge wake-up call when I almost burnt my apartment down. No joke!
But don’t despair—a good night’s sleep really is within reach. Thankfully, I weaned myself off of Ambien with the help of OTC sleep aids, meditation and Yoga. According to a study presented at the Associated Professional Sleep Societies’ annual meeting, people who practiced yoga and did other purposeful activities, such as meditation, were more likely to get the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep. The researchers suspect that yoga may address both the physical and psychological aspects of sleep problems.
Below are 4 gentile poses I practice to help me unwind and fall asleep. This in-bed routine (really, you can do these moves in your bed) will put your body and mind to rest, helping you sleep soundly through the night to wake up rested and refreshed in the morning.
First things first: Get ready for bed. Put your pajamas on. Turn off the lights—and the TV and computer. Put down your smartphone and iPad and get comfortable.
(1) Child’s Pose
Rest your chest and belly on one or two stacked pillows with knees wide apart and big toes touching. Rest an ear on the pillow, eyes closed, and jaw and belly relaxed. Your arms can rest on the sides of the pillow or underneath. Focus your attention on the nostrils and enjoy the sensation of breath flowing in and out.
(2) Reclining Bound Angle Pose (Supta Baddha Konasana)
Lie flat on your back. Bring the soles of your feet together with legs bent. Place a pillow under both thighs and an optional pillow behind the head, folding the pillows if needed for more support. Place hands on the stomach. With eyes closed and jaw relaxed, bring your awareness to your hands resting on your belly. Focus on feeling the rise and fall of your torso with each slow and deep breath in and out
(3) Supported Reclining Twist
Lie flat on your back. Bend both legs at a 90-degree angle and let them fall to the right. With knees stacked and hips level, slide one or two pillows between your thighs. Extend your arms straight out at shoulder level and turn your head to the left. With eyes closed and jaw and belly relaxed, focus on feeling the breath flow all the way up into your collarbones. Stay for as long as you’d like and then switch sides, twisting to the left and turning head to the right.
(4) Corpse Pose (Savasana)
Allow your body to rest with your hands by your sides or on the stomach. You can place pillows under your upper thighs or behind knees for more support if desired. With eyes closed and jaw and torso relaxed, feel your breath filling up your belly, expanding your ribs, and flowing up into the chest on an inhalation. Exhale by relaxing your chest, ribs, then belly. Allow this wave-like rhythm to lull you to sleep.
Still having trouble falling asleep, try my guided meditation below. Hit PLAY and snooze the night away.