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Thursday, 31 January 2013

The Importance of Sleep - Meditation and Yoga for Insomnia

I had always been a borderline insomniac/bed avoider.

All those times when worn out friends would vocalise their yearnings for their nocturnal nests at the end of a long night, I simply couldn't relate.

Even after watching hours of trash TV and 'straight to DVD' cringy tearjerkers on those dodgy true movie channels I still didn't get the urge to end the day and recuperate, even though I loathed the zombie-like haze I would have to endure the following day.

By the coffee machine, perky morning people would ask if I 'got up to anything crazy' when I moaned about the four hours sleep I had the night before. The truth was usually far less exciting and mainly involved something like my latest iPhone addiction (being a recent convert from Blackberry) and lying awake for hours, my mind buzzing with the hectic happenings of the day.

I was never able to understand my sleep-starving ways. As a child I would cause havoc at bedtime, making all kinds of excuses to stay up till naughty o' clock.

I would often wonder why I had this warped perception of bedtime, of saying goodbye to the day and yielding myself to merry slumberdom.

Was it because I didn't want the day to end as I was enjoying myself too much, London being the frivolous city of endless amusements that it is?

Or did I avoid my supposed haven of serenity because it was the very place where my mind was plagued by a thousand thoughts?

I was looking for answers so I consulted The Sleep Guru, also known as Anandi, on my troublesome sleep issues.

Anandi is a holistic sleep expert who dedicates her time to helping people improve their sleeping habits naturally using meditation, Ayurveda, whole foods and yoga.

It was with Anandi that I first experienced Yoga Nidra, an ancient form of yoga that involves lying completely still, palms facing upwards (Savasana pose) and guided meditation, involving the visualisation of each part of the body and tranquil imagery.

My kitteh demonstrating the Savasana pose for Yoga Nidra

The aim of this mind-calming practise is to induce full body relaxation and a deep meditative state of consciousness. After trying this for the first time with Anandi guiding me through the visualisations in person and then going home and listening to her sleep CD before bed, I slept for nine hours. Which was most unlike me.

I discovered how important it was to wind down and clear my mind before gracing my bed for the night.
In our hectic urban lives, troublesome thoughts of the day linger within us, preventing restful sleep, which is why meditation is so useful for treating sleep disorders in modern times.

Kitteh demonstrating how NOT to do Yoga Nidra

I now try to alternate between listening to Anandi's blissfully relaxing sleep CD and my favourite guided meditation video by Lilian Eden, which you can listen to here.

Doctors are quick to over-prescribe toxic sleeping tablets to exhausted patients who could benefit solely from holistic therapies.

In my opinion, yoga and meditation are all you need to still the mind and induce healthy sleep but there are some nights when were are tormented by painful thoughts that refuse to leave our minds. This is when I feel we should not turn to drugs, but to herbs.

I have always been a strong believer that medicine can be found in abundance in nature. Valerian, Wild Lettuce and the fantastically-named Jamaican Dogwood have been used for hundreds of years to help us drift off when our minds refuse to shut down.

The aptly-named Nod Off from herbal remedy gurus, Potters Herbals contain these hypnotic and sedating herbs to help you fall into a deep sleep when meditation alone is not enough.

mmm sleepy erbs

What I adore about this natural sleeping potion is that unlike sleeping pills, you wake up the next morning feeling refreshed, without a fuzzy head and the incessant desire to down five double expressos.

During my educational sleep quest I also discovered how various foods help us get a good nights sleep by releasing sleep-inducing hormones.

Anandi's top sleep-promoting foods are;

Pumpkin Seeds.

I know that yoghurt and rice help you feel sleepy from personal experience eating Iranian food as I have been known to practically pass out at the dining table in restaurants after feasting on them - much to the bemusement of the waiters.

I have found that practising yoga on a regular basis also helps me drift off quickly to a deep and restful sleep after a crazy day. That euphoric feeling I get straight after a vigorous Ashtanga class banishes all negative thoughts from my mind. When I get into bed that evening, my body is exhausted and my mind is still.

While all forms of exercise are good for aiding sleep, yoga goes one step further by stimulating the brain and nervous system, thus encouraging deep relaxation.

Sleep is important to us all. It is a vital process that rejuvenates us, enlightens our mood and keeps us in optimum health and as a beauty writer, I would say that it is the ultimate beauty treatment...


  1. meditation cd's are pure medicine for your soul...without the side effects. Help still your mind and soul with my well crafted cd on Meditation. Now one for the men and women who have served us.
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  2. Thanks for the information. I've tried out quite a few meditation timers and for the last few weeks I've been using this one ('Meditation Timer') for Android: Meditation Blogs

  3. Hey, it's amazing, Really useful information. Great work.
    Meditation for Sleep