Sleep is a Superfood: How a Little Intention—and Some Yoga—Can Help You Get More

By: 
Elise Museles

When it comes to dramatically improving health, reducing stress, and impacting the quality of life, sleep is a superfood! You can eat bowls and bowls of kale salad and speak to yourself kindly, but until you’re well rested, then you’re never fully nourished!

While I might have a lot of healthy routines in place, I still haven’t cemented a good night’s rest into a habit. Apparently, it’s something that many of us have in common. There is evidence that only 40% of Americans are getting the recommended amount of shuteye each night. We can do better because our lives and our bodies deserve better.

Lack of sleep has a cumulative effect. It ...

  • reduces our immunity

  • slows our metabolism

  • makes us more prone to stress

  • raises our cortisol levels

  • leaves us grumpy and irritable, likely to make less-than-great decisions

Who among us hasn’t found ourselves standing in front of the fridge—dazed—with an empty jar of almond butter wondering how the heck we got there?

It may seem like a no-brainer, but everything improves when you’re well rested. Since I’m very serious about helping us all sleep better, I’ve been sharing one tip every Sunday evening on social media to turn a good night’s rest into a lasting habit. Because those posts are fleeting (and you may have missed or already forgotten them), I’ve compiled them all here!

Instead of strict rules and things not to do, like “no caffeine past 2 p.m.,” or “no electronics an hour before bed,” or “no bright lights when it’s time to tuck in,” I like to suggest proactive behaviors or activities that you should do to wind down and decompress. These are things that calm and center you, preparing you for the kind of deep, restorative sleep that will make the next day easier and more productive.

Set Yourself Up for A Better Tomorrow    

Of course, my first bit of advice is food-related: organize your breakfast the night before. Whether you chop and peel smoothie ingredients, toss together overnight oats, or gather all your toast toppings, you’ll wake up knowing a balanced meal is close to ready. You can also lay out your exercise clothes, pack your bag for work, or prepare your kids’ lunches. When you prep ahead, you eliminate thoughts about a stressful morning and can truly relax and ease into sleep.

Routine Is Key

Choose a specific time to start winding down your day. Then be consistent to create a routine. Power off your devices, sip on a soothing latte, change into soft PJs, or soak in a warm bath (see below). Whatever nighttime ritual you create, it should prepare you for sleep, both mentally and physically, so that your body will start to understand the cues to get ready for bed.

Start A Pre-Bedtime Journaling Practice

This ritual can instantly relax your mind and body as you wind down for a good night’s rest. And bonus: it takes your eyes off of all those glowing screens! Whether it’s simply writing out your to-do list and getting it out of your head or expressing gratitude so that you go to bed feeling happier, there’s no one right way to journal. The act of releasing your thoughts onto paper is cathartic, and you may be genuinely surprised how much this simple habit can impact your state of mind, allowing you to worry less and sleep more soundly.

Make Friends with Lavender

I’m such a believer in the magical calming powers of these little flowers! It’s no surprise to find me sneaking culinary lavender into meals and filling my diffuser with lavender essential oil. The smell alone is said to reduce stress and support better sleep, so infuse a little into a chia pudding or dab it on your pillow before bed. Lavender is your new BFF when it’s time for a good night’s rest.

Give Yourself Extra Nutrient Support

Sometimes lavender and journaling just aren’t enough to quiet your racing mind or ease your body into sound sleep. New reports show that magnesium (the “anti-stress mineral”) is known to relax the body and help induce sound slumber. (Check with your doctor before starting any new supplement.)

Soak Away the Stress of the Day

A warm bath before bed may be the simplest (and most effective) way to relax. Take it next level with a luxurious DIY sleepy-time “recipe” to add to your tub! All it takes is 20 minutes to start tuning out the outside world and feeling more grounded and connected to yourself as you wind down from a hectic day.

Try this combination:

1 to 2 cups Epsom salt (magnesium eases anxiety + soothes sore muscles)
1/2 cup baking soda (detoxifies)
Choose 1 to 2 extras:
Rose petals (naturally calming + smells divine)
Lavender (deepens relaxation)
Marjoram (sleep-inducing)
Peppermint + orange essential oils (stress-relieving combo)
Pour your favorite ingredients into the water while it runs, inhale the amazing aroma as the tub fills, then sink in to fully relax your mind and body.

Restore Yourself with Yoga     

Restorative yoga is one of the most effective ways to calm the body and mind. You can even practice Viparita Karani (Legs Up the Wall Pose) after you’ve gotten into bed. While it’s very helpful to practice Viparita Karani (photo right) while lying on the floor with a bolster, blanket, and strap, you can practice it in your bed by simply turning toward the wall at the head of your bed and extending your legs up. Relax your arms at your sides at about a 45-degree angle and stay for 5 to 10 minutes.

At the end of the day, the most effective way to improve your sleeping habits is to make sleep a priority. Trust me: I stay up way too late answering that one last email or reading that quick article. But telling my mind and body that enough is enough allows me to fully unplug and stock up on the nourishing rest that I need. Join me in committing to a good night’s sleep. Sweet dreams!

 

Study with YogaUOnline and master teacher, Donna Farhi - Yoga for Lower Back Pain Parts 1 & 2: Keys to Sacroiliac Stability and Ease of Movement.

More yogic sleep tips, this time from writer Allison Schleck - Ease Into Sleep with these 5 Yoga Poses.

Reprinted with permission from Kale and Chocolate.

 

Elise MuselesElise Museles is an attorney turned Certified Eating Psychology & Nutrition Expert and creator of Kale & Chocolate.  A writer, speaker, teacher and healthy lifestyle advocate, she empowers people to reset their relationship with food & their bodies—by creating a happy, healthy, and ridiculously delicious Food Story. Elise is also the author of the recently released book, Whole Food Energy, (Barron’s Educational Series, January 2016) and shares daily inspiration (and mouth-watering photos!) on FaceBook and Instagram.