A few weeks ago, a fellow entrepreneur and good friend asked me if I had any tips to fight insomnia. She asked Sies the professional relaxer: as a yoga teacher, you are expected to always be in a blissful state of peace. Little did she know that Sies - the person - also struggled with insomnia just over a year ago. Nights went by as I laid down in bed to sleep, only to realise a few hours later that I was in fact not sleeping but had been thinking about stuff the whole time. Breathing at a pace as if I’d been running up and down a hill my body kept on being energetic – yet tired- and awake during the night. During the day, due to the lack of sleep, my body kept on burning energy I didn’t have anymore; I was burning out. Literally.
A good night’s sleep is paramount to living a healthy and (mentally) stable life. Letting go of worries about circumstances you can’t do anything about is the first step to that - one I cannot help you with in one blog. However, to try to let go of those worries and their insidious laps in your head throughout the night is something I cán help you with. It’s a very difficult, magical concept (not), namely breath and the awareness thereof. Although most of the actions of the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) are involuntary, the breath works together with the conscious mind. This means our mind can manipulate a bodily function we desperately need to stay alive! The question which arises then is how to manipulate the mind with the breath.
Very easy, here are the steps:
Inhale deeply, and
Exhale fully (repeat)
Optional: hold your breath for a second in between the inhalation and exhale and feel how the oxygen is reaching all your cells.
Not so difficult, right? The trick is to inhale so deeply that you’re expanding your belly (or chest depending on the kind of breathing you prefer) and to exhale so fully that your belly is tucking in. If you do that with much effort, it’s difficult to think about anything else. And when your mind starts to wander anyway, attach no judgement to those thoughts, just start over again. It sounds very simple and almost too good to be true, but it works. After some rounds of breathing deeply, you’ll notice (or not) that you’re drifting off and you can breathe without effort again.
Some additional tips for a good night’s sleep: create a sleeping ritual before bed time so your body can wind down. Just as you have a pattern to follow in the morning to wake the body up (mine is to snooze at least three times, before waking up with the cat and breakfast in bed thanks to my generous partner, doing my yoga exercises, taking a shower and then a cup of coffee), create one for the night as well. Don’t be shocked if my alarm clock goes off when we’re having drinks at 10pm; It’s just my first signal to get ready for bed.
Also, wake up around the same time every day, even though you feel like sleeping in. And go to bed on that same day, i.e. before midnight, as much as possible to stay in a healthy pattern. Unless you enjoy not doing that. Then don’t.