If you are one of those lucky people who can sleep anywhere, then you are the envy of many. I'm usually okay except when there seems to be lots going on, or when the circumstances are less than ideal. So here is the challenge which I found myself in recently...
Staying at a friends rural flat the other night, the local farmer who was also the landlord, was having a get together downstairs with other people from the valley. They were singing folk songs, there was a guitar, and they were directly beneath the bedroom where I was sleeping. Around midnight, they remembered the magnificent TUBA, and starting to provide a 'pump, pump, pump, pa-pa-pa-pump' richness to the songs. Sleep was needless to say not happening easily!
So three steps were employed to help...
Step 1 - ear plugs. There was no blocking out the catchy tunes, but muffling would definitely help, and ear plugs help to tune you in to the sound of your own breathing rather than the sounds of the nearby party.
Step 2 - yoga breathing techniques. Gentle ujayii 'whispering breath' in a slow rhythmic pace to help relax the body, focus the mind in on more calming thoughts (beyond the fantasies of the party-goers remembering slumbering neighbours and quietly all ending the music) and gentle breath-pauses to comfortably encourage a more sleep inducing breath.
Step 3 - counting the breath. Like counting sheep (and counting sheep can help too) counting the number of breaths taken and trying to get up to 30-or so, and then counting back down again. Keeping count is harder than you might think but again it focuses your thoughts rather than getting annoyed or caught up in other stories.
These simple techniques left me fast asleep shortly afterwards, leaving the magical tuba to fill the valley with comical rhythms that I'm sure kept other would-be-sleeping neighbours awake far longer than they would have liked.
Yoga has much to offer those who suffer from sleeping difficulties, with either short-term problems, or longer term difficulties where a more structured programme of yoga can be used. Typically you would try including very gentle, calming postures before bed, or specially selected postures earlier in the day that help reduce disturbances in the body or energy levels that can make sleep difficult. A personal yoga programme (yoga therapy) can be hugely helpful to address your sleep issues and help sleep come more easily. A short daily yoga practice can greatly ease the ability to fall asleep and stay asleep the whole night.
Most of us need more and better quality sleep, and this is an often overlooked aspect of our health. This morning on Radio 4 they mentioned the Sleep Scotland initiative which is being promoted to help address this problem and highlight the issue, especially as a serious issue in children. Another thing to bear in mind is that not everyone needs the same amount of sleep, especially as adults, and many need less than perhaps they think they do. But if you find yourself tired in the daytime, then too little or too much sleep might be an issue for you depending on your constitution.
There are many things that are available to help, including yoga, but one I don't recommend is of course the tuba, unless it is your favourite hobby in which case I'm willing to stand corrected!
Founder of YogaSpace, 2009
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