5 sleep tips

Lockdown has created lots of changes to our day to day lives and routines. Sleep is one of the things that many people are now finding difficult to achieve.

Sara Desai from Balanced Self is sharing her top 5 tips to help you get a good nights sleep in lockdown and maybe even beyond.

1. Wind-down routine

One hour before bed give yourself time to switch off from the day. Create a bed time routine just like you had when you were a child. What did your caregiver do for your bed time routine? It probably drawing you a bath, reading you a bedtime story and helping you to feel as relaxed as possible until you drift off to the land of slumber.

Do we do this as adults? Chances are, we don’t.

Our brains need time to switch off and our bodies need time to relax.
Pop your phone on airplane mode, turn off the tv, switch off the tablet. Take a shower, read a book. Listen to calming music. Take time to unwind!

2. Full Yogic breath

This can really help a busy racing mind, especially if you are prone to worrying at night. Lie in bed and close your eyes.

a. Put both hands lightly on your belly – take some deep breaths into the belly about 15-20.

b. Slide your hands up to the ribcage and repeat 15-20 breaths.

c. Finally, move the hands up to the heart centre and repeat 15-20 breaths.
If the mind wanders off, don’t worry, just come back to the breath.
As you breathe in, it may help to visualise your breath as a warm colour and as you breathe out, try visualising your breath as a lighter shade of the same colour.

The benefit of full yogic breath is that it calms the body’s fight or flight response (sympathetic nervous system) and cues the body’s rest and digest system (parasympathetic). Put simply, it helps your body to reduce any anxiety that has built up throughout the day, which is vital if you want to drift off into a restful sleep.

3. Wake up and go to bed at the same time every day

Sleep patterns are really important, especially in lockdown, as so much has changed.

Set a time that you want to wake up, generally between 7.30-9.00am. Then figure out what time you will need to go to bed to get the right amount of sleep for your body, remember we all require a different amount of sleep. Make this your new bed time.

Sticking to these times will help your body sync into a new rhyme and promote restful sleep at night.

4. Think about you bedroom space

The two main functions of a bedroom are sleep and sex. Your brain should only associate your bedroom with these two things and if it doesn’t, you will have to rethink how you are using your space.

It is easy when we are working from home to sit in bed and do a zoom meeting, or write emails to clients. Unfortunately, this isn’t good for your brain, as it will start to associate your bedroom with work. This means that when you come into your bedroom to go to bed, your brain may switch on and start thinking about work!

Of course, not everyone has the luxury to separate work and sleep space during lockdown, but even so, try to minimise the time that you spend in your bedroom during the day. If you can, work from another room. If you can’t, try not to work on your bed and immediately leave the room when your working hours are complete and only return to it when it is time for bed.

Help remind your brain that the bedroom is just for sleep and sex.

5. A simple daily yoga practice

A simple 20 minute practice can help the body to release feel good hormones like serotonin and dopamine.

These hormones are important for regulating mood and the reward systems in the brain. Increasing these hormones can help ward off anxiety and stress, boosting our ability to increase joy and happiness throughout the day and as a result sleep better at night.

Here are some of my favourite yoga poses to help boost those feel good hormones:

Legs up the wall

With your feet up the wall and above your heart, this can improve circulation and focus the mind. Try this:

Lie on your back about 5 to 6 inches away from a wall. Swing the back of your legs up against the wall. Rest your shoulders and head on the mat. Maybe place a booster or cushion underneath your bottom. Slowly inch your glutes as close to the wall as you can get.

Close your eyes and allow the body to melt into the mat. Stay here for up to 5 minutes.

Butterfly Pose (Baddha Konasana)

Butterfly Pose is a great pose for grounding. Butterfly pose opens the hips and in yoga it is believed that emotional stress is stored in the hips.
Try this:

Sitting down, bring the bottom of your feet together, creating a diamond shape with your legs. Interlace your fingers around the feet to open your feet up like a book. Holding onto your feet, with a flat back, begin to hinge from the hips, as you lift the heart forward. Stay here for up to a minute.

Tree Pose (Vrksasana)

Finally, Tree pose. This is a great pose for strengthening the standing leg and balance. This pose is also very grounding and can teach us something about having a bit of fun. We can sway our arms, just like a tree or practice different mudras for moving energy around the body.

Try this:

Start by coming to a standing position. Ground yourself through both legs and fix your gaze at one point. Draw down through the left leg and then lift the right leg off the ground. Placing it at your ankle, above the knee or inside of the right thigh. Inhale, as your draw your arms overhead, hands meeting in a prayer position or leave your hands on the hips. Stay here for up to 1 minute.

With love and gratitude from Sara Desai, http://www.balancedself.co.uk

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