I used to be religious about my healthy sleeping habits, but three weeks ago when my son was born, all of that went out the window. I admit, I miss sleep, and I’m sure that there are plenty of new parents, night security guards or on-call doctors who can relate.
Before completely throwing in the towel on getting rest, it’s important to remember that self care isn’t just for those who can re-arrange their life around sleeping better.
If you’re not getting optimum sleep, it’s essential to set apart time to rest – your mind and your body. Here are six self care tips that might help you get through the day when clocking out at night simply isn’t an option.
Although it’s commonly known as yogic sleep, Yoga Nidra is not exactly sleep. It is a state of deep meditation that is reportedly very restorative to both the body and mind – in some reports, even more so than actual sleep. Even better for those who don’t have a solid eight hours to spare on proper REM sleep, a complete Yoga Nidra practice only takes about 40 minutes to an hour. There are countless great guided Yoga Nidra practices online, such as my favorite here, or do some searching and find one that is good for you. Yoga Nidra is considered a slightly more advanced practice (although it can be done by anyone), so don’t get discouraged if you don’t enter a deep state of relaxation the first time you try it. It’s also a good idea to set an alarm in case you get too relaxed and fall asleep.
There are two teams on this one. The less than 10 minute nap and the less than 40 minute nap. Whatever your time limit – make this a dedicated sleep time. Even if you’re not fortunate enough to get that sleep or get a normal circadian rhythm going, it’s still going to help you recharge if you can get 40 minutes of uninterrupted rest. Cover your eyes, plug your ears and pretend like it’s night time. Put on music if that helps you relax, but remove any potential distractions. The key is that you keep the nap short enough that you do not enter into a REM cycle – waking up in the middle of a REM cycle will actually make you feel more tired and can wreak havoc on your well intended plans.
If Yoga Nidra is too difficult for you, and you’re not great at daytime napping, a simple Savasana – corpse pose – could be the rest answer you’re looking for. A purposed rest time, be it for three minutes or fifteen, can renew your energy without sleeping. Savasana is a great option when you have it. Lay down on a yoga mat, your bed, or just on the ground, face up. Relax your legs hip width distance apart, feet splayed out, and lay your arms on the ground at about a 45 degree angle from your body, palm of the hand facing up. Elongate through the back of your neck and relax your shoulders away from your ears. Close your eyes or cover them with a cloth, let go of any tension you have in your body and take a few moments to just be.
Regulate your Blood Sugar
If you’re not sleeping regularly, it’s very probable your body will want to compensate for the lack of energy by eating more. To avoid blood sugar dips, it’s essential to keep small, healthy snacks around EVERYWhere. A blood sugar low could put you in a tailspin if you’re already sleep deprived. It’s also a recipe for passing out if you have low blood pressure, which can be dangerous. Religiously avoid processed sugars or simple carbohydrates and opt for complex carbs or proteins in small amounts to keep your blood sugar stable. For specific foods to eat when you’re feeling tired, check out this post on What to Eat Depending on your Mood.
Although it might be difficult to get the motivation to hit the gym, increasing the blood flow to your brain and body through exercise will do wonders in make up for a lack of sleep. Keep the workouts manageable – if you exhaust your body it will be harder to stay awake. Short runs or bike rides can be great if you have the option, as being outside and in natural light can help you feel more awake. If you have to be indoors, a short yoga practice might be the key. Really think you have no time? Check out this Three minutes of Yoga videos on The Hotel Yogini blog.
If there is something limiting you from doing physical exercise (for example: new moms recovering from a Cesarian), taking time to do breathing exercises can have similar positive effects on the oxygen levels in your body and brain.
A tired brain can quickly become a frazzled or stressed out one, and meditation is a great way to rest and relax your brain. Meditation doesn’t have to be complicated, and it doesn’t have to last a long time. There are plenty of great, simple meditations for beginners – such as closing your eyes and attempting to imagine the details of the room you are in. Or you might try imagining the light of a candle, and simply watch that light, or picture a stream in your mind’s eye and watch the fish swim by. Meditation is like cleaning up the inside of your head, and like cleaning, it’s great to do a little bit on a regular basis to keep everything in order. There are really great resources for Guided meditations online.
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