AH, SLEEP, my old friend, how I miss you. Everything is going against me getting my full eight hours right now, which is making me slightly obsessed with .
First, like most of the country, I was smothered with cold at New Year, which affected my sleep. And after the sugar rush and booze binge of Christmas, your body can feel off kilter and unable to unwind. It’s no wonder Google searches about sleep and how to get it peak in January.
The same applies to children, if my three are anything to go by. I’m struggling to get them into bed after the holidays and they’re little devils to wake up in the morning. Couple that with sickness, and the sleep thieves are even more wakeful at night than normal. And I’m not even going to go into the baby’s all-night partying.
There are practical ways to improve your chances of getting a full night’s slumber. You know the drill: dim the lights, give yourself time to unwind before bed, no sugar after dinner, drink sleepy tea (chamomile, valerian and so on) and leave your phone out of the bedroom, for starters.
All this applies to children, too. I’m also playing chilled music at bedtime, which has had a surprisingly powerful effect on their mood — and mine.
But what if there were a few yoga poses that would greatly increase your chances of getting more sleep? These gentle, soothing restorative postures will help to lower stress levels, calm the mind and release tension. You can even do them in bed!
1. CROSS-LEGGED FOLD Sit and cross your legs, feeling your sitting bones press into the ground. If this is tricky, sit on a cushion. Walk the hands forward, bringing your forehead towards the ground. Close your eyes and relax every muscle in your body. Stay here as long as you like, then cross your legs the other way and repeat. This pose releases tension in the hips and back. Forward bends also act as a natural sedative. The position of the body naturally lengthens your exhale, which calms the nervous system. They also cut off external stimuli, promoting rest.
2. FORWARD FOLD Lengthen the legs but keep the knees soft. Fold the body forward over the legs and let gravity draw you deeper into the pose as you breathe. Enjoy all the benefits of pose 1, plus a full stretch for the back of the body, from the soles of the feet to the crown of the head.
3. LYING TWIST LAY down and draw the knees into the chest. Give them a hug and stay here for a couple of breaths. Place the hands out at shoulder height, palms facing up, and engage your abdominal muscles, dropping your legs to the right hand side. Turn the head to the left to complete the twist. Stay here for several breaths to release tension from the stomach and shoulders, then repeat on the other side.
4. RELAXATION STAY on your back, or roll onto your side if this if this is comfortable. Close your eyes and start to feel a sense of relaxation in the toes. Let this soft feeling of relaxation travel up the body, slowly moving up through the feet, ankles and legs, filling the body with a softness. Feel it travel through the belly, ribs and chest, all the way down the arms, through the hands to the fingertips. That sense of relaxation now travels up through the throat and across the face. Feel the jaw relax and the space between your eyebrows wide and soften, and a sense of relaxation deep inside the ears.
Still awake? Good. Kids will love this sequence too, so talk them through it too and see if they give you a break tonight…
Published in the Irish Daily Mail, January 23, 2018