Geeky wellbeing favourites: March 2023
Sleep, exercise, plus the usual mind–body research highlights
I’ve been thinking a lot about sleep lately (possibly primed by my day job, as I’m currently researching sleep disturbances and what people do to get help when they experience them).
Although I know sleep is hugely important for health, I wasn’t actually on the quest for the perfect sleep recipe. But my Oura ring has offered some hints lately that I’ve found quite interesting and motivating.
For instance, I’ve noticed that I get a lot more deep sleep (ie the sleep that makes you feel most refreshed and rested) on the days that I go for a run. Not when I go for long walks, and usually not even when I practice yoga (even if it’s hardcore I-think-I’ll-collapse rocket yoga).
I also noticed a huge spike in deep sleep the day after a meditation workshop a couple of weeks ago (ie a workshop where I meditated more than I have in the past 3 months combined!).
Now whether these effects are to do with mental health or something else, I’m not sure. Perhaps this is a good enough reason to stick with running after all, even though I absolutely hate the first 15 minutes of it. And to try maintain my meditation practice even though I really struggle to.
What have you found helps your sleep? And what impact have you noticed on your wellbeing?
Interested in sleep? Have a look also at the post I wrote last year for more resources.
5(ish) things to explore this month
I loved listening to the Matt Walker podcast, partly because he seems like a big geek like me and gives lovely scientific explanations, including discussing clinic trials that research sleep in detail.
If, like me, you are interested in how exercise affects sleep, check out the four episodes in his “Sleep and exercise” series. Spoiler – it confirms my observations that running is giving me more deep sleep.
Yoga teachers, episode 4 will also be if interest. I often worry about whether practicing or teaching a very strong class or a very backbend-focused class will negatively affect sleep. But research suggests that, as long as it’s not an hour before bedtime, its probably fine.
I’m also about a third of the way through his book, “Why we sleep”, and thoroughly enjoying it (plus learning a lot. For instance, did you know there are two independent pathways that control sleep? Or that the idea that older people need less sleep is a myth?).
Read a bit more
Wondering about the reverse effect? Can sleep help make your vinyasa flow better, your run more effortless or your [insert other exercise] smoother? Have a look at this article.
I’m still on an iRest binge – here’s a sleep practice I enjoyed on a particularly stressful evening. I always feel a bit weird when I recommend a nidra I have never listened to in full, but I guess the fact that I fell asleep is endorsement enough.
Mind–body science highlights
I must say, it was a bit of a disappointing month so I reluctantly share the below as marginally interesting. Let’s hope for better studies next month.
Yoga nidra in sleep, stress and general mental wellbeing. A couple of sort of interesting yoga nidra studies this month. In the first one, 11 people with insomnia practiced yoga nidra for 30 min and then lay down for 60 min (the control group of 11 people just lay down for 90 min). The study found no difference between yoga nidra vs just lying down quietly in HRV or sleep onset latency but they did see a decreased respiratory rate, although they don’t explain what this means (and the study is tiny anyway).
In the second one, 66 participants practiced iRest yoga nidra for 8 weeks and experienced significant improvements in depression, stress and worry. (but note that this study was not controlled).
Workplace yoga improves stress and back pain. Contrary to last month’s highlight, where no benefit was found on back pain, this study found significant improvements among female teachers who practiced a “structured integrated yoga intervention” for 6 weeks, 4 times a week, vs the control group (n=50). They also saw improvements in mental health. I’m not sure exactly what the intervention was though.
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:
‘Sleep hygiene’ may help in Alzheimer’s – could yoga support too?: Given evidence that good sleep can help ward off cognitive decline, and given that yoga can help promote better sleep, is this a good enough reason to practice?
Growing old well, with yoga – More on the cognitive function side of things, including the link to sleep
Is yoga nidra your missing sleep remedy? Along the lines of the study I highlight above, there is good evidence that yoga nidra can help to support good sleep.
Until next month!
Very interesting! Especially now that I’m reading for my upcoming workshop :)