October 06, 2019

Rise n shine - how yoga can help you sleep better

Have you ever felt….







And/or just plain exhausted?

Chances are it’s because you haven’t had a decent night’s sleep in forever.
A good night’s sleep is worth it’s weight in gold. Sleep is the time our internal systems go to work to restore and rejuvenate, grow muscle, process the day, repair tissue and synthesize hormones in the body. Just like eating, sleeping is essential to survival!
But like gold, sleep can be an elusive commodity.
Many of us struggle to obtain the recommended 7-8 hours of quality z’s each night. Others suffer occasional bouts of sleeplessness due to illness, emotional turmoil, a change in routine, or even an unwise dinner choice. When you don’t sleep well, other areas of your life can suffer. Big-time. 

The good news
Sleeplessness (and it’s by-products) sucks! But rest assured, with a few tweaks to your routines, habits and a little yoga, better sleep is possible*!
Check out our tips (including a pre-bed yoga sequence) to seduce your body and soul into sweet sleep -  and even sweeter dreams.

Bedroom basics for blissful sleep
Let’s start with the bedroom, the home of good sleep!

  • KISS (Keep it simple, sleepyhead)
    Leave the creation of ‘zones’ and multi-purpose areas to the home-reno shows! At your place, dedicate your bedroom to the sole purpose of pure sanctuary and heavenly sleep.
    Keep furniture pieces to a minimum and choose calming decor that makes you smile. Invest in a quality mattress and pillow that offers comfortable support for your body - there’s nothing worse than wrestling with a lumpy pillow in the wee hours!
  • Make it a dream
    Make your bedroom a place you enjoy. Splash out on bedding and pyjamas that you love. Bonus points for choosing organic cotton, which allows your skin to breathe.
  • Don’t be scared of the dark
    Getting to and staying asleep comes more easily in a darkened room. Shut the curtains tight and/or consider an eye-mask or eye-pillow to limit the light.
  • Get it ‘just right’
    It’s important to get the air temperature of your bedroom just right - not too hot or not too cold.  Of course, that vague measurement will vary from person to person. For the official word, studies suggest 18 degrees celsius as the sweet spot. Play around and see what works for you.
  • Keep ‘em out
    Kerb the temptation for night-time scrolling by banning electronic devices from the bedroom. Afterall, they need rest too - pop them on to charge overnight in another room.
  • Choose a side
    Try sleeping on your left side. This activates the right side of the brain which is associated with more passive activities.

Your 'ultimate unwind' timeline for good sleep.
Set yourself up for sleep success with a nightly pre-bed routine, such as this one.

By 8.00pm...
Complete your evening meal to allow your food to digest well before retiring. 

Sweet sleep tip: 
Favour light, seasonal and nourishing meals for happy digestion. Skip any late afternoon or evening caffeine and alcohol consumption, which may make it difficult to fall and stay asleep.

By 9.00pm…
Turn your TV and/or other electrical devices off. The blue light emitted from such screens interferes with the brain’s natural cues for sleep.
Engage in light, quiet and simple activities at this time. Read, chat and connect with partner/family/the cat, take a slow, gentle yoga sequence, a warm bath, fold the washing or colour-in. Steer clear of any mentally or physically taxing activities which will likely stimulate the senses rather than relax them.

Sweet sleep tip:
Use the ‘Bedtime’ setting on your phone to automatically dim the screen and silence notifications until your chosen ‘wake up’ time. And see the ‘Keep out’ tip for where your phone should sleep.

By 10.00pm...
Ease yourself into bed, ready for a wonderfully restorative sleep.

Sweet sleep tips:
Focus on your natural breath to help to empty your mind of the day’s activities. Rest your hands lightly on your belly and let the gentle rise and fall of your breath lull you into a relaxed state.
Develop a routine

For whatever reason, there may be times when sleep eludes you. While you could try counting sheep, these tips may better serve you:

  • Change location: Get up, move into another darkened room for 15 minutes.
  • Do something boring - cut your nails, water your indoor plants, set the table for breakfast…
  • Do one restful yoga pose or listen to a recorded meditation practice

Most of all, be compassionate with yourself - know that you are resting and eventually, sleep will come.

‘Sweet n deep’ - A bedtime sequence for blissful sleep

Constructive Rest Pose

Constructive Rest Pose

This simple shape signals that there is no more to be done (phew!) - It’s time to rest.

To do: Lie down on the back, with the legs bent, feet hip-width apart, toes pointing forward. Place a low cushion or book under the head, if desired. Rest the arms to the sides, palms facing the sky. Surrender the weight of your body into the earth beneath you as you allow the body and mind to soften. Count 7-10 slow, easy breaths.

Leg-Lock pose

Leg-Lock pose

Spent a lot of time sitting today? Get your hips happy and prepped for rest with this pose designed to ease tightness.

To do: From lying down, clasp the hands around the right knee, drawing it toward the chest. Lengthen the left leg along the mat, with the foot flexed. Tuck the chin toward the chest to keep the neck long. Melt any tensions in the face and jaw. Enjoy 7 breaths here, then repeat on the other side.

Legs up the Wall

Legs up the Wall

Photo: Sally Bryan & Keely Thomson, Hatha Yoga Teacher, 432 Yoga Studio

This soothing and mild inversion helps sweep away the mental cobwebs of the day.

To do: Sit side-on to the wall. Swing your legs up to lean against the wall as you lower your back and head to the floor-use a yoga bolster under hips and a yoga blanket under the head for if desired. Rest the hands effortlessly beside the body. Ensure the head is aligned and comfortable. Allow yourself to sink into the support of the earth and wall in the pose for 3 - 10 minutes.

Supta baddha konasana (Supported Bound-angle Pose)

Supta baddha konasana (Supported Bound-angle Pose)

Photo: Keely Thomson, Hatha Yoga Teacher, 432 Yoga Studio

Settle the nervous system and encourage all the muscles to settle down in preparation for sleep.

To do: From Constructive Rest Pose, take the knees apart, and soles of the feet to meet. Squish a rolled doona, blanket or cushions under the knees and feet or use a yoga strap (as in photo) for nurturing comfort and support. Pop a pillow or yoga blanket underneath the head or use a yoga bolster for full back and head support. Savour at least 5 minutes here.

Balasana (Pose of the Child)

Balasana (Pose of the Child)

Photo: Keertana Kumaraswamy, Sarah Davies, Lauren Hull, Riksha Yoga Studio, Scoresby, Melbourne

Ease out the lower back, turn your back on the world and slow those busy thoughts. 

To do: Kneel on the mat and stretch forward, allowing the head to meet the floor (use a cushion or yoga block if needed). Stay 3 minutes or more, breathing easily.



Photo: Stephanie Williams, Kalpita Yoga and Keely Thomson, 432 Yoga Studio

Already feeling relaxed? Good! Let savasana saturate your whole being in calm, ready for a blissful sleep.

To do: Stretch out along the floor, using props for comfort. (A yoga bolster under the knees is particularly lovely) Consider covering the eyes with an eye pillow to really reinforce the message that it’s time to switch off. Allow the whole body to sink into the floor and watch the breath lengthen and deepen easily and naturally. Stay 10 minutes or more. 

If you are not already asleep, climb into bed, disturbing yourself as little as possible. 

Creating goodnights
As an essential for a healthy life, is pays to dedicate time and effort into the most rejuvenating part of the day - sleep time. When sleeplessness visits, take a look at what might be keeping you up at night, and make some changes to your routines and habits. 

Hopefully, nights of deep, restful sleep will become your normal once more.

Sweet dreams, friend!

* Please seek advice from your health professional when sleeplessness persists.


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