Insomnia affects approximately 60 million people in the United States. Insomnia expresses itself differently in each person; some people have trouble going to sleep while others may find it difficult to complete a full sleep cycle. Insomnia may occur periodically or exist as a chronic condition.
A variety of lifestyle factors and health conditions cause insomnia:
- Stress (physical or emotional)
- Medical conditions which alter an individual’s breathing pattern
- Chronic medical conditions that invoke insomnia
- Night shift work
- Some medications
- Chronic or acute pain
- Sleep environment (too much light or noise; uncomfortable temperature)
- Insomnia is two times more common in women than in men. This is attributed to menopause where sleep is often interrupted by hot flashes, night sweats, and the fact that insomnia is very common during pregnancy.
- If you are 60 or older your risk increases as well.
Insomnia can be managed or cured with a doctor’s assistance. Some people receive prescription medications to help them sleep. In many cases, the first approach to managing insomnia is based on changing behaviors to facilitate optimum sleeping patterns.
Good sleep hygiene includes:
- Going to bed at the same time
- Waking at the same time
- Establishing a bedtime routine
- Turning off and disengaging from electronics at least an hour before bed (including the television)
- Keep the room as dark as possible (no bright LED lights)
Exercise in the morning before starting daily activities or at night at least six hours prior to bedtime helps people sleep. The exact reason exercise supports sleep remains unclear. Several factors may contribute to this effect.
The accompanying rise and fall in body temperature may encourage better sleep. The endorphins released during exercise may alleviate stress and anxiety induced insomnia. People meeting the guideline of 150 minutes or more of moderate to vigorous exercise as recommended in Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, a Department of Health and Human Services publication, see the most sleep benefits.
Yoga As A Sleep Aid
Using yoga as a sleep aid offers many positive benefits:
- It is an all-natural and drug free solution without any side effects.
- It can be done at home and away from home.
- It does not require special equipment.
- A wide range of fitness levels can perform these exercises.
A yoga practice effectively relieves insomnia, because it:
Stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system which activates the relaxation response, the opposite of the fight or flight response activated by stress
Encourages the mind to be still, ending racing thoughts and ruminating which can affect sleep
Different types of yoga poses provide different types of effects on the body. Some energize and invigorate while others calm and center the body. In order to relieve insomnia, the selected poses need to focus on instilling a sense of calm and relaxation.
Relax Your Body And Mind With 5 Yoga Poses
The following yoga poses assist with soothing away mental and physical tension. They should be done as part of your bedtime routine. They relax the hips and lower back as well as the shoulders and upper back, areas which tend to accumulate tension during the day. Breathe slowly and deeply holding each pose for five to seven breaths. A breath is one inhale and one exhale.
Sukhasana Easy pose:
- Sit comfortably with the knees bent and the ankles resting on the floor in front of you.
- Rest the hands on the knees and bring your attention to your breath.
- Extend both legs in front of you and reach toward your feet. Your hands do not have to reach your feet.
- Only bend forward, from the hips, as far as you are able to do so without rounding the back.
- Lay back and bend the knees with the soles of the feet remaining on the floor in line with the hips.
- Allow the knees to touch without moving your feet. Extend the arms to either side of the body to form a T-shape.
- Drop the knees to one side while turning the head in the opposite direction.
- Bring the head and knees back to center then twist to the opposite side.
- Alternate twisting from side to side for three to five rounds.
Legs up a wall:
- Take a seat near an open wall.
- Place one of your hips close to the wall then turn them up against the wall and lay back.
- Rest here for five to 10 breaths or up to 10 minutes.
- Lay down on your yoga mat with legs extended and arms resting alongside the body palms facing up.
- Remain here for 10 minutes.
The stress relief aspects of exercise are amplified by yoga’s approach to movement. Yoga provides an ideal means to experience the physical gains offered by moderate exercise as well as the mental benefits of the breathing exercises and meditative quality of the practice.
Each pose is performed mindfully with the breath aligned to each movement. It brings a meditative quality to the “exercise” and in turn meditation’s benefits: stress relief and a state of relaxation.
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