3 simple ways to help you sleep better

Digital clock showing 4.12
I need to sleep!!

It’s the middle of the night. You want to sleep. You need to sleep.

Now, it’s past 4am and you’re awake again – you’re counting down the hours til your alarm clock is going to rudely awaken you from your slumber.

But sleep just won’t come.

And the more you try to will yourself to sleep, the more you find yourself tossing and turning … and now it’s 5.30am and you have that horrible feeling that you’re going to feel in a brain fog all day because you have had yet another interrupted night’s sleep.

Does this sound familiar?

I often get asked by my yoga students for tips on how to get better sleep. “I can’t sleep because my mind is whirring about all the things I need to do tomorrow”; “I keep replaying conversations over in my mind – I can’t switch off”; “I wake up for no apparent reason but just can’t settle and get back to sleep again”.

Insomnia and wakefulness are an all-too-common problem. We lead such busy lives that we screech to a halt at bed-time and expect to be able to drop off to sleep straight away (after that one last check of the phone in bed…) and wonder why we can’t sleep.

So, it’s time to be honest. While you might drop off quickly due to exhaustion, a deep, restful, unbroken sleep is unlikely to happen unless you let your body and mind wind down.

Give yourself permission to relax and look after yourself, by taking some time to prepare yourself for rest, with these simple yoga techniques.

1. Before you go to bed

Yoga pose to help sleep
Legs up the wall pose

Try Supported Shoulderstand or Legs up the Wall Pose (PDF) – rest in this as long as you like e.g. 5 – 15 minutes.

When I introduce this pose to clients in my 1-2-1 sessions they always love it. They often look a bit suspicious when I show it – you’re lying there with your legs stuck up in the air afterall!

But when they try it they always remark how restful it feels. It allows tension to drain from your body, triggers the “rest and digest” response, and allows your mind to calm and quieten.

So give it a try. Don’t have enough space on the floor? Then do this on your bed.

2. Breathe yourself to sleep

If you wake up in the middle of the night, try breathing yourself back to sleep.

Lying on your back, place the flat of one hand on your abdomen and the other at the centre of your chest.

Breathe in and out. Do you notice any movement? Breathe a little deeper. As you breathe in imagine you’re filling your lungs and your abdomen expands to gently push against the hand placed there, and the hand on your chest is pushed up slightly by the expansion of your rib cage. As you breathe out your lungs empty completely and your belly draws in and your chest falls.

Bring all of your attention onto the sensations of breathing.

Aim to relax on each out breath. Try to release the thoughts about not sleeping. Forget about the time. Forget about anything else. Accept what is in this moment and breathe….

3. Body scan

This technique is particularly useful if your mind is chattering away – as it gives it something else to focus on. And as it doesn’t involve you moving it won’t disturb anybody else.

Starting at your right foot, take your awareness there and say to yourself:

My right foot is relaxing … my right foot is relaxed.

Then begin to guide your awareness through your body:

My right leg is relaxing … my right leg is relaxed.
My left foot is relaxing … my left foot is relaxed.

And so on…

Work your way through your body: your legs, your hips, your lower back, your abdomen, your chest, your spine, your back, your shoulders, your neck, your jaw, your face … your mind.

My invitation to you

So I invite you to try one or all of these tonight.

Switch off the TV / computer / your phone. Lie down, put your legs up that wall and relax. Breathe and let go.

And I hope you have a good night’s sleep!


Over to you

How does that sound? I’d love to know how you get on. Or do you have your own tips to share on encouraging restful sleep? Please share in the comments box below.

What next?

In the Southampton/Eastleigh area? Then come to a weekly class for regular mindful movement and relaxation in a supportive atmosphere. I teach seven public classes a week and monthly workshops – check out my yoga class timetable and workshops schedule to find out more and make a booking enquiry.

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{4.12 image photo credit: schnappischnap / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)}

10 thoughts on “3 simple ways to help you sleep better

  1. Hi Stella,
    Great blog with easy to do, useful tips. I particularly liked the image you used, as it really jumped out and made me curious to read the blog.
    A suggestion: could you reformat the headings after the three tips, so they don’t appear like further tips? Maybe a different font size, or just rearranging the information so that it’s more compact after the main part of the blog,

    Barbara

    1. Hi Barbara, thanks for your comments. I’m glad to hear you though the tips were easy to do and useful! That’s what I’m aiming to do – enable people to take yoga off the mat and into their lives every day :)

      And thanks for your feedback on the layout. I’ve added a line underneath the main body of the post to differentiate from the “over to you” and sharing options etc

  2. As I said on FB, I really love the body scan method as it takes me out of my head and in to my body. Recently I found it hard to get to sleep as I was anxious about something and I was feeling very uncomfortable. Instead of trying to get rid of the anxious feeling, I investigated it instead using a Byron Katie line of questioning around whether it was really true that it felt really uncomfortable. I found the discomfort actually started to melt away as I leaned in to it more, a good example of what we resist persists I guess.

    1. Hi Rona. Thanks for sharing the Byron Katie method – that sounds really interesting. It’s all too easy to give more and more energy to negative thoughts and feelings by resisting them isn’t it? I shall give this technique a try myself!

  3. Stella –
    I love the legs in the air one. I haven’t done a shoulder stand in a bit too long (should consider trying again) but the legs in the air I can do tonight and will! Thank you!!
    Mary Grace

    ps: fyi it is asking to sign into WP – I know in our class module you mentioned that is set to ‘off’ but it did just ask me – ?

    1. Hi Mary Grace! Yes, the one where you stick your legs in the air is great isn’t it? It’s much gentler, simpler and safer than full shoulder stand and is surprisingly relaxing!

      And thanks for your feedback on leaving a comment – I will do some more investigation of my settings!

  4. Hi Stella
    the exercise with the legs up in the air looks good, will give it a go!
    I have used breathing many times and found that it really helps…combined with counting from 100 backwards!! I supposed my mind gets distracted by the more challenging counting and relaxed by the breathing! :-)

    1. I hope you enjoy the legs up in the air pose – how did you get on! Yes, our breath is such a powerful tool to help us relax isn’t it? And I’m totally with you on needing to distract my mind to help me relax! I like the body scan method too where I’m mentally noting “my foot is relaxing, my foot is relaxed” – I find it a great way to distract the chattering monkey mind!

  5. Hi Stella
    Lovely post – it feels really accessible and easy to follow. I like the way you drop in the seed for your 1-2-1 sessions in the legs up the wall section too, and the way you write comes across as really genuine. Thank you!
    Angela
    x

    1. Thank you Angela! I aim to make my posts, guides and downloads as accessible as possible to enable you to bring them into your life every day, for me, yoga is as much about what you do off the yoga mat than on it, so it’s great to hear your feedback :)
      Stella x

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