Yogi Self-Care: How to Get Better Sleep | The Driven Yogi

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As teachers we are constantly taking care of others, but if we don't take care of ourselves, how are we supposed to give additionally energy to others? Sleep is so essential for healthy living, and may of us don't get enough of it. There is a science behind sleep, and not getting enough of it could affect your day-to-day, and quite possibly, your teaching. The average adult needs to get between 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. But even if you are getting that amount, is your sleep actually as good as it could be? We partnered with sleep experts at Tuck.com to find out how you can make sure you are taking the necessary steps to get better sleep at night.

Contributor: Alicia Sanchez, Researcher at Tuck.com

Practice, education, and training are important to becoming a yoga teacher. But one thing you may not have considered is how your sleep affects your ability to teach.

Sleep, or a lack of it, affects your body and brain. When you don't get enough sleep, it's difficult to function in daily life, much less teach others. Your well-being, memory, energy, and mood suffer, and you may be at a greater risk for illnesses and struggles with mental health without proper sleep.

On the other hand, when you do get enough sleep, you're better prepared for the day and ready to support others. Your memory and cognitive function are sharper, and you have the energy needed to face challenges and be an effective teacher.

What Sleep Does for Your Brain

When you sleep, your memories are cemented and consolidated. During sleep your brain transfers memories from short-term to long-term term storage. This updates your knowledge with new concepts and helps you remember what you've learned – which can help you effectively pass your knowledge on to your students. The information that's consolidated during sleep includes muscle movements and visual and written information – it can even include emotions.

Sleep deprivation can make it difficult to retain and consolidate memories. In experiments, animals deprived of REM sleep are not able to learn well. This suggests that sleep deprivation affects your ability to remember. However, overall tiredness can also contribute to difficulty with memory.

Sleep can also affect your ability to concentrate. When you're sleep deprived, it is more difficult to filter out distractions and pay attention. Getting a good night's sleep can help you focus, learn, and process information that you can later teach to your students.

How to Get Better Sleep

Practice meditation before bed
Meditation is a calming practice that can diminish fatigue and help you sleep better. Consider using progressive muscle relaxation, mindful breathing, or counted/guided meditation. Meditation can be practiced throughout the day, but is especially effective in calming your mind and helping you drift off to sleep when practiced at night.

Sleep in a health environment

Your sleep environment can significantly influence the quality of your sleep. Your bedroom should be quiet, dark, cool, and comfortable. Carefully select bedding, choose a mattress that meets your needs, have seasonally appropriate bedsheets, and use a supportive pillow to support your head. Keep your bedroom cool, and use blackout curtains and/or a white noise machine to block out outside distractions so that your bedroom is a peaceful place to rest each night.

Maintain a regular sleep routine
Each night, you should practice the same nighttime rituals and go to bed at a consistent time. Maintaining a routine creates predictability and encourages your brain to become sleepy at the same time each night, making it easier for you to go to sleep. Your routine can be simple, such as brushing your teeth, practicing 10 minutes of meditation, and reading a few pages of a book before lights out.

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Alicia Sanchez is a researcher for the sleep science hub Tuck.com and specializes in health and wellness. A Nashville native, Alicia finds the sound of summer storms so soothing that she still sleeps with recorded rain on her white noise machine.