Geeky wellbeing favourites: April
It's all about sleep this month
Every morning, after my obligatory first coffee, I check my phone to review my sleep stats. I wouldn’t say I’m a slave to the health tech – my Oura ring. But I do find data fascinating, and the sleep and wellbeing data in particular.
There’s some really clear correlations. My stress levels gradually increase from Monday onwards (or rather, my HRV score gradually decreases), and then drop from Friday – the reason is a no-brainer. I’ve also noticed that when I maintain a good level of physical exercise, my stress levels look a little better too.
But underlying everything is sleep. When I don’t sleep well, or enough, my stress levels are high and I feel like shit. When I sleep well or around 8 hours, my stats are great. Also, a decent amount of exercise tends to mean better, more restful sleep (especially if yoga was involved). Add some meditation or yoga nidra or even breathwork in the mix, and my sleep is beautiful.
So, this month, let’s look at sleep and how important this is for our wellbeing. And, how yoga and other mind–body practices can help.
Exciting news! I’ve recorded a new yoga nidra, inspired by a stoic practice that helps to bring perspective.
Ologies is such a good podcast (I’ve liked to it before) – it’s like the poster child for how to do science communication successfully. Check out the episode on somnology (ie the study of sleep) with neurologist Chris Winter, including:
What is sleep and why we need it? (spoiler! We don’t know! Seriously!)
The weirdness of sleep paralysis and all the crazy lore around it
Is sleep hygiene a real thing?
Do we really sabotage our own sleep?
And many more cool things!
Interested in yoga for sleep? Lisa Sanfilippo has spent a big chunk of her yoga career designing ways to use yoga to help those who suffer from insomnia. She has two books out, one for yoga teachers and one for everyone else ( I’ve only read the former, so can’t comment on the latter). She’s also one of the reasons I avoid teaching big backbends in evening yoga classes.
Here’s also a short article on how yoga can help support healthy sleep.
Read a bit more
I first heard about the idea of sleeping in stages on a yoga-related course (and honestly didn’t actually believe it), and it looks like it’s a real thing that many civilisations used to practice. Check out this article from The Atlantic for more info.
Struggling to fall asleep? Try yoga nidra!
Basically the inspiration for this post came one evening this week when I couldn’t sleep – and what did I do? I reached out for my phone to practice yoga nidra. Because it rarely fails to help me fall asleep when I am wrestling with my sheets and pillows. I’ve linked to the one I recorded above, and here’s another, sleep-specific one by my lovely teacher Jennie Wadsten.
Yoga science highlights
Yoga for post-traumatic stress disorder – A randomised controlled trial of 94 women found that yoga helped to improve depression and psychological distress following a car accident. Personally, I haven’t found yoga has helped with my car anxiety but maybe I’m not trying hard enough.
The power of two – CBT combined with yoga delivered better outcomes in depression and anxiety compared to CBT alone.
Yoga plus vitamin D for breast cancer – The only full-text article this month; this study compared the effects of high dose vitamin D, yoga plus high dose vitamin D and yoga plus low dose vitamin D on inflammatory proteins and quality of life for patients with breast cancer (N=30). Both yoga programmes significantly improved inflammation and quality of life, which suggests that they may help to tackle the side effects of the disease. Yoga comprised 12 weeks of Hatha (asana, pranayama, depression), twice a week.
From the blog this month
Is hot yoga better (or worse) than room temperature yoga? – Hot yoga vs non-hot yoga – which one wins? Are claims of improved health with hot yoga true? Will I stick with it this time despite my intense dislike for sweating?
Yoga vs CBT for anxiety in older adults (plain language summary) – Large randomised clinical trial compared yoga and CBT for alleviating worry in older adults. The results are promising.
You may have missed
Interested in how yoga and other mind–body practices can help support your sleep? Check out the following posts from the blog
The evidence of yoga supporting sleep: