With the uncertainty and anxiety around Covid-19 many of us will be finding it difficult to get a good nights sleep. Depriving our bodies in this way can affect our health. Many of us will try to make up for it by drinking caffeine and eating sugary snacks, which in turn prevents us from being able to sleep, creating a vicious cycle. This is how I used to be before I changed my lifestyle, but it’s easy to slip back into old habits, especially with the added pressures we’re all experiencing at the moment.
During lockdown, I’ve increasingly turned to restorative yoga before bed to help me sleep and it really works! I have also introduced meditation for my kids as part of their bedtime routine. The image on this post shows a graph of my sleep pattern the night after practicing restorative yoga. I had at least 8 hours sleep, 3 of them deep sleep. This is not my regular sleep pattern, I usually average around 6-7 hours with 60 minutes of deep sleep. I still woke at 5am, a common symptom of Endometriosis, but I immediately drifted off again! Poor sleep is also linked to hormone imbalance and inflammation in the body, so for diseases such as Endometriosis and other inflammatory disorders, sleep is vital for the body to function. I often get a painful flare up with my Endo if I’m sleep deprived.
Restorative yoga works by relaxing your nervous system and creating a state of rest in the body. It’s a perfect practice to do in the evening and involves calming poses that are cooling and nurturing. Supportive props like a bolster or pillow, blankets and blocks make poses so comfortable you can stay in them for longer. This state of deep relaxation switches off the ‘fight or flight mode’ and turns on your parasympathetic nervous system, the system that helps your body to ‘rest and digest’.
As well as restorative postures, breathing also has a huge effect on your central nervous system. We often take shallow breaths into our chest, particularly when we’re stressed and we need more oxygen. By taking fuller, deeper and slower breaths, we can once again turn on the parasympathetic nervous system, calming the body and preparing it for sleep. The great thing about breathing is that it can be done anywhere and any time. Whenever you need to you can use it as a calming tool, whether you wake in the night or are struggling to get to sleep.
It’s not just about the amount of sleep you get each night either, but the quality. Deep sleep enables the pituitary gland to secrete important hormones to help with your body development. Other benefits of deep sleep include strengthening the immune system, repairing tissue and bones and increasing blood supply to muscles.
My Flow and Restore classes are currently running every Thursday evening at 19:45 on ZOOM. They’re a great way to unwind, release tension and prepare for a good nights sleep. I hope to see you on the mat soon, virtually.