Sleep is a big topic. An issue people have always struggled with: how to sleep more, better and deeper. A topic that is perhaps more addressed now than before, with sleep deprivation being a common concern in our hectic daily lives. So why is sleep important and what can we do to get that much needed shut-eye?
“Sleep loss can occur as the result of busy lifestyles, high workloads and family commitments, shift work, as well as anxiety and depression, illness or psychiatric disorders – many factors can go into it” stated Dr. Renata Riha, Consultant in Sleep and Respiratory Medicine and head of the Sleep Research Unit at Edinburgh University.
“Your whole body needs to rest to refresh itself, sleep is essential” – Dr. Renata Riha, sleep consultant and researcher
With our working schedules and social lives, we often suffer burn-outs and forget the importance of sleep and rest. For our bodies and minds to fully function, we need to give them the rest they deserve.
“Your whole body needs to rest to refresh itself” explained Dr Renata. “Sleep is essential to the clearance of waste from the nerve cells through a system called the glymphatics (a functional waste clearance pathway for the vertebrate central nervous system) and this occurs during Slow-Wave-Sleep (aka deep sleep) at night” she added.
For a good night’s sleep, Dr. Renata Riha suggests to take into account the following:
- Being sleepy in the first place
- A quiet sleep-conducive environment. Preferably dark and a comfortable temperature (about 22-23 degrees Celsius is ideal)
- A comfortable bed and clothing if worn at night
- To Leave worries outside the bedroom door
- Have no blue-light emitting devices late at night (anything with a screen)
“A lot of people in this day and age can be kind of over-wired and trigger-happy (overly active) which can make it hard to get sleep or fall asleep” stated Andrea St. Clair, a yoga instructor and Sleep-for-Yoga enthusiast.
“Instead of having a cup of coffee or tea later in the day, you can do a yoga practice with oils and herbs that can give you that uplift without reaching out for caffeine” she added. Yoga in general is a great way to help balance the nervous system and relieving pressure from certain parts of the body.
There are different types of yoga for particular times of day. “Some practices are activating, and you would not do those before bed and some release tension that would help you sleep better” Andrea explained. “Being active too late at night will hinder your ability to fall asleep” she added.
Andrea’s interest in the effect of yoga on sleep began thanks to Lisa Sanfilippo, the UK and Europe’s leading yoga for insomnia expert with 20 years experience and creator of Super Sleep Yoga. Lisa’s methods consists of taking a person’s physical aspect, mental aspect, energy levels, and emotional aspects in mind and customise yoga practices to individuals and their sleep patterns.
“When people can’t sleep in the middle of the night they reach for their phones, which has the counter effect and stimulates your body to wake up” – Andrea St. Clair, yoga instructor
People have different sleep issues at different times in their lives, making it valuable for yoga practices to fit your body at all stages.
In addition to yoga, Andrea suggests to be aware of the effect of light, specifically blue light from screens and devices. “The light issue is quite big, as often when people can’t sleep in the middle of the night they reach for their phones, which has the counter effect and stimulates the activating side of your body system that helps you wake up” she added.
What many people do, and perhaps few admit, is stay on their phones until late at night – then wondering why they are unable to fall asleep. Andrea recommends to leave all devices out of the bedroom for the night and start a wind-down-retreat for yourself with lower lighting and no blue light. This helps set the mood and ease your body into understanding it is time for bed.
Some people might get enough sleep a night, and fall asleep easier, but not necessarily get qualitative sleep, nor wake up rested. Another factor that can help get your body relaxed and sleepy is Sex.
According to The National Sleep Foundation, sex and sleep go hand in hand. Their website and blog Sleep.org offers research focused content on sleep and its benefits for our minds, bodies and lives. In their article entitled Is Sex helping or hurting your Sleep?, it claimed sex induces sleep because of the hormones released during intercourse.
“Sex boosts oxytocin (a hormone that makes you feel connected to your partner) and lowers cortisol (a stress-related hormone)” stated the article. Orgasms also release hormones (called prolactin) that make our bodies feel sleepy and relaxed after sex.
However, if your sleep pattern is all over the place and you are not sleeping well you could be hurting your sex life and decreasing your sex drive. The solution? Have more sex!
Read more on how sex can help you or your partner sleep better at Sleep.org. If you are willing to try out yoga to help you relax and make you more flexible, get in touch with Andrea St. Clair to create a practice that fits you.