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Top 10 tips for sleep and relaxation

Dreamy floating hot air balloons and clouds.
Relaxation and calm

In uncertain times, or after a rough day, even a fantastic, exciting day, it can be difficult to relax and to get a good nights’ sleep, your mind may feel constantly engaged and difficult to turn off.

There is an enormous amount of information on yoga, diet, and breathing techniques to help you relax, remain calm, and help you sleep better. Where to start? Let me help ...

From the benefit of over 30 years practicing yoga and mindfulness, here are my top 10 tips for relaxation and sleep.

1 Breathe

Pink neon Breathe light among leaves.
And breathe

By this I mean breathe well. Not as easy as it sounds. When stressed, or busy, we have a tendency to take short shallow breaths which only use a third of our lungs.

We need our lungs full of fresh air to pump oxygen via our blood to every part of our body. This keeps our brain alive, alert, and prepares our muscles for work.

Try this simple breathing routine at any time of the day:

  • Breath in through the nose, mouth lightly closed, and concentrate on the feeling of the air coming into your nose, do this for a count of four,

  • Breath out through the nose concentrating on the feeling of the air coming out of your nose, do this for a count of four,

  • breathing in and out this way counts as one set.

Do 10 sets to begin with until you are comfortable then gradually increase the number of sets. Also gently change to four counts breathing in and six - eight counts breathing out.

People walking through a sunny field.
Walking in nature

2 Spend time outside in the fresh air

Exercise if you can, cycle, jog or go for a walk. Doing this in a garden or a beautiful forest is great, but if you only have a balcony, or patio, or you don't have a garden, just get outside for at least 10 – 15 minutes.

And even better, do the breathing techniques in 1 Breathe while you are out and about. Or breathe deeply every now and then to really fill your lungs and get the blood pumping that oxygen to every part of your body.

3 Set the scene for relaxation or sleep

Comfortable chair with cushion, near window

If possible move to a place you associate with calm and relaxation.

If you exercise or practice yoga at home, a dedicated place free from other distractions is ideal. If that's not possible, try to get outside, or to an empty room to sit somewhere quiet.

Sit in a chair and close your eyes for a few moments. Try to still your mind for five to ten minutes. The breathing exercise in 1 Breathe are ideal for this.

At night when you go to bed, leave your phone outside the bedroom, and try not to have a television in your bedroom.

If you read before sleeping, don't read that exciting novel you just can't put down, or you won't, and you could be reading well into the early hours. Read for about half an hour.

Also, try 9 10 minute yoga routine for sleep as an ideal way to wind down and prepare for sleep.

A sleep routine is a great habit. Try to sleep at the same time each night and your body will get accustomed to sleeping at a regular time and it will become easier to drift off.

People doing relaxed yoga
Relaxing yoga

4 Yin yoga routine for relaxation

Yin yoga is like a massage, it releases tension in the body for a positive effect on your mind, helping you feel more relaxed.

Remember, everyone is different and their body will bend, or achieve these poses differently, please listen to your body.

If something is painful, or very uncomfortable, do not force yourself to achieve what you think is the correct pose or technique.

Only ever go as far as your body allows, at a pace that is right for you.

Try using supports such as; cushions, rolled up blankets, rolled up hoodie/jumper or a bolster. These will support your body until you increase flexibility throughout your body.

Supported fish

Zita laid on mat, soles of feet together, bent knees resting outward, arms outstretched from body
Supported fish pose
  1. Lie on your mat arms slightly away from your body,

  2. You can support your head or have your head on the mat,

  3. Support your legs with cushions or blocks, or have them unsupported,

  4. Hold the pose for 10 - 15 breaths.

Zita laid on mat, bent legs in air, holding onto feet
Happy baby pose

Happy baby

  1. Lift your legs, bend your knees and hold your feet,

  2. Relax your hips into the mat,

  3. You can support your head or have your head on the mat,

  4. Hold the pose for 10 - 15 breaths.

Zita laid on mat, bent knees resting on floor to one side, opposite arm outstretched
Supported rotation pose

Supported rotation

  1. Lie on your mat,

  2. Engage your core muscles, and take your bent legs over to one side until your knees are on the mat, support your knees with a cushion or block,

  3. Place your arm on top of your thighs,

  4. Extend the opposite arm out to the side inline with your shoulder, not higher than your shoulder,

  5. Turn your head to look down the extended arm,

  6. Hold the pose for 10 - 15 breaths,

  7. repeat 1 - 6 taking your knees over to the other side.

Zita sat on mat, soles of feet together, knees bent, resting arms and head on stool in front
Supported butterfly pose

Supported butterfly

  1. Sit on your mat,

  2. Bring the soles of your feet together. Your feet can be as far in front of you as you find comfortable,

  3. Let your knees drop outwards towards the floor. Be careful, don't force them down. Put a support under each knee to feel more comfortable,

  4. Rest your arms and head on a support in front of you. Use a small stool, sofa or footstool. Make sure its at a comfortable height for you,

  5. Hold the pose for 10 - 15 breaths.

If you would like to do a more thorough yoga routine, try one of my online classes. Read about my online classes and yoga packages here.

Hands using a phone, with swirling social media icons

5 Limit social media and TV

Social media is great for keeping in touch, and finding new things. But, it can make it appear that everyone else’s life is so great. And it's amazing how much of your time it can take.

