Yoga is the art of balance and harmony. Balance in how we interact with ourselves and others, balance in what we eat, think and do and ultimately balance in how much we sleep as opposed to how much we wake. The Bhagavad Gita offers, Yoga is harmony. Not for him who eats too much or for him who eats too little; not for him who sleeps too little or for him who sleeps too much.
How much sleep you need is different for each person but it is recommended that you get at least 7-8 hours sleep a night. We need sleep to restore our debt from the day, if the debt climbs too high we are likely to suffer from a series of ills. Your biology becomes your biography. The ancient yogi seers classified sleep as one of the four fountains for survival (sleep, sex, food and self preservation) and if sleep is out of balance we tend to over compensate with one of the other fountains E.G. we may overeat. Interestingly it was found that if you got less than 5 hours sleep a night on a regular basis you were more likely to be heavier than those who ate more and slept more.
The practice of yoga is also the practice of mastery of the mind in that if thoughts are keeping us awake at night with mental gymnastics we need to develop a practice to address these issues.
Ayurveda, the sister science of yoga, says that all problems are due to some form of indigestion. Physical (undigested food), mental ( undigested thoughts) or emotional (undigested emotions). If something has not been digested properly then it will rise to the surface when we least expect us, keeping us awake at night.
Yoga and Ayurveda offer some solutions for insomnia or restlessness. Spices such as nutmeg in warm milk, self scalp and feet massage to stimulate the Nadis or energy channels that start in the scalp and end in the feet, herbal sedatives like Valerian and chamomile, yoga postures, in particular inversions where your heart is higher than your head, relaxation exercises and breathing exercises.
Here is a breathing exercise that I use;
Establish a steady 1:2 ratio of inhale and exhale. eg inhale for the count of 3 exhale for the count of 6
Then take 8 cycles lying on your back
16 cycles lying on your right side
32 cycles lying on your left side.
Good luck you probably won’t get to the end
Practice for today: Know when one of your four fountains is out of balance or when you have some undigested material you need to deal with. Realise that the practices are slow steady ones whose benefits happen over time but are far more effective than quick fixes.
references; Adapted from a story in Yoga International