This piece is a follow up to my original article posted in June 2012, “To All a Good Night.” I encounter so many fatigued and exhausted individuals trying to push themselves through a fitness routine at the end of a long day, who then injure themselves or do not experience success because they are just too tired. So, I feel we should touch on this subject at least once more.
For the record, I am not a sleep doctor, but if you are having trouble sleeping, you need to visit one. Poor sleep habits, or inability to fall asleep, can be signs of serious mental or physical issues that should be addressed. Over time, poor sleep habits can CAUSE mental and physical issues, as well. For one thing, feeling chronically tired or stressed can raise your blood pressure and potentially cause other cardiovascular problems. Lack of sleep also shifts your internal chemistry slowing your metabolic rate and disrupting your digestion. If you need the help of substances to fall asleep or stay awake during the day, then you should be seeking medical help. Consider also that substance dependency (to even common place things like caffeine) can cause fatigue. Many people end up in a never ending cycle of needing caffeine to get through the afternoon or become awake in the morning, but then cannot fall asleep at night. It sounds cliché, but cut the caffeine and try getting to bed on time. You’ll feel better.
Many times in my classes, students fall asleep during savasana (the relaxation and meditation portion at the end of Yoga class). I know many of my fellow teachers (and students) become irritated about this. The purpose of savasana is conscious relaxation. This means that you should be aware of your thoughts, your state of physical relaxation, and you should remain aware even as your relaxed state deepens. Conscious relaxation should not result in falling asleep unless you are over tired. However, I always emphasis “listen to your body” as a foundation Yoga principle. If your body is telling you to sleep, listen. For that reason, I always allow students who drift off during savasana to have that extra sleeping time. It may not being deepening their road to conscious relaxation or helping them learn to meditate, but I feel if their need for sleep is that great, I would rather let them have it. It is a miss-step in the practice of spiritual improvement to ignore the body’s basic needs in order to practice any spiritual teaching.
Of course, this does not mean that you should give up on the practice of conscious relaxation or purposeful, mindful meditation and just opt to sleep through savasana! Conscious relaxation takes work. It really does. It takes practice to learn to meditate. So don’t give up or use “I always fall asleep” as an excuse to take a side door out of learning the process. Listen to your body, and nourish it with the sleep it needs. When you are well rested, focus on your practice of mindful meditation.
Make sure you’re getting your 8-10 hours per day. Your body, mind, and spirit really do need it. Best of health, and pleasant dreams.