How are all of you sleeping these days? I am feeling much more tired than usual, even if I get a full night of sleep.
I’m also routinely waking up between 3-4AM. Unless I immediately fall back to sleep, my busy mind starts worrying and chattering and it’s a crap shoot whether I will sleep again before the sun rises.
In my 20s, as part of my clinical internship at Rush Medical Center, I worked in a sleep disorders clinic. Initially I thought that reading sleep studies would be a boring drag, but this period of learning was highly educational.
I learned first and foremost that nearly all insomnia is due to STRESS. I also learned that the majority of insomnia is “sleep maintenance insomnia”, meaning you can fall asleep but then wake up in the middle of night unable to fall back asleep because of that pesky, busy mind.
This is because STRESS leads to something called hyperarousal disorder, where our nervous system is turned on too high.
And what helps with that? YOGA.
Yoga helps lessen arousal and return our nervous system back to baseline by:
- Lowering cortisol
- Reducing muscle tension
- Promoting slow breathing which raises CO2 levels, which is a natural sedative
- Increasing melatonin levels (via certain yoga poses like inversions) which theoretically improves sleep
There are several approaches to using yoga for insomnia. The first is a slightly more active practice to help release pent up angst and stuck energy. The second is a calming practice using restorative poses where you remain still for much of the practice.
For me, I find a mix of these approaches is the best prescription for improving sleep. I’ve included a full calming practice that works with more movement in the beginning and ends in restoration. I recommend doing it early in the evening, several hours before bedtime.
Sleep well tonight!
P.S. In the video, I share a mantra my meditation teacher Deepak Chopra taught me for insomnia. I literally use it every time I wake up at 3AM. The mantra is Om Agasthi Shahina (Ōm Ah-gah´-stee Shah-ee´-nah). Simply repeat the mantra silently to yourself. If your mind gets pulled away to thoughts or distractions, gently return your attention to the repetition of the mantra. I’ve found it’s not an easy mantra to remember, especially in the middle of the night, so put it on a sticky note next to your bed.