Like so many of us my sleep has gone a little topsy turvy here of late. A zoom existence coupled with time differences and being a natural lark has not been great for welcoming in the zzz. And I am far from being in the anomaly, research suggests more than half of adults in the UK struggled with sleep during the 2020 lockdown.
I appreciate there is no exact science for all and trying too hard in the quest to improve sleep can also be anxiety causing and detrimental to the process itself! And whilst evening rituals to help us let go of the day are key, it isn’t just about night time.
Below I share 6 practices to embrace, ones that are good for overall well being and if the sleep improves too then win win I say. Thank you to the lovely Naomi Annard for your help with this.
1) Take a breath or two. Naomi says “Don’t wait until it’s bedtime to wind down, take a few moments throughout the day to sit and pause and extend your exhale. A favourite breathing practice is 1:2 breathing – simply, breathe in for 2 and exhale for four”.
2) Put your legs up. “There is nothing quite like feeling some release of physical effort, this pose is soothing for the nervous system as your head is below your heart. You will find this manipulation of your nervous system and conscious slowing down can have a profound effect on your nerves, anxiety and general mood. I do this posture every day”. Naomi
3) Bathing. When a tense body enters a warm bath the hot water increases the body temperature and relaxes the muscles. It soothes us physically but also mentally. Our KANKAN baby wash makes the perfect bubbly soak for all as it contains Chamomile and Lavender essential oils, known for relaxing effects and reducing anxiety.
4) Cut the devices. I feel like we all know this one, but putting it consistently into practice can be hard. Making sure we have that adequate phasing time to switch off and stop triggering the day time signals to the brain is really key. Our bodies release melatonin before sleep and blue light affects this release. Also the news, social media, checking the inbox can all get the brain buzzing and trigger anxious feelings. If you want to read more Stephanie Romiszewski is a sleep physiologist and a great source of information.
5) Caffeine, one of my biggest pleasures but it seems timings here really is key. Save your first coffee for when you have a circadian rhythm energy dip, which is often between 9am and 11am and not beyond 12pm. “Caffeine reliance can get your body in a fatigued state when it wakes up because it needs that caffeine hit to get going”. Dr Nerina Ramlakhan instead recommends prioritising food and movement to get your body energised and kick off the morning awake signals. If you want to read more about harnessing our inner morningness read here
6) Don’t fight it. If sleep isn’t coming instead occupy yourself with other relaxing, happy inducing tasks to help wind down. Reading, getting out of bed and sitting in another space meditating, listening to music (our playlist), writing down some gratitude, lighting a candle and then going back to bed when you feel drowsy. Advice taken from Maryanne Taylor, a sleep consultant.
A Yoga sequence for sleep “One of the reasons that so many of us find it hard to sleep is our inability to shift from the fight/flight mode into the parasympathetic nervous system where deep rest is possible”. “This sequence is about dialling down the intensity of modern life and learning to drop into our deeper, calmer selves. But this isn’t simply a sequence that should be done before bed to release all the day’s stresses. Better to do during the day as an embodied intention, a way of steering the nervous system away from the hyper-alert and towards a place of rest”. Naomi Annand author of Yoga: a Manual for Life and her beautiful studio Yoga on the Lane reopens 17th May.