Are you getting enough sleep these days? Did you know that 30 per cent of people suffer from some form of sleep insomnia?
Moreover, we get 20 per cent less sleep than people who lived 100 years ago. And did you know that 90 per cent of people who suffer from depression also suffer from insomnia?
These are some shocking statistics and causing people anxiety, stress, and even obesity.
There are also huge costs associated with insomnia.
According to the US Surgeon General, insomnia costs the US Government more than $15 billion per year in health care costs alone.
Statistics also show that US industry loses about $150 billion each year because of sleep-deprived workers; this takes into account absenteeism and lost productivity. As you can see it's a big problem.
There are solutions out there for helping get to sleep, like limiting your caffeine intake, turning off your electronic devices earlier in the evening, and even medical interventions.
There is also another way to help get more sleep: Yoga.
Yoga is a great way to relax the body, slow down the mind, and decrease anxiety.
Researchers at Harvard Medical School investigated how a daily yoga practice might affect sleep for people with insomnia and found broad improvements to measurements of sleep quality and quantity.
After the eight-week study, researchers found improvement in all of these areas: sleep efficiency, total sleep time, total wake time, sleep onset latency (the amount of time it takes to fall asleep), and wake time after sleep onset.
So with this knowledge in hand, what can you do to help use yoga as a sleep aid? There are a lot of different answers to this question, you can start a yoga practice at a local studio, you could do yoga classes online from home, or you could start with a couple of these yoga poses, done before bedtime to help your mind and body relax.
This simple sequence listed below should take about 20 minutes with you doing each pose for four minutes. Some of them have two sides, so in that case do two minutes on each side. Knowing that, here is the sleep-friendly yoga sequence:
1. Balasana (Child's pose)
Come into a kneeling position and put your knees comfortably apart. Reach your arms in out front of you and relax them on the floor. Use a blanket/towel to help make poses as comfortable as possible.
2. Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Fold pose)
Find a seated position with your legs in front of you. Raise your arms above the head momentarily and then bring your arms down on either side of your legs, curl your chin to your chest, and breath slow, deep, breaths. You can sit on a blanket to make it more comfortable if required. Don't try to reach as far as you can forward, instead round the spine, and try to relax the body as much as you can while you are in the pose.
3. Viparita Karani (Feet up the Wall pose)
Move to a wall and put your back against the floor and feet into the air. Try to get as close to the wall as you can, comfortably, and then gently relax the body. You aren't looking for a major stretch here, more about cooling the body and allowing the inversion of the legs above the heart to calm the nervous system.
4. Supta kapotasana (Reclined Pigeon pose)
Move away from the wall, bend your left knee and gently place your right foot on your left thigh. There shouldn't be a large stretching feeling in the outer hip, we are trying to do less here. The goal is a gentle opening of the hip. After 2 minutes, switch sides and repeat.
5. Jathara Parivartanasana (Belly Turning pose)
Raise the feet in line with the knees and then gently move them to the left, allowing them to gently rest on the floor and slowly twist the spine. You are trying to do a gentle twist to release tension in the lower back and outer hips. After 2 minutes, switch sides and repeat.
6. Savasana (Corpse pose)
Lay on your back and feel the effects of the previous postures on the body; stay as long as you would like.
This simple sequence of yoga poses can be done every night before bed. If you want to do them for longer or shorter, you can change the duration as you see fit. Play some relaxing music and allow the yoga postures to calm you down and help prepare you for sleep.
With so much at stake, finding an effective treatment for insomnia for you is an important undertaking. Sometimes medical intervention can be an appropriate choice, but adding in lifestyle changes, Yoga, and other regular forms of exercise can help to form the basis of a long-term, sustainable lifestyle that helps you sleep more, and better.
■ Tim Seutter is a firefighter, yoga teacher and manager at The Loft Yoga and Pilates Studio, Whangārei.