The Yoga of Sleeping
Updated: Apr 27, 2020
Sleep is far from a passive experience. Yet it's crucial to good health to have a regular sleep pattern in order to ensure our minds and bodies function properly. Unfortunately, proper sleep is the first thing we sacrifice when we're pressed for time.
Johns Hopkins University (credit to their article for the photo at left) has a number of resources that help people learn more about the science of sleep and how you can have better sleep. A fun one to review is A Day That Leads to Your Best Sleep, which offers tips such as:
1) Eat breakfast by a window--or outside, if possible--so the sun can help set your circadian rhythm. 2) Make your bed each morning--apparently, this helps you sleep better at night.
3) Turn off devices at least 30 minutes before bedtime so the blue light and interactive stimulation don't prolong sleep.
4) Stick to the same timeline for going to bed and waking up--if you have to vary it, do so by no more than an hour.
I sometimes struggle with a regular sleep schedule because certain writing/editing projects with deadlines may push me beyond the limit. My husband sometimes has trouble sleeping because he works an alternate shift. We're not exactly in sync with our sleep/wake patterns, but we prefer to share a bedroom. Young parents, people in caregiver roles, employees working overtime...there are many reasons why sleep is sacrificed. It's important to look at your priorities and make adjustments.
Yoga Nidra, often referred to as "the yoga of sleep", is a deep classical yoga philosophy. But it's not exactly about sleep. It's about a resting state that permits a better access to higher consciousness through subtle energy. Yoga nidra as we know it today was developed by Swami Satyananda--this article features a brief but nice overview.
I've been reading Karen Brody's book Daring to Rest, which explores yoga nidra from a modern woman's perspective. In this piece she wrote for Yoga Journal, she details the benefits of practicing yoga nidra this way: "While yoga nidra is not a substitute for sleep...it’s widely touted that 45 minutes of yogic sleep feels like 3 hours of regular sleep. There’s some debate over the science that backs this up, but it's likely this effect is due to the series of brain-wave changes experienced during yoga nidra. In my work, I hear women tell me all the time that they wake up deeply refreshed after practicing yoga nidra and that yoga nidra helps them fall asleep and get back to sleep at night. Who can say no to sleep?"
If believing that yoga nidra makes up for a sleep deficit puts you too far out on a limb, at least consider the relaxation benefits and relief from symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress. When I had my studio, a friend and colleague trained in yoga nidra taught a few workshops with me. Attendees reported a variety of positive experiences, from something as simple as a gentle meditation to a profound deep reset. It's a valuable experience to work with a local teacher if you can. If not, you can find a number of guided yoga nidra sessions online. Too often, we put self-care aside for other priorities, especially when they involve people we love. Remember: you can only give the best of yourself when you take care of yourself.