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Your Sleep Questions Answered by Lisa Sanfilippo

Yoga for Sleep Recovery expert Lisa Sanfilippo answers some common questions about sleep on World Sleep Day so that you can get a better night’s sleep and free yourself from insomnia.

Why do we wake up in the night?

Every 60-90 minutes we’re in a lighter stage of sleep- and our brain wave patterns are closer to the waking state. This is completely natural. But when we have removed the extreme tiredness by sleeping a few hours, any stress or agitation in the nervous system makes it more likely that we’ll be disturbed during these mini-wakes

How should we set up our bedroom to maximise sleep?

Bedrooms should be a place of refuge- all the experts say “make it a place for sleep and sex only.” I keep my computer, phone and any work materials out of the bedroom, or if I’m staying in a hotel I put any work and electronics in the closet or drawer to say goodnight to work and daily concerns. It’s best to do a little tidying at night or put a blanket over any mess so that the day feels contained. The usual guidelines include keeping your bedroom dark, and cool enough so that you can sleep well.

Can yoga moves and stretches help us sleep?

Yoga moves and stretches that are ‘grounding’- ones that bring circulation downward into the legs and hips, ones that elongate your spinal muscles and open up the tiny muscles in between your ribs- these pull tension out of your body and send the signal from your body to your brain that you are safe and can release into sleep. When our bodies hold onto tension it perpetuates the sensation and the brain chemistry that relates to stress. Meditation and breath work also re-train your body and brain to release tension and restore the natural ability to rest deeply.

What do dreams mean?

When you’re dreaming you’re in the REM (rapid eye movement) stage of sleep, which essentially reorganises memory and improves your mental processing, and leads to psychological integration. When you get to the latter parts of the night and early morning, you’re spending longer in the dream state, and this helps you to feel more mentally balanced throughout the day. If you wake up with an alarm you may be interrupting a dream, so it’s always best to try to wake naturally.

Some psychologists say that we can interpret every character in our dreams to be a facet of ourselves and what happens says something about our internal state- our conflicts and wishes. Dreams don’t really have fixed symbols but what they mean is down to what we associate with the different people and situations we find ourselves in. The key to this is how things in the dream make us feel.

What’s your favourite sleep tip?

Learn to relax by doing some yoga or meditation- even a few minutes a day or a simple, settling out-breath like a soft sigh practiced several times a day- this helps you to repair your ability to settle into good sleep. Bring this relaxed state into a winding -down pre sleep routine that feels luxurious and sacred. I wash my feet before bed, apply some of Yoghanda’s RELAX blend of oils with vetiver and lavender, and do the Simple Sleep Sequence in my bed.

Lisa’s Simple Sleep Sequence is renowned for it’s, well, simplicity and effectiveness- it’s part of the 5 Pathways to better rest in her Sleep Recovery course starting in April.

If you are a yoga teacher and want to incorporate yoga therapy for sleep recovery into your teaching then join Lisa for her Yoga Therapy for Insomnia and Sleep Recovery course through our sister company Yogacampus in November.

View Lisa’s teaching schedule.