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Alaska Sleep Education Center

Need better sleep? Just relax!

Posted by Jennifer Hines

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on Sep 29, 2017 6:01:45 AM

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Music soothes the savage beast

Having trouble sleeping can have wide-ranging, negative effects on your health, so it's something that you should take seriously. For instance, it makes you less safe behind the wheel and increases your long-term risk of medical conditions such as obesity and heart disease. Though medical sleep aids may work quickly to help you drift off, they can have side effects and aren't good to use in the long term. Luckily, there is another treatment for sleepless nights that's cheap, isn't habit-forming, and has absolutely no negative side effects: music.

Music is more than something that's simply enjoyable to listen to. It has a direct effect on the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps your body relax and prepare for sleep. Older adults who listen to 45 minutes of relaxing music before bed fall asleep faster, sleep longer, wake up less during the night, and rate their nights as more restful than when they don't listen to music. Similarly, when younger adults are given the option to listen to classical music, books on tape, or nothing before bed, the ones who relax with music see the greatest improvement in sleep quality.

If you feel calmer when you're enjoying good music, it's not your imagination. Music has the power to slow your heart rate and breathing, lower your blood pressure, and it may even trigger your muscles to relax. These biological changes mirror some of the same changes that your body undergoes when you're falling asleep , making music the perfect preparation for restorative slumber.

Choosing a type of music is a personal preference, and you're most likely to relax while listening to familiar music that you enjoy. But keep this tip in mind: Slow tunes are ideal. Look for a rhythm of about 60 to 80 beats per minute (BPM), which you're likely to find among classical, jazz, or folk songs.

Once you integrate music into your bedtime routine , stick with it. The positive sleep effects can build over time, as listening to your relaxing sleep soundtrack becomes a habit that cues your body to prepare for shuteye.

YOGA: Hold that pose

Yoga isn’t just beneficial for improving core strength, flexibility, and stress levels; it can also help you sleep better—especially if you suffer from insomnia. When people who have insomnia perform yoga on a daily basis, they sleep for longer, fall asleep faster, and return to sleep more quickly if they wake up in the middle of the night. This is also true for older people who have insomnia —those who are 60 and older experience better sleep quality, sleep for longer, and feel better during the day when they perform regular yoga.

This benefit can be seen in all sorts of situations where people have trouble sleeping. For example, pregnant women who start a mindful yoga practice in their second trimester sleep better and wake up less often throughout the night, and cancer patients sleep better if they do yoga (90 percent of cancer patients experience insomnia symptoms while receiving treatment).If you want to work yoga into your bedtime routine, it’s important to do the right kind. Some types of yoga can be energizing (like hot yoga and vigorous vinyasa flow), which won’t help you relax as well as restorative styles of yoga like hatha and nidra. Here are three poses that are ideal for preparing your body for sleep.

  • Legs Up the Wall: Lie on the ground on your back and put the back of your legs up a wall (keep your legs straight), so your body is in an L-shaped pose. Relax into the position, hold it for at least 30 seconds and focus on your breathing.
  • Lying Butterfly: Lie on the ground on your back. Press the bottoms of your feet against each other and let your knees fall out to the sides. You can put a pillow under your knees if this feels too strenuous.
  • Corpse Pose: Lie on the ground on your back with legs straight, arms by sides, and palms facing up. Breathe slowly, focusing on your inhales and exhales.

A good night of sleep is like nirvana

If insomnia is at the root of your sleepless nights, it may be worth trying meditation. The deep relaxation technique has been shown to increase sleep time, improve sleep quality, and make it easier to fall (and stay) asleep. These are some key facts about the practice that may help you get over any hesitation about trying it.

  • It’s safe. Meditation can be a great tool for those looking who are for an all-natural, medication-free way to treat insomnia. In fact, meditation has even been shown to help reduce the use of sleeping pills. The practice likely improves insomnia symptoms by reducing measures of arousal in the brain. And there are no associated risks or side effects to trying meditation.
  • It can be used with other sleep techniques. Combining cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia(CBT-I) with mindfulness meditation has been shown to improve sleep better than CBT-I alone.
  • There are multiple health benefits. Not only can meditation improve your sleep quality, but it may also help reduce blood pressure and ease pain, anxiety, and depression.
  • It’s easy. Meditation is an accessible, budget-friendly practice that everyone can try—insomnia sufferers of different ages respond well to the practice, including older adults. Though you can pay for meditative classes and books that teach you the practice, you can also search online for free apps and YouTube videos if you'd like to try it before you spend money on it.The basics: Start by finding a comfortable place to sit or lie down, and then close your eyes and breathe slowly and deeply, directing your attention to your breath as you inhale and exhale. If your mind starts to wander, simply bring your attention back to your breath. You might try doing it for, say, five minutes at a time at first and gradually increasing the amount of time as you get more comfortable with the practice.

Topics: Sleep, relax, yoga, music

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