Sleep. We all know we need enough of it to feel good, stay healthy and perform at our best, yet, we don’t make it a priority. According to the Sleep Health Foundation, 18 per cent of Australians sleep less than 6 hours a day, and 35 per cent wake up unrefreshed. If you’re not feeling as good as you’d like, one of the first questions to ask yourself would be, ‘Am I getting enough sleep?’ If you’re relying on the alarm clock to wake you up and on caffeine to stay awake, the chances are that the answer is ‘no’.
You probably already know that sticking to a regular bedtime, staying off your digital devices before bed and avoiding heavy meals before bed will improve your sleep. Here are some less-known ways to help you get the rest your body and mind are craving for.
Research by Robert A. Emmons and Michael E. McCullough shows that gratitude has the power to affect most areas of our life, including sleep, in a positive way. Follow-up studies confirm that the practice of gratitude can help us sleep longer and better.
Psychology professor Nancy Digdon had her project participants write in a gratitude journal for 15 minutes before bed. This practice has been proven effective, but it isn’t the only way gratitude can become a part of your daily routine. If journaling works for you, great. Otherwise, get creative and find a practice that fills you with joy (and is not just another item on your never-ending to-do list). Account your blessings, sing a gratitude song to your favourite tune, do a quick gratitude sketch or create a photo collage to remind you of all the good things in your life.
Turn sleep into a game
Our mind loves a challenge. That’s why we’re gamifying everything—education, work, exercise. Why not sleep?
Often, we don’t go to sleep because it seems boring and a waste of time compared to all the other things we could be doing. What if you turn sleep into a challenge? Challenge yourself to go to sleep at a regular, reasonable time every day for a week. Ask your family to get on board and encourage you to stick to the plan. Tell your friends about it. Promise yourself a reward. Then do it! At the end of the week, you’ll find that you feel happier and you’re more productive at work. Your renewed energy will motivate you to continue… or you can give yourself another reward until you reach the next milestone.
What if you can’t fall asleep? Try staying awake while still lying in bed and doing nothing (don’t watch TV or reach for your electronic device in this game). Researchers from the University of Glasgow experimented with two groups of insomnia-sufferers. One group was left to their own devices, and the other group was challenged to try staying awake. The second group fell asleep faster!
Yoga is not also a great way improve awareness, strength and flexibility. Regular yoga practice has also been found to improve various aspects of sleep: sleep quality, length of sleep, the amount of time it takes to fall asleep.
At the retreat, we have a nightly yoga nidra practice to set you up for a peaceful night. Continue this practice at home or create your own by listening to your body and choosing a few gentle stretches, relaxing poses and breathing exercises before bed.
Tatiana is a freelance writer and a mum of three living in Sydney. After a 10-years’ break, she has just returned to full-time work. She is still finding time for yoga, meditation and mindfulness, which is making a huge difference to her sanity and her enjoyment of life.