The Yogi's method for treating Insomnia
Sleep is an exceptionally significant activity for health and wellbeing but currently 30% of adults worldwide suffer from Insomnia. A pathology where falling asleep or staying asleep become challenging.
Insomnia is generally characterised when a person experiences difficulty when either falling asleep or trying to stay asleep. The effects are harmful, as they cause lethargy, irritability, lack of energy, sleepiness and anxiety amongst others.
Clinically, insomnia exists when there is evidence of disturbed sleeping patterns in a polysomnographic study or PSG; a test conducted to diagnose a patient’s quality of sleep. They record and analyse the bio-physiological changes that take place during sleep. In other words, they monitor multiple body functions related to the brain, eyes, muscles, heart, etc. to determine whether the subject is getting sufficient rest.
Taking a long time to fall asleep, waking up frequently in the middle of the night or experiencing prolonged periods of wakefulness during the night are all signs of insomnia. It has been found that 3 out of 10 adults are currently displaying one of the symptoms of Insomnia.
Even though modern medicine states multiple reasons as well as possible treatments for insomnia, Yogi’s believe that insomnia is purely the absence of relaxation. In today’s technologically centric age, we have lost the ability to relax our bodies and minds. Unfortunately, many are making use of numerous different tranquillisers to aid in sleep and reduce mental anxiety.
Using such chemicals creates a vicious circle. First, anxiety is produced due to the inability to sleep. We get less rest, our bodily tissues don’t get enough nourishment and we are unable to flush out our body’s toxins. We wake up feeling tired and lethargic, we create a sense of fear towards sleeping due to our past experience of not being able to sleep and in the end take a pill, which creates another form of tension in the body.
One of the most frequent types of insomnia is referred to as sleep state misperception, a state where people confuse their sleep with wakefulness, and in turn develop insomnia out of obsession with getting proper sleep.
Currently there are many methods people use to enable sleep, such as counting sheep, having extreme workouts (which tires the body rather than relaxing it), having a warm glass of milk, etc.
How do we relax our minds and prepare our bodies for sleep?
First it is important to understand, that the quantity of sleep needed by each individual may differ. Some may need ten hours, other may need four. The general consensus is around eight hours, but this changes in terms of sleep quality, nutrition, profession, etc. It is important not to get carried away or become obsessive with sleep quantity. We should rather concern ourselves with sleep quality.
Yoga practices for Insomnia:
Meditation: Yoga Nidra
Yoga Nidra, otherwise called the psychic sleep, is a meditation in which one relaxes with complete awareness. It is usually practiced lying down in Shavasana or the corpse pose and can completely change sleeping patterns for any practitioner. Though Yoga Nidra has many uses, when practiced to enhance sleep quality it should be practiced after dinner, lying in bed just before sleeping. It should be the very last activity before sleeping.
The word Bhramar means bee; In this pranayama the low-pitched humming of black bee is imitated whilst sitting in a meditative posture, with the ears blocked by our index fingers. This is turn creates a deep constant humming sound which can be heard inside the head; the vibration of which creates a soothing effect on the mind, relieving stress, tension and anxiety.
Ujjayi which means victorious, is a simple technique in which one contracts the glottis and breathes through the nose (still using the nostrils). This technique when performed correctly sounds like a snoring baby. Ujjayi is a very tranquillising pranayama which helps relieve insomnia when practiced in Shavasana or the corpse pose before bed.
Trataka is a shatkarma which literally means concentrated gazing is a technique by which we stare at an object without blinking for a few minutes (this should always be stopped at the arousal of any physical or ocular discomfort). Trataka helps us concentrate, calms the mind and makes it one pointed. It directly relieves tension, anxiety and insomnia. It is best practiced in the dark, gazing on a candle flame at eye level.
Other activities which will help combat insomnia:
1. Wake up at the same time every day.
Doing everything at the right time is the key to success in any endeavour. Yogi’s swear by it. By sleeping, eating, working at the same time each day you teach your body and mind to become consistent. With time, it will understand when it’s time to rest and when it’s time to work.
2. Eliminate Stimulants.
The effects of caffeine have been seen to last for up to 24 hours. Caffeine doesn’t just cause difficulty in falling asleep, it causes slight sleeping and triggers waking up multiple times throughout the night. Alcohol which may help falling asleep in the beginning, has the same light sleep effect caffeine has, overall affecting your sleep quality. Try not to consume any sugars at least 4h before bedtime. If you’re on specific medication such as inhalers, ask your doctor whether this may be affecting your sleep.
3. Eliminate Naps:
Napping during the day can largely affect the ability to fall asleep at night. It is important to associate sleeping hours with darkness and consistency, and it is always better to sleep just once.
4. Never exercise at night:
Exercising before bedtime can have a stimulating effect on the body and should always be avoided. Always finish exercising at least 4 hours before bedtime.
5. Leave your Electronic devices out of your room:
Your bedroom is for resting. If you suffer from insomnia do not read or watch anything in bed, especially electronic devices. If you feel you need to get up and do something else, do it in another room. Train your mind to understand each space has a certain use; the bedroom being for rest.