I would venture to say that the most asked question a new parent gets is: How is the baby sleeping? Which is parent-speak for: Are you sleeping? We are obsessed with sleep! Who’s getting it? How many consecutive hours are they getting? When do their kids go to bed? Did they sleep train? What methods did they use?
Go ahead and google, “lack of sleep.” I’ll wait here…
How many results did you get? I got 56,600,000. I’d say that was crazy, but it’s really not. Sleep is a necessity (not a luxury) that most of us are skimping on. You don’t just deserve a good night’s sleep; you need one!
Now, that’s all well and good, but when you have a baby in the house sleep is more that difficult to come by. I know. I have one, too. His name is Maddox and he’s 5 months old. He’s actually banging on my laptop while I type this one-handed. Anywho, I can’t sleep train your baby. Sorry, y’all. I CAN, however, give you the tools to sleep train yourself!
My pal, Megan Colón, has been studying yoga for 15 years and teaching for 7. She is also a mommy to two little ones, so she knows a thing or two about sleep deprivation. Let’s just say, Megan is far more knowledgeable on the subject of sleep and relaxation than I am. So without further ado, here are Megan’s tips for getting the most out of those 4 hours of consecutive sleep that you’re getting!
“As you prepare for bed, the best thing to help with restful sleep is to create a restful body! Some poses that help create a calm and restful state are forward folds and reclining poses. Deep breathing is an amazing tool to help calm the entire system. Yoga Nidra (also called Yogic Sleep) and guided meditations are great too! My teacher recorded a CD with a guided Yoga Nidra and 2 other guided meditations several years ago that I absolutely love. It is called Dhyana, recorded by Chandra Om, and is available for download on Itunes or can be ordered on CD, at NCSchoolofYoga.com.
The types of poses you want to avoid before bedtime, including the hour before you start preparing to wind down for the day, are sun salutations (they are called sun salutations for a reason!), vigorous poses or flow series, deep back bends, or unsupported inversions. If something is increasing your heart rate, breath rate, or making you sweat, it is not for your bedtime routine.
Here is a short series of poses and breath-work (15-20 minutes total) that I would do in preparation for restful sleep. Keep a firm relatively thick pillow or cushion handy for supported variations. Begin sitting in a comfortable seated position (cross legged, on knees, straddle, straight legs, anything comfortable).
Close eyes and take 3 to 5 slow, deep breaths, concentrating on nothing but the breath slowly coming into the body and slowly leaving the body. Continue slow, steady, concentrated breaths until greater feeling of peace is established. When ready, bring soles of feet together, so legs are a diamond shape, feet can be as close to or as far from the body as comfortable. Sit tall here for a breath or two, then fold forward as much or as little as works for you. It really doesn't matter if you can relax just your head and neck forward or if you can put your chest on your feet. The important part is to relax while folding forward. Stay here for at least 5 slow breaths. If you have a hard time relaxing here, place your pillow or cushion under your chest and abdomen. Return slowly to seated and bring your pillows or cushions behind you to the base of your spine (touching your rear), sit up tall and slowly lean back supporting yourself on your elbows as you relax onto your cushions. If needed, you can place pillows or towels under your knees as well.
If you can, allow the arms to fall out to the side with the elbows bend (like a football goalpost, for lack of a better way to describe it). Once there, stay for about 5 slow breaths. To come back up, bring the knees together, roll to the left side, and support yourself back to seated.
If you have time, start a guided mediation or Yoga Nidra now (it will add to the 15-20 minutes by the length of your recording, but will be amazing!). If not, breathe slowly and deeply 3 to 5 times and imagine your entire body relaxing. Visualize tension like ice melting in the sun, so any remaining stress you are carrying can release. Rest on the back for another minute or two, roll to the left side for 2-3 breaths. Return to comfortable seated position, and sit in the calm space you've created for a minute or two before opening your eyes. To maximize the effectiveness of this practice, try not to have several things to do once you are finished.
** Laying flat on the back is not appropriate for some stages of pregnancy. If you are pregnant, I would recommend consulting with a Prenatal certified Yoga instructor about when you should no longer practice poses that require laying on the back, as it is slightly different for each person. If pregnant, you may (at any stage or pregnancy) lay on your left side with a pillow between the knees and a folded towel or blanket under the head for the final relaxation.”
The only thing I have to add is that, when your babies are very young, you should try to go to bed when they do. I don’t know about your kids, but mine both had their longest stretch of sleep at the very beginning of the night. It kind of sucks, but you should really take advantage of that time. I went to bed at 8:00pm until Archer was 10 months old. I had to in order to function and be a good mom/wife/human being the next day. At least give it a whirl for a week or so and see how you feel.
Thanks for all the helpful tips, Megan.
Sweet dreams, everyone!