The importance of rest + a tool to help
When I was in my 20's I often heard the phrase "you can sleep when you’re dead".
Whether it was meeting a deadline, or fulfilling a client deliverable, there was a sense that you earn your stripes by pushing beyond your limits.
At the time, I chalked it up to “this must be how it’s done”. I now detest that phrase.
"Every disease in developed nations has links to lack of sleep. So that classic maxim that you may [have] heard that you can sleep when you’re dead, it’s actually mortally unwise advice from a very serious standpoint."
~Matthew Walker, sleep scientist and Director of the Center for Human Sleep Science at the University of California, Berkeley.
I remember when I was planning major, international events, I would consistently wake up at 3am with a thousand to-dos running through my head. I got pretty good at writing on a notepad in the dark!
Now, I still occasionally wake at that hour with whatever's on my mind.
Why does anxiety feel SO MUCH WORSE in the middle of the night?!
The difference is, I now have a tool to help me both with 1) returning to sleep after a late-night wake-up and 2) unplugging when I need to rest.
Yoga Nidra is that tool for me. AND, you don’t need to be some sort of meditation expert to do it… I wish I knew this technique back in my event planning days.
So what is Yoga Nidra?
Yoga Nidra, or “yogic sleep” (aka non-sleep deep rest), is a guided meditation that puts your body to sleep - you're comfortably in shavasana the whole time - while your mind is awake but brought to a slower, restorative, brain wave state.
So here’s what’s actually happening in your brain: the majority of our daily life is spent in the Beta brain wave state. Beta = awake, logic, speaking, reasoning.
Sometimes we even enter High Beta, triggered by anxiety or “fight or flight” mode. Hello, deadlines!
When practicing Yoga Nidra, you are taking your brain down from the Beta brain wave state to the slower Alpha brain wave state.
Alpha = awake, but more relaxed; a light meditation. Your parasympathetic system comes online in this state allowing you to beat anxiety, reduce stress and give your systems time to reset.
Here's a quick visual...
While Yoga Nidra is not a substitute for sleep, it is incredibly restorative. So, next time you wake up in the middle of the night with your mind racing, give Yoga Nidra a try.
Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google, practices Yoga Nidra. He recently told The Wall Street Journal that while he finds it difficult to meditate, he can go to YouTube to find a 10, 20 or 30 minute recording.
Interested to give it a try? There are plenty of free options. Insight Timer is an app with free recording options, and of course YouTube.
Here's one of my favorite podcast episodes on the importance of sleep…
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