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Having trouble sleeping at night?


sleepless

Most of us go through experiences periodically when we have trouble falling asleep when we go to bed. There are other times when you happen to wake up in the middle of the night, either due to a dream, some noise, or just because you have to go to the toilet, and then cannot go back to sleep. These episodes may represent minor sleep disorders or serious cases of insomnia.

Before discussing how we can improve the quality of sleep, I would like to briefly list some of the common causes of disturbed sleep (not in any specific order):

  • Eating a late night dinner, not giving enough time before sleep for the food to be digested. When there is food in the stomach, all the prana (vital life energy) is being used up for digestion, resulting in poor sleep.
  • Large variations in the normal sleep and wakeup cycles
  • Stressful day
  • Lingering negative emotions of anger, guilt, hatred etc.
  • You are in the middle of trying to solve an intricate problem at work or home
  • Any physical ailment, especially disorders of the stomach – overeating, indigestion etc
  • Watching late night movie with a violent or disturbing story-line
  • Having stimulants like caffeine (a cup of coffee, tea etc.) too late in the evening
  • Anxiety, depression, fear etc.

If there are other causes that keep you awake at night, please share them below in the comments section

So how can we improve the quality of sleep (even sleep like a baby at times!)? Obviously, we need to make the effort to diminish or eliminate the causes listed above that result in poor sleep quality. As you will notice, most of the causes listed above have to do with the mind. It is a lack of self-control which makes us overeat, sleep late, keep irregular sleep pattern etc. 

You may recall that Patanjali defines yoga as "controlling the fluctuations of the mind" (yogash-chitta-vritti-nirodhah). Lack of self-control, falling an easy prey to the temptations of eating, late nights etc. all are nothing but fluctuations of the mind. Since  by its very definition, yoga is supposed to help us keep the mind in a steady state most of the time, our tendency to over-indulge will automatically diminish if we practice yoga on a regular basis.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, the practice of yoga must include, in addition to the practice of asana (physical posture), pranayama (breathing practices) and meditation. If you practice yoga as an aid to help you with sleep, you may want to practice it in the evening. You can either do it before dinner, or if you are an early dinner eater, you may do the yoga routine about 2.5-3 hours after the meals, but about half an hour before retiring to bed.

Here is the routine I recommend:

Asana practice (10 minutes)

pavanamukta

Pavana-muktasana (wind-relieving pose)

Lie down on your back with the legs stretched out straight. Fold the right knee, hold the shin with the two hands and hug the knees to the chest. Hold the post for five breaths; repeat with the other leg and then with both legs.

For details, visit here


reclining twist

Reclining twist

Lie down on your back, spread the arms out to a "T", place the sole of the right foot on the left knee. Use the left hand to gently guide the right knee toward the floor on the left side. Keeping the right shoulder on the floor, role the right hip over the left. Stay in the pose for five breaths; repeat on the other side.

For details, visit here …


Spinal Twist

Seated spinal twist

Come to a sitting position with the legs stretched out in front. Bend the right knee and place the sole of the right foot on the outside of the left knee, keeping the foot flat and the knee vertical. Wrap the left arm around the right knee and place the right hand behind the spine. Make a gentle effort to pull the knee and thigh in toward the abdomen and the right shoulder back and away. Hold the pose for five breaths; repeat on the other side.

For details, visit here …

Standing forward bend

From the standing position, gently begin to bend forward, dropping the arms down. Allow the shoulders to hang loose and the arms just dangling down. Allow the gravity to lower the chest toward the thighs. Hold the pose for about two minutes. Very slowly unwind from the pose, one vertebra at a time. When fully in the standing position, place the palms on the waste with the thumbs joined together at the lower part of the spine. Now begin to gently bend backward with the thumbs pressing against the spine. Hold for five breaths and come back to the standing position.

Pranayama (10 minutes)

Bhramari (Humming Bee breath)

Naadi Shuddhi (Alternate Nostril Breathing)

Meditation (10 minutes)

Follow these simple guidelines for your meditation.

When you are ready to sleep

Lie down in Shavasana. Bring your awareness to individual parts of the body, one at a time, and try to let go of any tightness or fatigue that you might feel in the body. Stay in Shavasana for about five minutes. If you still have trouble falling asleep, you may go through this routine of counting breaths backwards. Count each breath as an inhalation followed by an exhalation. Start the count at 25 and count the breaths backwards, all the way down to zero. In most cases, before you reach the count of zero, you should be fast asleep. If not, you may  repeat the counting cycle one more time.

If none of this works, it is time to see a doctor!

8 comments to Having trouble sleeping at night?

  • Judy Blankenship

    Hi Subhash!!! I MISS YOU! my first comment is YOU ARE AWESOME…YOUR NEWSLETTERS ARE THE BEST I HAVE EVER SEEN WITH THE MOST IMPORTANT WELL WRITTEN AND EXPLAINED INFORMATION I HAVE EVER READ IN REGARD TO YOGA!!!!! I am so excited for you!!!!

    Thank you for the falling asleep information it is so important and I will try to share it . So many people struggle with sleep issues.

    You ask if we knew any other causes : You and I would never think of this because we know the importance of staying away from all drugs if possible! but I have understood from other folks that they take so many different medications some of them fight each other and some cause them not be be able to sleep and they have no clue it is the medication. That is just a thought from what I have learned from working with people. I think that is a major frightening concern in this country. Our conventional medicine is absolutely best in the world for emergency but drug companies even fund a lot of M.D. training and as you even see on TV (I dont have a TV but unfortunately occasionally accidently see one) drugs are pushed for EVERYTHING ALL THE TIME!

    Still hoping you will soon be able to do some trainings so I can come to you for CECs ! That would be so Wonderful!!!! Love and Light, Jude (p.s. I do not know how to use bloggs facebook or texting I am still in dark ages 🙂 )

  • Dear Judy, thank you for your kind and generous words.
    Thank you so much for bringing out another very important reason for lack of sleep. Yes, drugs are known to cause various harmful side-effects, sleeplessness being one of them. As I like to add, accumulated side-effects caused by continuous long-term use of drugs end up as major ailments in themselves requiring more drugs! Thus this chain reaction keeps going until a person is sick beyond the reach of medicine.
    It would be wonderful to see you again!

  • Hi, This is a wonderful article. I got sleeping problem and I used to take sleeping tablets but from last year I did stop. I try to get sleep naturally and some time it’s help and some time not. I am doing meditation and Pranayama as well. Now I am going to follow your instruction and hopefully it’s help. I will let you know if I get any good luck. Thanks.

  • Dear Jyoti,
    I certainly hope the practice will help you with your sleep issues. I would love to hear your feedback. Thanks for visiting my website.

  • Hi Subhash,

    I’m facing this sleep problem since last 3 years. I have taken care of all the common issues that you listed.

    The important thing is my mind is awake and alert even when I go to bed and so can’t sleep. I tried Yoga-Nidra for 2 months, but didn’t help much.

    I’m also doing yoga since last 3 months.

    I’m really hoping you give the best solution possible in my case. Currently I take sleeping pill. I can’t get natural sleep without the pill.

    Please help.

  • Dear Avadhut,
    I sincerely apologize for never getting back to you – just slipped my mind!
    I certainly hope that things are better for you in terms of getting good sleep. Let me know how it is going now.

  • Hi Subhash,

    Do you want me to write what’s my status now?

  • Sure, Avadhut, it will be nice to get an update on the sleep status. Maybe I can suggest something!

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