Sleep is essential for optimal health. It is a time for our precious bodies to heal and to replenish. With adequate sleep. our bodies are well rested and our mood, metabolism, brain function and immunity can perform at full strength but, statistics are telling us that one third of New Zealanders are not getting enough sleep!

While the perfect amount of sleep differs for each individual, 7-9 hours sleep each night is ideal for most adults. In a world that is getting busier and busier, it is becoming increasingly difficult to turn our minds off at night and fall into the relaxed, dream like state our body needs to recover from the day. While 7-9 hours each night may not always be a realistic expectation, for instance families settling small children through the night, it is important to remember that these times wont last forever and to recognise it is important to be kind and gentle with yourself.

Bedtime rituals are a beautiful way for every individual to carve a quiet space into their day to ease a busy mind and coax the body into a delicious state of slumber. You can choose whether your bedtime ritual is one minute long, or 20, what’s important is that your ritual is unique to you and your needs.

Inspiration for creating a bedtime ritual:

  • Breathe. Lay on your back with your head supported, option to place a pillow under your knees. Place one hand on your heart and the other just below your ribcage. Close your eyes and focus on your breath, the rise and fall of your belly beneath your hand, your chest soft and still. Guide your breath to be deep and slow. Deep breathing has been shown to enhance sleep quality by calming the nervous system, relieving anxiety and muscle tension.
  • Meditate with breath and gratitude. With every exhalation, feel your body getting lighter. Bring your thoughts to the sensations of letting go and allow yourself to smile for the things in life which bring you joy. Treasure the happiest part of your day, or think about the things you have to look forward to. Focusing on the things which make us feel grateful can have a powerful impact on easing the mind into a state of joy and relaxation.
  • Stretch. Engaging in regular stretching practice, like yoga, not only enhances the flexibility, strength and vitality of the body but can reduce stress and anxiety associated with poor sleeping patterns. Even 5-10 minutes before bed can work a dream.
  • Read a book or listen to music that soothes you. This is the time of day to have a digital detox. Turn off the bright lights and social media newsfeeds of your phone/iPad/laptop and get them as far away from the bed as possible. It is time to slow the mind, not speed it up.
  • Drink… tea! There are a number of herbal teas available which can have a hypnotic, sedative actions that can help us fall asleep, and stay asleep. The simple act of sipping on a warm beverage can promote a state of sleepiness.

10 minute bedtime ritual to move, love and nourish the body to sleep
Calming and restorative stretch practice calm the nervous system, reduce cortisol (a hormone which increases the effects of adrenaline), induces calm, relives muscular tension and promotes slow breathing which can naturally induce a sedative action on the body. Lengthen, strengthen, sleep…

Resting Childs Pose 2+ Minutes
Benefits: Resting your head, or the space just between your eyebrows on the floor, sends an instant message of softness and calming energy to the brain. This posture can:

  • Lengthen the spine
  • Release tension in the neck and lower back
  • Stretch the legs and hips
  • Relive stress and feeling of fatigue by welcoming your mind and body into a place of rest

How to: From kneeling in a hip-distance position, toes touching, slide the hips back to the heels and allow the body to melt over the top. Instead of reaching your arms our in front of you like you would in active childs pose, let your arms fall soft and gooey, snuggled into your sides, palms up, hands by your feet, Breathe it all in, let it all go.

 

Legs Up The Wall 5+ Minutes
Benefits: A restorative posture which refreshes the body and calms the mind. This inversion stimulates blood circulation, allowing the heart and head to recieve a stronger blood flow as the entire body is supplied with extra oxygen. This practise can:

  • Increase energy
  • Treat insomnia
  • Relieve tired or cramped legs and feet
  • Soothe mild back aches
  • Gently stretch the legs, front torso and back of the neck
  • Calm the spirit and the mind

How to: To improve the quality of sleep, indulge in the pose right before bedtime. Lied with your legs up the wall, option to elevate your pelvis with a folded blanket for increased blood flow. Inhale deeply for four counts, exhale for eight. Longer exhalations slow the heart rate and soothe the nervous system, Let your mind float and your body fall into a deep state of relaxation. Spend 5+ minutes here, listen to what feels good for your body at the time. To come out of this pose, hug your knees to the chest and gently roll to the right. Spend a few soft, quiet breaths here before slowly rolling yourself into bed. 

All good things take time and the secret to success lies in the consistent practise of a new ritual. Breathe, stretch, strengthen, meditate, be grateful.

Sweet dreams.

 

Niki Loe
Personal Trainer – Pilates – Nutrition