It's also a normal human response to compare yourself to these often unrealistic images, and to wonder if your life measures up.

Try not to constantly look at your phone, ipad or laptop, or watch endless TV, and instead keep in touch with family and friends however you can.

Notice and appreciate the small joys in everyday life by listening to music, chatting to whoever you are with, or enjoying a good book, cup of coffee, lovely sunset, a walk, watching the birds outside.

Several small lovely moments each day soon make you realise you don't always need a digital influence, or constant entertainment to live a happy, interesting, more satisfied life.

Delicious looking bright zingy meal
Delicious, healthy food

6 Eat well

This is not about dieting or limiting your food, but rather eating when you are hungry rather than bored, and eating foods which don't overstimulate and can help sleep.

The best vitamins and minerals to include in your diet are:

  • Vitamin B6: peanuts, soya beans, oats, bananas

  • Vitamin B12: milk, cheese and eggs

  • Magnesium: almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds, spinach, or take a magnesium supplement. Always consult with your doctor before taking a supplement.

Other great food to help relaxation and sleep is: broccoli, apples, kiwi fruit, red peppers, walnuts and wholewheat bread.

Don't go to bed with a full stomach, try to have a light snack a couple of hours before your bedtime, including a few cashew nuts in this snack is a great aid to sleep. And chamomile, passionflower or valerian root tea can help you sleep.

Stressed woman fingers to temple, eyes closed.

7 Things to avoid

Always being busy, busy. I know this is a difficult one, especially if you feel guilty that you aren't doing something all the time, or reducing your to do list.

Even during extremely busy times, take five minutes to stop, breathe, look up from what you're doing and take a break. if you can't sit and do the breathing technique at 1 Breathe, then stretch, walk around for a bit, get outside if you can.

Avoid too much stimulating food and drink such as onions, garlic, or hot spices, and don't have a heavy meal just before bedtime.

If you are having trouble sleeping, avoid alcohol and caffeine, especially before bedtime as these tend to stimulate your body.

Person cutting fabric for sewing.
Do something you love

8 Spend time doing something you love

Spend some time each day doing something you really enjoy. Especially a creative pastime.

Read, cook, cross stitch, walk, sew, gardening, dancing, cycling ... do anything you love and will concentrate on.

Time spent doing something you love flies by and you keep your mind active during the day, meaning less time to stress about things and a better chance of a good nights' sleep.

9 10 min yoga routine for sleep

Woman relaxing into yoga with hands resting on knees.
Yoga for sleep

The Yin yoga routine at number 4 above is great for relaxation and could be done before bedtime. But here's a short 10 minute routine perfect for helping you sleep.

Remember, everyone is different and their body will bend or achieve these poses differently, please listen to your body.

If something is painful, or very uncomfortable, do not force yourself to achieve what you think is the correct pose or technique.

Only ever go as far as your body allows, at a pace that is right for you.

Remember to use supports such as; cushions, rolled up blankets, rolled up hoodie/jumper or a bolster if you feel you need them.

Forward bend

Zita sat on mat, legs straight in front, arms beside legs hands near feet and head resting on knees.
Forward bend pose
  1. sit on the floor with your legs out in front of you. Make sure you are on your seated bones and not too far back on your bottom,

  2. As you inhale, raise your arms up inline with your shoulders, straight above your head,

  3. As you exhale, lower your arms towards your feet at the same time as reaching forward with your stomach and chest until they are on your thighs. If this is too difficult, use a pillow on your lap and bend your knees,

  4. Relax your head.

Legs up wall

Zita laid on mat, bottom touching wall, legs resting straight up wall, arms outstretched to each side.
Legs up wall pose
  1. Lie on the floor with your bottom touching the wall and raise your legs straight up against the wall,

  2. place your arms out away from your body, palms down. Do not take your arms higher than your shoulder line,

  3. If needed, place a folded towel or blanket under your head to bring your neck inline with your spine.

Wide-knee child pose

Zita kneeling on mat, bent forward resting on elbows next to head with hands in prayer pose above head.
Wide knee child pose
  1. Kneel on the floor with your knees apart and your big toes connected,

  2. Bend forward slowly and relax down onto your forehead,

  3. Place your arms in front inline with your shoulders then take your arms behind your head in prayer pose. Your upper arms and elbows stay on the floor,

  4. Relax your hips down onto your heels,

  5. If this is uncomfortable or painful, place a pillow, or large bolster under your torso for support, and place your arms down either side of your body, hands near your feet.

Resting pose:

Zita laid on mat arms resting on floor away from body, legs slightly open.
Resting pose
  1. lie on your back,

  2. Feet corner to corner, but not too wide,

  3. Arms a little away from your body, palms up,

  4. Stay as still as possible for five to ten minutes.

If you would like to do a more thorough yoga routine, try one of my online classes. Read about my online classes and yoga packages here.

10 Did I say stop looking at your phone

A bright red cheerful teapot and cup.
A cheery cup of tea

... and stop comparing yourself to others. Be you.

Enjoy the small everyday joys, and take a few minutes to think of things you love and are grateful for.

It really can lift your heart and make you smile.

#relaxationyoga, #sleepyoga, #relaxationbreathing, #sleeproutine, #relaxationadvice, #yinyoga, #breathingroutine

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