Sleep is one of the most important factors for allowing the body and mind to thrive and experience homeostasis. Sleeping well is vital for maintaining a strong sense of vitality, happiness, strength, mental acuity, and more. Unfortunately, these days sleep disturbances are becoming more and more prevalent. If you’re experiencing sleep issues, perhaps yoga and Ayurveda can help.
How We Sleep
According to statistics on sleep, 30–48 percent of older adults suffer from insomnia; between 10–30 percent of adults struggle with chronic insomnia. Even children can be affected.
During a normal sleep period, we experience 4–6 sleep cycles with REM sleep making up 20–25 percent of total sleep time in healthy adults. And on average, we spend about two hours per night dreaming. Also, during sleep, our body temperature drops by 1–2 degrees Fahrenheit and during NREM sleep our metabolism drops around 15 percent.
Why Can’t We Sleep Well?
The key driver of the body’s circadian rhythm, or internal clock, is the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) in the brain, which is made up of around 20,000 neurons. This clock tells the body and brain to be awake during the day and become tired at night, instructing cells to slow down and sleep to occur. When our circadian rhythms are out of sync, this entire process can be disrupted. And there are plenty of things in today’s world that contribute to this.
According to a study published by Global Pediatric Health, children are one of the largest consumer groups of technology and the use of bedtime technology. Statistics show that bedtime use of technology is associated with sleep disturbances in children, resulting in anxiety, depression, and other maladaptive conditions. The same can apply to adults. Ditch your devices at least one hour before bed!
Read the entire article here.
Lack of sleep in adolescents has been associated with lack of productivity, depression, lack of energy, and poor school performance.
A study by Olson and colleagues in 2014 explored whether nighttime cellphone use had an impact on the sleep quality of adolescents 12–20 years of age. The study found that 62 percent of patients took their phones to bed with them, 37 percent texted after “lights out,” and 1 out of 12 adolescents was woken by a text in the middle of the night two or more times a week. Taken together, these studies have established a foundation of declining sleep quality and quantity in adolescents that partake in texting at bedtime or even after “lights out.”
Hours of television time have been linked with poor sleep quantity and quality as well. A study of children ages 4–11 found that increased screen time was associated with increased sleep anxiety, increased night waking, and increased total sleep disturbance.
Studies of pediatric populations have also shown that watching evening television resulted in significantly shorter total sleep duration.
Which Came First, the Chicken or the Egg?
Sleep disorders have been attributed to a host of medical conditions but could it be that the very nature of being sleep deprived is what is causing the medical conditions, not the other way around?!
This makes sense because a lack of sleep disrupts circadian rhythms which, in turn, spirals us into a cycle of less than beneficial sleep!
If there is one thing we can all agree on, it is that stress (or even eustress) can make the mind run amok. If only the mind had an “off” button at bedtime. Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep due to stressful thoughts plagues many of us at one time or another in our lives.
Insufficient Sleep Around the World
Statistics for an insufficient amount of sleep are experienced by a wide range of people all over the world.
Here are some quick US statistics:
Read how much sleep do we really need?
- Adults 18–64 need seven to nine hours of sleep per night. Adults over 65 need 7-8 hours.
- Almost half of all Americans say they feel sleepy during the day 3–7 days per week.
- 35.2 percent of adults in the US report sleeping less than seven hours per night on average.
- At 43 percent, Hawaii has the highest percentage of adults who get seven or fewer hours of sleep per night. South Dakota, at 26 percent, has the lowest percentage.
- Of major cities in the US, Boulder, Colorado, has the lowest percentage of adults who sleep less than seven hours per night, coming in at 24.2 percent. Camden, New Jersey, and Detroit, Michigan, tie for the highest rate, with 49.8 percent of adults in those cities reporting shorter sleep.
- 42.6 percent of single parents sleep less than seven hours per night compared to 32.7 percent of adults in two-parent homes and 31 percent of adults with no children.
