A Bad Yogi’s Secret to Better Sleep
I never particularly liked sleep. Actually, that is an understatement. I truly disliked sleeping!
Sleeping was always a problem for me. Going to sleep took forever. Waking up was even worse. Why did we need to sleep? It would be so lovely if I could just stay awake forever, never getting tired!
Yeah, sleeping wasn´t my thing. I used to fantasize about an on and off button, so I could just turn myself off in the evening and on again in the morning – without all the fuss of falling asleep and waking up by myself.
I was a victim to my routine. It could take me an hour to fall asleep – with a big portion of that time being irritated about not falling asleep – and of course obsessing over how many hours I would sleep (Well, who doesn’t?). And no matter what, I would wake up tired.
How much I hated this.
And what did I do? I fixed it. It took time, it took effort and it still isn´t perfect.
After years of practice I know better. And however dramatic I try to be about not being able to fall asleep, a calm voice inside of me tells me that I need to put in effort to fall asleep, as this isn´t an automatic process.
So here are my tips for better sleep. Some of them you know already, others you´ve maybe never heard of. Some will work for you and others won´t. Take and leave what suits you, my dear.
Change your mindset
I know, this is probably the most difficult, and therefore I will start with that one. What comes afterwards will support this one.
This to me is the most important step. If you are having trouble sleeping – just understand that you are fighting with your body. You will need to put effort into what you want to change. For me, I often need more than simply getting into bed and turning off the lights – and I have accepted that. You should do so too. If you need more time to calm down before you go to sleep, do so.
Another thing is to maybe get a bit careless about sleep. Does it really need to be so holy? Do you need to judge yourself and your state of wellbeing by how many hours you slept? Which leads me to the next point…
Decide that you are going to wake up refreshed and ready for another beautiful day
Seriously, try it! Just think about it – you are going to sleep too late, because you spent too much time watching Netflix, enjoying time with friends, doing laundry or whatever the reason. You look at the clock when in bed and you see it is way past your bedtime. You will not get enough sleep. You know that you will wake up tired tomorrow. And yes, indeed, the next morning you do wake up tired, to nobody´s surprise. If you decide to feel tired, you will most definitely feel tired.
But what if? What if you would go to sleep excited for the next beautiful day, you are so lucky to get to live. What if you see yourself waking up early, preparing yourself for the day and eating breakfast, all in a wonderful mood. Do you think it will change how you wake up the morning after? I believe it does! And worst case, you will wake up equally tired but possibly a bit more positive towards your day, leading to a better experience in general.
Do yoga (or any other exercise)
I am recommending yoga on a yoga blog? Weird… Well, yes, yoga has been a big part of my sleep getting better, as with other parts of my life. On days when I skip yoga I have more difficulties falling asleep. Why? Because I´m simply not tired enough, my body needs to move. So, I highly recommend that you try to squeeze in an exercise routine – yes, it doesn´t need to be yoga – every single day. Just a few minutes can make a difference.
When you do yoga (or other exercise) can also affect your sleep. I fall asleep way sooner if I do a 7 am class, instead of an 8 pm class – but other people might have an easier time falling asleep after an evening class then I do. Doing restorative yoga right before bed might also help you fall asleep. This routine is nice. Again, just a few breaths in child´s pose can make a difference.
Know that what and when you eat, affects your sleep
This, I think, is the reason I cannot fall asleep right after my 8 pm yoga class – as I eat dinner very late. This is an important factor to consider. Eating a heavy dinner could make it more difficult to fall asleep and might also affect the quality of your sleep. Being to hungry isn´t good either. Be mindful of how your meals affect your sleep, and see if you can change them in some way to help you sleep better.
Create a bedtime routine
Find a routine that works for you and calms you down. This can be showering, reading, writing, restorative yoga, meditation, stretches, drinking tea, and whatever else works for you. Create time for the things you love to do, making time for yourself before bed, to calm down after a busy day. And whatever you do…
Stay away from screens
I (try to) turn off all screens an hour before bed. I will admit, it´s a big challenge. And it can change so much. Turning off all screens at a certain time before bed will help you to relax and unwind. The light from the screens sends a wrong signal to your brain, and we want to avoid that, so your body will understand that it is night time.
I also make sure that no screens are allowed in my bedroom, except my phone, which I keep as far away as possible, for an alarm. When I don´t need an alarm, I will leave my phone in another room.
Create a relaxing atmosphere
Dim the lights and light a candle. Play relaxing music. It can be both simple and easy. And it can create such a big difference. I usually turn off all bright lights after dinner, keeping everything a little darker, moving a little slower, until I go to bed.
Read in bed
I´ve started reading for 10 minutes in bed, before going to sleep. This has also made a big difference for me, as my body relaxes completely, while my mind is occupied by the book I´m reading. After I started reading before bed, I have started falling asleep, almost effortlessly.
And when in bed, try this:
Count your breaths
Yeah, counting sheep doesn´t really work for me. Instead, I count breaths. Based on how optimistic I am, I choose a number. Sometimes 30 breaths will do. On other days, I make it 50 breaths. And then I start counting, from 50 or 30 and down, breathing deeply for each count. And I can tell you this – never have I gotten to zero in my counting. And I actually think I´ve never gone far under 10 – I´m always asleep before I know it.
Do Supta Baddha Konasana
This pose to me is a miracle worker. I use it when I cannot sleep. Lying in bed in Supta Baddha Konasana – with two pillows under each knee to relax completely – is so calming that I often fall asleep quickly in that pose.
Other poses might work magic for you, for example child´s pose, legs up the wall or a forward fold. Getting into a comfortable pose where you feel safe and can breathe deeply can help you soothe yourself and quickly relax before – or in – bed.
Also, count your sleep cycles
Last year, I started using sleepyti.me (website or app) to calculate my sleep cycles and wake up time. This tiny change, adjusting my sleep to my cycles, has made such a difference for me. Waking up at the right time, according to your sleep cycles, might really change the way you wake up in the morning, and I highly recommend you check it out.
It has also helped me to wake up earlier, sometimes sleeping a little less to sleep the right amount of sleep cycles, and then using the morning for some quality time with myself.
Wake up earlier
Yes, I know this sounds a bit counter-intuitive, but it is true. Waking up earlier usually makes my days much better, and falling asleep in the evening easier as well.
Also, make a nice morning routine to get ready for the day. Waking up earlier may give you more time to prepare yourself for the day to come, making you more relaxed and ready for that day.
It is my hope that some of these will help you tackle your sleep.
Or rather, help you accept the fact that sleep is not an automatic, effortless thing.
You can increase the quality of your sleep, fall to sleep faster and wake up more refreshed, using the tactics that work for you.
And mostly, by changing your mindset. We sleep about one third of our lives. We might as well make the most of it.
Sleep tight, sweet heart.
What do you do to get better sleep? Share your tips in the comments!