How to get a better night's sleep - and a FREE yoga nidra
Did last week’s full moon play havoc with your sleep patterns? For centuries, people have attributed all kinds of abnormal behaviours to the moon. The so-called “lunar effect” has been linked to changes in women’s menstrual cycles, aggressive behaviour and even psychosis. Fun fact: the word “lunatic” comes from the Latin word meaning “moonstruck.” But the full moon has also been blamed for many people’s insomnia.
A Swiss study back in 2013 discovered that the time people spent in deep sleep decreased during a full moon by an average of 30 per cent, while the time it took to fall asleep increased by five minutes. The trouble is, consequent studies haven’t been able to replicate these findings so some psychologists say the myths and folklore surrounding the moon might play into why people notice sleep pattern disruptions when the moon is full.
Regardless of what you believe, we all know how hellish lack of sleep can be. When I first had my babies, the sleepless nights of those early years felt like veritable torture and without a doubt negatively affected my mental health. It was only when they both learnt to sleep through the night that I started to feel myself again.
Sleep allows our bodies to repair themselves and our brains to consolidate our memories and process information. Sleep impacts every aspect of your health: your mood, your memory, your cognition, your anxiety and even your weight. Poor sleep is linked to mental health issues, diabetes, cardiovascular problems and many other scary illnesses.
With this lockdown and pandemic weighing heavily on our minds, it’s no surprise we are not all getting those 7 – 9 hours of sleep recommended for optimal health. We are worried about our loved ones, our jobs, the economy, our children returning to school.
Here are some tips from one of my favourite podcasters Feel Better, Live More with Dr Chatterjee on a recent special episode just on this very topic.
· Make sleep a priority in your life. It’s the most powerful performance enhancer and it impacts almost every biological process. A poor night’s sleep can render you almost drunk cognitively, that’s how badly it affects your productivity.
· Expose yourself to natural daylight as early in the day as possible to help synchronise your body clock and help you sleep better that night. I drink my coffee sitting in a sunbeam.
· Do some movement early on in the day (like maybe one of my yoga classes...)
· Knock your caffeine intake by midday.
· Cut down on the booze. I don’t sleep as well after I’ve had a few glasses of wine, and the science backs this up. Sadly.
· An hour or so before bed, put your laptop and phone away. Do something relaxing to help you unwind. Don’t watch TV and definitely don’t watch the news! Have a bath, do some restorative yoga stretches, meditate or read your book.
· Invest in an alarm clock and leave your phone charging in another room overnight. Even just knowing your phone – your whole life – is right there next to your bed will psychologically affect you.
Here are some other sleep hacks from yours truly:
RESTORATIVE BEDTIME YOGA POSES – hold each pose for a good 10 full breaths
· Cat cow
· Childs pose
· Upward dog/ cobra
· Paschimotonasana – seated forward fold
· Supta badokonasana – lying butterfly
· Bridge pose
· Knees to chest
· Supine twist
· Legs up against the wall
GOLDEN MOON MILK RECIPE - this delicious bed time drink is a powerful antioxidant, reduces inflammation, promotes heart health and improves digestion.
· 2 cups unsweetened coconut milk (any other milk or milk alternative will do)
· 1 tbsp turmeric (preferably freshly grated if you can get your hands on it)
· ½ tbsp ginger (freshly grated)
· ½ tsp cinnamon
· Pinch of nutmeg
· 1 tbsp honey
· pinch black pepper
Heat all the ingredients in a saucepan over medium-low heat, whisking every now and then, until warmed through. Enjoy!
Yoga nidra, or yogic sleep, is a powerful practice said to help reduce stress and anxiety, bring joy into your life and help you to connect with your deeper, spiritual self. Soldiers have been cured of their PTSD using yoga nidra – no shit.
If you’ve never tried it before, it’s blissful and can help you sleep. As a special gift from me to you, I’ve recorded one free for you to download here: