The joys of sleep (and how to get more)

There's nothing better than a good night's sleep. Sleep is essential - for muscle and tissue regrowth, for the production of new brain cells, to ward off depression and to control weight gain. Sleep allows us our  brains and bodies to make sense of the day, to rest, repair and renew, so that we can start the next day afresh.

Sleep also offers us the chance to enter dreamworld, a place ruled by the moon where the structure and sensibilities of the day matter not. Sleep is medicine for most modern, busy and stressed people. It offers solitude, peace, the chance to start again. 

Not all sleep is created equal, though. If you go to bed tense and stressed, the quality of your sleep will be affected – anyone that has gone to bed on an argument will know that. Equally too much caffeine and too much blue light (especially just before bed) can wake up our brains, and make it more difficult to fall asleep, no matter what time we go to bed. 

But if you work shifts or you’re a new parent, or just have the odd late night out? Are you doing irreparably damage to your body and mind? 

The answer to that is no, so long as the lack of sleep isn't prolonged. We are designed to cope for short bursts for sleep deprivation, it's when both our quality and quantity of sleep decline in the long term that we may start to struggle. 

Regular yoga nidra practice offers you the chance for deep rest in short bursts. It is a godsend for parents or anyone with insomnia, or anyone just wanting more rest. 

As well as incorporating yoga nidra into your day, get sunshine and daylight, cutting back on the caffeine and reducing your use of the smart phone before bed all can help you to enjoy a better night's sleep. Studies done by Harvard University as well as others have shown that the blue light disrupts our circadian rhythms, which impacts on our sleep. It’s almost impossible for most people to completely avoid blue light, but advice from studies (like the one referenced here) is to avoid screens in the two to three hours before you plan to sleep.

If you're still tired, try getting an extra hour's kip if you can, and see if it makes any difference. Although we're all familiar with the '8 hours a night' claim, we actually all have different needs, so find our what your needs are. Make bedtime a ritual. Prepare for it, look forward to it, rejoice in it. After all as the Dalai Lama (apparently) once said, 'sleep is the best meditation'.