Yoga and Sleep
National Sleep Foundation 2003 Sleep in America Study found that about half of the senior citizen population reports some type of sleep problem such as waking to go to the bathroom and not being able to get back to sleep. Sleep problems in the elderly are correlated with stress, medical conditions, excess weight or fatigue. The study indicates that many of these problems go untreated.
Additional factors that contribute to insomnia include anxiety, depression, caffeine, alcohol, pain, grief, as well as chronic conditions such as arthritis, asthma, sleep apnea or restless legs syndrome.
There is a positive correlation between sleep and fitness. About half of older adults do some kind of fitness activity during the week. Simple stretching and yoga relaxation exercises can enhance mental and physical relaxation and improve the quality of your sleep.
There are a variety of yoga poses done before bed that may be helpful. They can be adapted to use in a chair. These include: legs up the wall or on a chair (laying on the floor with legs resting on a chair); seated forward bend (seated leaning forward on another chair or table) and sitting in easy pose, cross legged with back against wall.
Use deep breathing to relax and unwind from a busy day. Breathe deeply and evenly through both nostrils. Inhale for 4 counts, exhale for 4 counts for several complete breaths. Then inhale for 3 counts and exhale for 6 counts. Repeat several times. Increase the length of the exhaled breath as you are able. Only do what is comfortable for you.
Use progressive relaxation in any one of its many variations to relax the body. For example, begin by focusing on your feet as you inhale and exhale slowly. Focus on relaxing your toes, ankles, heels, calves etc. with each exhale. Some people like to tighten muscles and then relax them as they exhale. As you relax, feel all the tension drain from the part of the body on which you are focusing. Continue throughout your body, relaxing each part as you exhale. In addition, focus on a special word. Repeat that word as you inhale and exhale, or visualize a favorite place and go there in your mind. Find a progression that works for you and practice it. When you have problems sleeping use the progressive relaxation you have practiced.
Take a little time to unwind before you go to sleep. Don’t keep working until you hit the mattress.
Other Suggestions include:
- Make your bedroom comfortable and inviting. Eliminate noise and excess light.
- Go to bed the same time every night. Create a routine that prepares you for sleep.
- Limit caffeine to 1 cup in the morning. Too much can stay with you all day.
- Massage your feet, especially the pressure points on the inside and outside of your heels.
- Massage your face.
- Alcohol and tobacco taken near bedtime can interfere with deep sleep.
- Get some exercise during the day. Include walking, weights, yoga, or Tai Chi in your plan.
- Check with you doctor before taking medication.
- Insomnia is not life-threatening. When you can’t sleep write down the thoughts that are concerning you. Keep a list of positive thoughts and focus on them.
- Take a 20 minute (not longer) nap during the day.
- Turn off the TV, computer or cell phone at least ½ hour before you go to sleep. Read a book or listen to relaxing music.
Be kind to yourself. Sleep cannot be forced, it can be coaxed. The world can spin without you for a while. Enjoy this moment.
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