Americans are getting less sleep than ever, making it difficult to complete even the simplest of tasks during the day. The ancient practice of yoga has the power to relax and restore the body in preparation for a deep, quality night’s worth of sleep.
The amount of sleep the average person logs each night has been steadily decreasing over the past century, with the average American sleeping six-and-a-half hours a night during a five-day work week, according to the National Sleep Foundation’s 2013 International Bedroom Poll. Sleep deprivation is a major cause or worsening of daytime stress, which only emphasizes the importance of finding a sleep routine to increase your quality of rest and decrease the digression of poor sleep health.
With more than 14 million Americans rolling out their mat for yoga, it is ranked the most commonly used complementary health practice among adults, according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Not only does it ease the body into sleep mood, it has also been found to improve asthma, soothe arthritis, ease chronic back pains, decrease depression, treat insomnia, and improve overall physical fitness, strength, and flexibility.
Remember to focus on inhaling and exhaling as you bend your body from move to move, paying careful attention that your tongue doesn’t press against the roof of your mouth, as it will disrupt breathing, cause unnecessary strain, and distract the mind from achieving total relaxation. Hold each position for 60 seconds. The countdown should also serve as a calming rhythm.
Lay a towel or yoga mat, if you have one, next to your bed. Make sure you’ve completed your nightly routines, such as brushing your teeth and washing your face, before you begin the bedtime yoga sequence because you’ll want to go to sleep immediately following the last pose.
8 Yoga Moves For Better Zs:
1. Butterfly Pose (Baddha Konasana)
Sit with your legs straight out in front of you and raise your hips forward. Exhale, bend your knees, and pull your heels toward your hips. Then drop your knees out to the sides and press the soles of your feet together with the outer edges of the feet firmly aligned onto the floor. Lengthen your torso and push your chest up to the sky and breathe.
2. Mountain Pose (Tadasana):
Stand up and plant your feet into the group with the bases of your big toes touching, heels slightly apart. Breathe as you arch your back and focus on strengthening and tightening all the way up through the core of your torso, neck, and head, and out the top of your head. Press your shoulder blades into your back and lift your chest toward the ceiling. Widen your collarbones and hang your arms alongside your hips.
3. Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana)
Exhale and bend forward out of mountain pose from the hip joints, not from the waist. As you bend forward, lengthen your torso forward and focus on breathing into the fold of your body until you’re fully into position. Try to keep your knees straight and bring your palms and fingertips in front or beside your toes. If your flexibility limits you, cross your forearms, hold your elbows, and breathe.
4. Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Bend the knees and support yourself forward with your hands into table pose. Place your knees directly below your hips and your hands slightly in front of your shoulders with a firm palm on the mat. Bend the knees and lift your tailbone upward, lengthening it as your move up into an upside-down “v” shape. Pull your hips toward the ceiling and breathe.
5. Child’s Pose (Balasana)
Exhale out of child’s pose by kneeling onto your mat and sitting on your heels. Lay your torso down on your thighs and lengthen your tailbone away from the back of the pelvis while you lift the base of your skull away from your neck. Lay your hands, palms facing upward, on the floor alongside your torso and relax the fronts of your shoulders toward the floor. Feel the weight from your shoulders pull the blades down across your back and breathe.
6. Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
Gradually sit in an upright position with your feet out in front of you. Lie on your back and bend your knees with your feet firmly onto the floor. Lay your arms alongside your torso, firm and lift the buttocks off the floor. Clasp your hands in front of your pelvis and extend through the arms to help you stay on the tops of your shoulders and lift your buttocks until your thighs are almost parallel. Keep your knees directly over the heels and lengthen the tailbone. Exhale and slowly roll the spine, vertebrate by vertebrate down onto the floor and breathe.
7. Half Happy Baby (Ananda Balasana)
Lay flat on your back and bend one knee, driving it toward your armpit. Flex your foot to face the ceiling and grab the outside of your foot with the same side arm. Switch sides and then finish the pose by doing it with both feet at the same time and breathe.
8. Corpse Pose (Savasana)
Lay flat again and lift your pelvis slightly off the floor, inhale and slowly extend the right leg, then the left, pushing through the heels. Release both legs, softening them into the ground. Narrow the front pelvis and soften the lower back.
This is the ideal position to be in when you transition into sleep. Move onto your bed and avoid having to do anything other than slide in between the sheets and fall asleep, so as not to interrupt the calm state the muscles, tendons, eyes, and brain are in. Even try to avoid speaking.
Sleep has taken on a forefront in medical discovery, as researchers try to unweave the intricate interplay of brain functions, immune system, respiration, cardiovascular health, blood pressure, appetite, and mental health. Scientists are just starting to grasp the extent to which our health depends on the length and quality of rest we give our bodies. Sleep typically takes up about a third of every day, which means an average person who lives to be 90 years old, will spend over 30 years of it asleep.
Chronic sleep deprivation results in daytime sleepiness, slower reflexes, poor concentration, and increased risk of car accidents. Long-term problems, which pose more severe health consequences, including diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and weight gain. Between 50 and 70 million Americans are affected by chronic sleep disorders, according to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), an independent nonprofit organization established in 1990 to collect and educate sleep research for the general public.
The NSF even describes the necessities used to design a “Sleep-Friendly Bedroom” in your own home in order to improve on your quality of sleep night after night. To no surprise, the Foundation suggests: dimming the lights an hour before bed to regulate the brain into sleep mode, choosing paint colors for the wall that make you feel relaxed and peaceful, while making sure the room is clean and uncluttered.
In addition, make sure the room temperature typically stays between 60 to 67 degrees for optimal sleep, and choose mattresses, pillows, and sheets that are comfortable to you. Place a pleasant scent in the room, such as lavender, which has been tested to decrease heart rate and blood pressure. Reduce the noise in the room and put in its place a soothing conditioner or fan to create a consistent backdrop to your slumber, and of course, turn the television off. Experts firmly believe a television shouldn’t belong in your bedroom in the first place, but if it is, make sure it’s off along with your computers and cellphones, at least half an hour before your head hits the pillow.
It’s no coincidence that the ideal sleep-ready room is the same type of setting many yoga classes are practiced in. The decreased level of stress from both the environment and yoga-empowering movements is known to increase sleep efficiency, total sleep time, and total wake time.