- 32.6 percent of working adults reported sleeping six or fewer hours per night in 2017–2018, up from 28.4 percent in 2008–2009.
- More than 44 percent of workers in production-focused industries, such as factory workers and plant operators, report getting seven hours of sleep or less per night.
An Abundance of Sleep Disorders
Experiencing an insufficient amount of sleep on a regular basis is, in and of itself, a sleep disorder, as well as conditions such as insomnia, sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, and narcolepsy.
Get these sleep facts and more from sleepfoundation.org.
- Women have a lifetime risk of insomnia that is as much as 40 percent more than that of men.
- As much as 30 percent of males and females meet a broad definition of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
- Using a more limited definition of OSA, the condition affects 2–9 percent of adults in the US.
- A 10 percent increase in body weight can equate to a six-fold rise in the risk for OSA.
- About .9 percent of adults over 40 experience central sleep apnea (CSA).
- Restless leg syndrome (RLS) affects between 5–10 percent of adults and 2–4 percent of children.
- Between 135,000–200,000 people in the US have narcolepsy.
So, what do we do about it?
Set Yourself Up for Success with A Dreamy Dinacharya
Bedtime and Rising Time
A crucial action to take that will set you up for success is to follow a daily routine—what Ayurveda calls the dinarcharya.
Download a printable copy of the Ayurveda Daily Routine for your fridge.
We are comprised of the elements-space, air, fire, water, and earth. Earth and water elements soothe as they foster stability, steadiness, and stillness. Because the elements of earth and water (kapha) are predominant between 6:00–10:00 pm, their qualities will help to ensure that we fall asleep, stay asleep and sleep more restfully.
Likewise, the earth and water elements are also predominate between 6:00–10:00 am.. Therefore, it is suggested that we rise before or at 6:00 am to avoid having the heavy, sedentary qualities make us resistant to getting out of bed!
Once again, consistency is key. Meal times should be regular. Also, avoid eating late at night, which can thwart the body from being able to fat burn and detoxify. Without proper detoxification, mental toxins can pile up and resurface, only to wake us up in the middle of the night to rehash the days events or trigger stressful thoughts.
The tools of yoga can be instrumental in lulling you into a sound slumber. These yoga practices can be done at any time but once again, a consistent schedule is best.
Yoga nidra, or yogic sleep, is a deep state of relaxation induced by guided meditation. It is a very effective tool for various states of stress caused by a trauma or everyday life. Learn more and try it out here.
Sometimes, we are simply exhausted. Yet, we can’t fall asleep. It seems counterintuitive that being too tired could be the cause of a sleep disturbance, but the body actually requires energy to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Restorative yoga is wonderful way to rest and rejuvenate, all at the same time. While sitting or lying in passive positions supported by various props, such as blankets, pillows, and bolsters, the body becomes deeply relaxed. This state of relaxation is an invitation for the body to heal itself deeply and become recharged. Find some sample restorative yoga here.
The Bounty of Breathwork
Pranayama, the nature of controlling the breath in various ways, is a universal yoga practice. Everyone can do it, even those who suffer from imbalances such as asthma, COPD, etc. A short, shallow breath or breathing in the reverse way from which the body was designed, all illicit a stress response. The practice of deep, diaphragmatic breath and alternate nostril breathing are two types of pranayama that are very effective.
Bedtime Binaural Beats
While listening to binaural beats requires the use of technology, it is a therapeutic form of technology. Try this around 9:00 pm.
The intelligence of herbs, combined with a healthy diet and lifestyle will bolster your ability to sleep well. Herbal recommendations may vary from person to person. A consultation with an Ayurvedic Practitioner is the best way to find out what your unique needs are.
Shop SriSriTattva’s herbal supplements for sleep.
This herbal oil can be applied to the scalp, temples, and soles of the feet at bedtime.
Shop Shankara’s relaxing and soothing oils for sleep.