From the Sleep Queen: Simple Tips and Yoga to Help You Sleep

asleep beautiful woman in the fairy-tale forestIt seems that nearly everyone experiences sleep issues at one time or another. Insufficient sleep is more than a personal problem; it’s a public health issue. Sleepy drivers and workers can cause accidents.

People often complain that their “minds just won’t shut off” when they can’t fall asleep or stay asleep. This is usually a signal of anxiety, so it helps to look at what’s bothering you. If it happens frequently, it might be a sign that you need to talk to someone to help sort things out—finding a therapist can help.

Certainly, fear and anxiety aren’t conducive to sleep. I’m speaking from experience. Although I’ve never tried sleeping pills, many years ago I had scary nightmares and slept poorly. With the help of psychoanalysis and yoga, I am now the sleep queen. I fall asleep in minutes and sleep soundly. If I do wake up, it is for a short time, and then I go back to sleep. If I’m worried about something, I use relaxation techniques to help my body and mind quiet down.

I am not a big fan of sleeping pills. They might work briefly in an emergency, but they can be addictive and they affect the quality of your sleep. Some people sleepwalk when they use sleeping pills. For these reasons and others, I prefer the holistic approach to better sleep.

Here are some simple, all-natural ways to improve your sleep hygiene:

  • Shut off your computer at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
  • Consider giving up the late-night news if you’re constantly waking up feeling exhausted.
  • A cup of herbal tea or warm milk with honey and a dash of nutmeg can be calming.
  • Talking with a therapist can help alleviate the anxiety that is keeping you awake.

A Quick Yoga Sequence for Better Sleep

Do this in your pajamas when you’re ready for bed. Move slowly at your own pace and take deep breaths. Have a chair handy, or you can use the edge of your bed if it’s a comfortable height for you to sit on—meaning you can sit on the edge with your feet on the floor with your knees bent at a 90-degree angle.

  1. Start in tabletop position on the floor. Begin some gentle cat/cows. Yoga Journal has simple pictures explaining cat and cow pose.
  2. Change cat/cow to a milder version. In cat, look slightly upward, then on the exhale push back gently to wide-knee child’s pose, arms extended forward, forearms on floor if that is comfortable for you. Continue slowly inhaling up into cat, exhaling back into child’s pose. Do as many as you like.
  3. Rest in child’s pose for a moment or two.
  4. Now, sit on the floor close to a chair or the edge of your bed with your legs under the chair or bed or cross-legged in front of the chair, as you like. Then, fold your arms onto the seat of the chair or the edge of the bed and rest your forehead on your folded arms. Stay as long as you like.
  5. Next is my favorite. With your back on floor, put your legs up the wall or bend your knees so your calves rest on the seat of the chair. This position can help with low back pain.
  6. Now, sit on the chair or the bed, bring your left arm behind you, place the palm of your left hand on the chair seat or bed, and get nice and long. Then, stretch your right arm up, get longer, and place right hand on left knee. Twist to the left, beginning from the belly, to the mid-back, to the shoulders, and last of all the head. Hold for three breaths, then return to center and repeat on the other side.
  7. Come back to child’s pose, on the floor or the bed. You may support your trunk with a pillow or not. Choose whatever is the most comfortable for you.
  8. End with abhyanga, a yoga massage. Simply massage hands, fingers, arms, toes, feet, and legs with moisturizer and go to sleep.
  9. If you like to read for a bit before you finally fall asleep, that’s OK, too.

Always check with your physician before you begin any new form of exercise, including yoga.

© Copyright 2015 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Lynn Somerstein, PhD, NCPsyA, C-IAYT, therapist in New York City, New York

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • 13 comments
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  • Jade

    Jade

    August 27th, 2015 at 10:26 AM

    All of the time my daughter complains that she can’t go to sleep when she goes to bed even though she feels tired, and I try to tell her that she needs to shut down the screens for an hour before she even lays down to try.

  • Marie

    Marie

    August 27th, 2015 at 1:37 PM

    Thank you for the yoga suggestions.
    I have always found this to be pretty relaxing so I would love to discover new ways to incorporate this into my “wind down” routine at night.

  • Lynn Somerstein

    Lynn Somerstein

    August 28th, 2015 at 5:00 AM

    Dear Jade and dear Marie,
    Thank you both for sharing your experiences. I learned (earned?) a good night’s sleep after years of battling insomnia, and these tips work for me and other people too.
    The computer’s light activates neurons in the brain, which keeps people awake. And a “wind down” routine is a great system.
    Take care, and sleep tight!

    Lynn

  • Jasmine

    Jasmine

    August 28th, 2015 at 10:20 AM

    I am sure that I probably know what you think about the whole concept of having to take medication to sleep, but it must be big business because this is something that I hear almost everyone talking about, that they have to take this or that to help them sleep. Could you give me just a little insight about what taking these things does to the brain and do you think that it overall disrupts your natural ability to go to sleep on your own?

  • Allen

    Allen

    August 29th, 2015 at 11:42 AM

    What do you think about meditation, or does this sort of go along with the whole gist of yoga? I am thinking that these two things could somehow be incorporated?

  • corinne

    corinne

    August 30th, 2015 at 9:26 AM

    I will definitely be trying #5 to help with my back. I have tried everything else so this one seems like it would be no invasion and pretty peaceful.

  • paris

    paris

    August 30th, 2015 at 2:41 PM

    very much stereotypical but
    that glass of warm milk
    has always worked for me

  • Mattie

    Mattie

    August 31st, 2015 at 9:10 AM

    I have tried so many things and nothing has ever seemed to give me that good night’s rest that I want but I can’t ever seem to get. I guess I haven’t tried yoga yet so that will be the next thing on my list to try.

  • Dr. Lynn Somerstein

    Dr. Lynn Somerstein

    September 1st, 2015 at 6:45 AM

    Hi Jasmine,
    You’re right, sleeping pills are big business, and sometimes it helps to take them for a very short period of time. The side effects of these pills are numerous; here are just a few:
    1. developing a dependency on the pills.
    2. disturbed sleep and dream patterns.
    3. impairment the next day.
    4.some people are allergic.
    5. sleep walking.
    6. sleep eating.
    7. breath disturbances– shallow slow breathing.

  • Dr. Lynn Somerstein

    Dr. Lynn Somerstein

    September 1st, 2015 at 6:46 AM

    Hi Allen,
    Good question — yes, meditation is related. In fact, a yoga sequence can be a meditation.
    Thanks for asking.
    take care,
    Lynn

  • Dr. Lynn Somerstein

    Dr. Lynn Somerstein

    September 1st, 2015 at 6:48 AM

    Hi Corinne,
    Legs up the wall are great for back pain, and also relieve puffy ankles.
    Take care,
    Lynn

  • Dr. Lynn Somerstein

    Dr. Lynn Somerstein

    September 1st, 2015 at 6:48 AM

    Paris-
    A glass of warm milk can be very helpful.
    Take care,
    Lynn

  • Dr. Lynn Somerstein

    Dr. Lynn Somerstein

    September 1st, 2015 at 6:49 AM

    Hey Mattie,
    Glad to hear you’re going to give yoga a chance to help.
    take care,
    Lynn

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