Tips for Better Sleep

Prepping for Sleep in the Grand Canyon

Prepping for Sleep in the Grand Canyon

Sleep is a key component for health and performance. Studies have shown that restful sleep helps to maintain a strong immune system, improve memory, enhance mood, repair and rejuvenate tissues (including muscle tissues), maintain clarity of mind, reduce the risk of injury, and it is also a factor in successful weight loss and management. These are just a few of the benefits. Just google ‘benefits of sleep’ and you’ll get pages and pages of articles and studies touting the value of sleep.

It recently came to my attention, while leading a kayaking/yoga trip in Ecuador, that some of my clients struggle with restful sleep – even after very active days on the water. Throughout the week I prescribed therapies that I’ve learned in my Ayurveda Wellness Counselor training and my Yoga studies. My clients reported beneficial results. Since sleep is a major contributor to good paddle performance and learning, I wanted to share these tips with the wider community so you can all benefit from catching more Zzzzzs.

The first thing to be aware of is that, according to Ayurveda, we are each born with a unique constitution made up of the 5 elements of earth, water, fire, air and ether. I wrote a short introduction to Ayurveda that you can read here. Constitutions that are made up of air and ether have more difficulty with sleep because there is too much lightness and movement. Other constitutions may have a hard time sleeping because they’re diet and lifestyle have too much lightness and movement in them which disturbs their nature. An example would be an on-the-go lifestyle filled with stress and no time to rest. Anything that gets the mind moving, thinking, stressing or worrying will hinder a person’s ability to fall asleep and sleep soundly.

Promoting restful sleep requires that we add grounding, slowing down and some heaviness to our lifestyle. This means winding down and inviting a bedtime routine that is calming to the mind and body. Below are 5 tips for promoting restful sleep.

Turn off the TV, Computer and Smartphone an Hour Before Bedtime

Giving yourself a break from electronics and the impressions that they leave on the mind is very beneficial for sleep. Instead of being mindlessly entertained by TV, social media, movies and so on, choose to be mindfully aware of relaxing your body and your mind. If you are a person who tends to work late at night and check email in bed, I invite you to give yourself an hour between work and bedtime to relax. Your health is the greatest wealth that you have and nothing is more important.

Drink Soothing Herbal Teas Before Bed

Lavender, chamomile and peppermint are all examples of herbs that have a calming effect on the mind. One of my favorites is lavender and chamomile combined. Some companies make ‘sleepytime’ blends. Make the tea, sit with the tea, smell the tea and enjoy the taste of the tea. In other words, be with the tea when you’re drinking it. Preparing and drinking the tea mindfully will add to the calming effects and will help you wind down from the busyness of your day. If you like to sweeten your tea then use a little raw honey and stay away from refined sugar.

Warm Sesame Oil

Ayurveda loves the benefits of oil and oil massage on the body and mind. A well known Ayurvedic remedy for promoting sleep is to rub warm sesame oil on the scalp, the temples and the soles of the feet before bed. You don’t need a lot of oil and you want to massage until most of it is rubbed into the skin. Use high quality, organic, unrefined sesame oil. Warm it up by rubbing it between your hands or by placing the glass jar with oil into a bowl filled with warm water. You can add a few drops of lavender essential oil to the sesame oil or rub a few drops of lavender oil into the temples to promote deeper relaxation and sleep. Banyan Botanicals makes a ‘Sleep Easy’ oil that is infused with Ayurvedic herbs that promote deep sleep.

Longer Exhalations

Take 5 minutes to meditate and focus on your breath before or even when you’re in the bed. Breathe deeply and easily while following the path of the breath through the body. Allow the breath to move like a wave up and down your body. When you’re ready, gently start making your exhalations longer than your inhalations to promote rest, relaxation and letting go. This practice can also be done if you wake up in the middle of the night and have a difficult time falling back asleep. In this case you can also add counting from 50 back to 1 like so: ’50 breathing in, 49 breathing out, 48 breathing in, 47 breathing out’ and so on. You actually say silently to yourself ’50 breathing in, 49 breathing out,’ all the way back to 1. If you lose your place, but don’t fall asleep then start over at 50 again. I’ve used this technique and it’s proven very beneficial for me.

Be Consistent with Bed Time

Inviting routine into your daily life brings grounding and steadiness, both qualities important for promoting sleep. Choose a bedtime and a waking time and set the intention to follow them 80% of the time. If your work schedule fluctuates and it’s challenging to get a time schedule then keep coming back to these rituals that we’ve covered above – focus on the routine of what you do before bed if you can’t focus on when you go to bed.

Meet Anna Levesque

Anna Levesque is the leading expert on paddling instruction for women and yoga for paddling, including SUP Yoga. Named one of the most inspirational paddlers alive by Canoe and Kayak Magazine, Anna’s twenty-plus years of experience as an accomplished international competitor, instructor, coach and author has landed her in mainstream publications such as TIME, SHAPE and SELF.

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