Eyes open, arms stretched out as you gently slide out of bed ready to face the day after a night of peaceful slumber. A well rested you, is an optimal you because a good night sleep is a form of self-care.
“There is more to life than simply increasing its speed.”– Mahatma Gandhi
Jennifer, a Yoga District teacher, shares how she went from a restless sleeper to someone who wakes up well rested without an alarm clock. Read on to find out how Sleep Hygiene changed her life and how it could benefit you too.
The Washington Post notes DC residents lost more sleep than anyone in the country on the night of the 2016 presidential election. Forbes, list DC as #11 city in the nation for poor sleep with a 35.2% sleep deprivation rate.
Some factors that lead to lack of sleep are out of our control construction and traffic noise, air quality, light pollution, along with other common city sights and sounds. Those factors and lack of sleep are common for people living in a busy city like D.C. But there are many ways that we can take control of our rest, even in the most stressful of times.
Mind + Body Connection
As a yoga teacher, I strive to help people take care of their minds, bodies and spirits. I believe that getting a good night’s sleep is a key part of self care. If we are tired, how can we practice mindfulness, safely move our bodies or bring out the best of our spirits? Mahatma Gandhi said, “There is more to life than simply increasing its speed.” I agree and think that we get even more out of life when we slow it down.
Self-care practices such as yoga, meditation, building healthy relationships, cooking good homemade food and prioritizing work–personal balance have greatly improved my life. Although, quality rest was one thing that I wasn’t getting enough. I woke up repeatedly in the night and was unable to get back to sleep.
My Ayurveda doshas are always tied between Vata and Kapha: Vata is anxious and Kapha is lethargic. It felt like these two sides of me were fighting whenever I tried to catch some zzz’s. Last winter, I asked my doctor how to get a better night sleep and she told me about “sleep hygiene.” It changed my life.
Effects of Sleep Hygiene
Think of sleep hygiene as an important self-care routine, like flossing your teeth. Sure, you could just go to bed without implementing sleep hygiene. But that would be like brushing your teeth without flossing: good, but not as effective.
By practicing my doctor’s tips, within two weeks, I was sleeping better. Now, after seven or eight hours of sleep, I generally wake up before my alarm clock even rings. I am also as alert in the morning as I am in the evening, which is an incredible feeling since I am a night person. I can wake up at 7am without my alarm when the old me would have stayed nestled in bed for most of the morning.
Detrimental Effects of Poor Sleep
Research backs my anecdotal experience. Lack of rest has huge personal costs. Data presented by the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School suggests that people who sleep for five or less hours per night raise their mortality risk by 15%. Not to mention the costs of not being fully present in your life. Psychology Today outlines how lack of sleep affects your relationships with issues like having a shorter temper and escalating conflict.
Benefits of Sleep Hygiene
While the costs of not getting your zzz’s are great, the benefits of a good night’s sleep are enormous. Resources such as the US Department of Health and Human Services list a few—and recommend relaxation and deep breathing to get there:
- Improve relationships
- Boost your memory by better processing information in sleep
- Enhance athletic performance with less fatigue and more stamina
- Elevate mental health
- Spark creativity
- Less stress
Sleep Hygiene: Self-Care Routine
So what can you do to get better rest?
Yoga, with countless benefits including reducing stress and regulating emotions is one way to manage your sleep. Try a relaxing class like meditative flow, restorative, yin or meditation in the evening to release tension and prepare the body for slumber. Yoga District offers those classes at evening times exactly for this purpose.
My doctor’s sleep hygiene advice also works wonders. The basic elements are changing lifestyle habits and adjusting your environment to get better rest. Listening to soothing sounds before bed, is just one example, like these healing mantras created by a classmate of mine from my yoga teacher training program
Our culture seems to glorify less sleep like it’s a sign of doing more. But since I have slowed down my life, I have increased productivity in my waking hours. Even better than “doing more” is I am “being more” because I am so fully present.
Healthy Sleeping habits can lead to good sleep. If interested in learning more about sleep hygiene then check out Yoga District’s Sleep Hygiene series.