In these troubling times, many people are struggling to wind down in the evening and get a decent night’s sleep. Without the foundation of a solid night’s sleep, it’s very difficult to function optimally during the day.
These are some practices that I’ve found to help me to go to sleep and stay asleep:
- Hydration. Dehydration is my number 1 reason for insomnia and restless nights Drinking at least 1.2 litres of water a day helps to avoid this.
- Meditation. I have a twice daily meditation practice (15-20 minutes) at the start and end of the day. Meditation is sometimes described as a “shower for your brain” and helps to calm the nervous system before bed.
- Windows open. The optimal ambient temperature for a good night’s sleep is 65ºF or 18.3ºC. Recent research suggests that body temperature is actually even more important for improving and maintaining sleep than either light or time.
- Curtains open. Although I live in an urban area, I’m lucky that I don’t have a lot of artificial light outside of my bedroom window at the moment, so my preference is to sleep with the curtains open. Some people believe that moonlight can help to regulate the menstrual cycle. I also enjoy waking up to natural daylight so that I feel refreshed and ready to go in the morning.
- Sleeping on my right side. A tip from yoga is to induce the body to switch to dominant left nostril breathing. The nasal cycle refers to the phenomenon that at any given moment you are breathing through one dominant nostril; then some time later (usually every 2-2.5 hours) you switch to the other one and this continues in a rhythmical fashion. When we breathe through the left nostril, we relax and calm down because the left side of the body represents the moon, feminine channel (Ida, luna nadi). When we breathe through the right nostril, we are energized and stimulated because the right side is the sun or masculine channel (Pingala, the solar nadi). To switch to the left side, lie on your right side, block off the right nostril and breathe long and deeply through the left nostril for a minute or so. Slowing down the breath to 4 or less breaths per minute also facilitates sleep.
- Ignoring the usual tips. Personally, I use my e-reader until the minute I’m ready to go to sleep.
- Bonus tips. If I’m really struggling to get to sleep or have woken up in the middle of the night. Moving around, Yoga Nidra and bedtime yoga sequences can all help, but a failsafe is sex or masturbation.