A Powerful Practice for Better Sleep
The pandemic has greatly impacted the way we sleep, and research illustrates that sleep disruption is a common experience that many people are grappling with during this time. Whether we’re feeling unrested after a long period of sleep, struggling to fall asleep or make it through the night without waking up, disturbances in our sleep cycles indicate either a change in stress levels or a change in sleep behaviors. To improve quality of sleep, it’s important that we set up the optimal conditions for our mind and body to feel relaxed and settled. This can be achieved through a series of unwinding exercises like taking a bath, reading a book, or meditating. One of the more powerful forms of meditation that is known to support quality sleep patterns is Yoga Nidra. Yoga Nidra, as author and teacher Kamini Desai says, represents “the art of non-doing.” The practice involves a combination of visualization, body-scan, and intention-based techniques to elicit similar brainwave states to that of sleep, thus activating the restorative functions in the body and allowing for deeper relaxation. This ancient Indian practice introduces a wave of quiet stillness within the mind and prepares the body for a quality night’s rest.
To prepare, finding a quiet, safe space to settle into is important. Ideally, choosing to lay down during the practice may be most helpful, so finding a space that can support the posture in this way is best -- whether that’s the bed, a yoga mat, or even the couch. It’s natural for the body temperature to change throughout the practice, so having a blanket nearby can also be helpful. In addition, it’s common to experience sleepiness after the meditation, so choosing to place the meditation last on your evening routine is an excellent way to maintain restful awareness as you wind down and transition straight into sleep. Prior to the session, it’s advised to set a clear intention for the practice to ensure alignment with the mind, body, and experience. As a result, the intention will naturally strengthen one’s presence within the meditation and allow for greater benefit upon completion. It’s helpful to know that the intention isn’t solely concerned with what we would like to achieve, but also how we wish to meet the goals we have (the attitude that we wish to develop and our relationship with the overall experience).
As it’s a guided practice, no prior meditation experience is necessary. This practice suits all levels alike - whether you’re learning to sit with the mind, or already incorporate meditation into your day. Either way, choosing to participate in any practice creates room for personal adjustments to be made as a way of ensuring greater comfort and access. For example, some practitioners may make a tea blend with oatstraw and tulsi before practicing to support nervous system regulation. Others may choose to light incense to energetically cleanse the space and foster a stronger sense of ritual. These small yet intimate modifications can transform the practice from a nightly activity into a curated self-care routine.