Before my daughter was born, the sleep deprivation that everyone warned me about was my biggest concern. I like sleep. I feel anxious when I stay up late. I am more myself when I am well rested.
So, determining how to best support our baby in having a nap schedule and sleeping as well as she could at night, was high on our list of priorities.
After eight exhausting weeks or so of having no idea what I was doing, my husband and I turned to a book based on research around children’s sleep patterns. What I learned was that a well-rested baby is more likely to take good naps, to sleep well at night and to repeat that pattern over again. When a baby is kept up past its “sleep cues” and their natural rhythms of awake and sleepy are ignored, their system gets stressed. Their sleep is less restorative and shorter causing a vicious cycle of less and less hours of sleep. I promise, this is all related to yoga. I’ll get there.
Observing that my daughter actually had “sleepy windows,” times when she was really ready to rest and that, if I pushed her past, she would resist sleep, made me curious about my own rhythms. I started to notice that if I stay up past a certain hour at night, I have a much harder time falling asleep and I frequently wake up earlier. The same as her. She needs naps during the day, times of less stimulation and quiet. I’ve started paying attention to my own moments in the day when I feel a wave of tired, of needing rest, and I’m trying to honor that more.
Life doesn’t always allow for an adult to fully take rest in the middle of the day, sometimes it’s as little as sitting still, taking a few deep breaths, and relaxing my shoulders.
Things like meditation, restorative yoga, yoga nidra, pausing to feel after an intense posture, and a nice long shavasana initiate your body’s “relaxation response.” It’s that feeling when your muscles naturally soften, your breath deepens, maybe your tummy gurgles or your eyes water. This response is important. The more we can practice relaxing, the easier summoning that relaxation response becomes.
My daughter had to practice napping before she was good at it. Us older humans, need to practice relaxing before we are good at it. When stress hormones are pumping all day, our bodies are not in a prime state to go to bed at night. So take that deep breath, soften, your shoulders and be still for a few lovely moments. Know that your relaxing muscles are doing push-ups for you in the background.
Catherine currently teaches at Victory Power Yoga in Clayton, NC. You can find out more about her practice and teaching at www.catherinestriegel.com.