I was not the type of child who enjoyed staying up late. Whether I was at home or at a slumber party, when I began to feel the Sandman calling, off to bed I went. I knew the intense discomfort I’d experience the next day if I hadn’t slept enough. My eyes would be heavy; my energy would be sluggish. After a night without sufficient sleep, the next day would often be a wash. It still is.
When I was a child, however, I could sleep through the night without interruption. Now, I’m awakened halfway through by the need to go to the bathroom. When I return to bed, sometimes I can fall back to sleep without difficulty. Other nights, it can take an hour or more before I drift back into slumber. I can’t seem to shut off my mind and unwind. It drives me nuts.
I’m not alone. One-third of American adults reports inadequate sleep, which can not only lead to headaches and depression, but also to obesity, diabetes, and heart disease over time.
“Stress and sleep problems are epidemic in our society,” says integrative yoga therapist and Kripalu faculty member Jennifer Reis, my latest Kripalu Perspectives guest and the creator of Divine Sleep Yoga Nidra. “A big part of the problem is that we’ve become stuck in flight-or-fight mode, and we’re not able to switch the nervous system back into relaxation mode.”
Jennifer says Divine Sleep Yoga Nidra is a step-by-step guided meditation that helps to turn on the parasympathetic nervous system, or the “relaxation response,” which is necessary in order to fall and stay asleep. “You cannot fall asleep in fight-or-flight mode,” she notes. “With Divine Sleep Yoga Nidra, you can retrain your nervous system to switch on by itself, so that when it’s time to relax and sleep, it’ll happen more quickly and without the use of substances to self-medicate.”
Practiced lying down, Divine Sleep Yoga Nidra guides you to bring awareness to the five levels of being (physical, energy and breath, mind and emotions, witness consciousness, and bliss), which in turn allows each level to relax. “There’s nothing to do but notice, which is true meditation,” Jennifer explains, adding that many people find it difficult to meditate in silence, but find it very calming and relaxing to meditate with guidance.
Eight stages comprise Divine Sleep Yoga Nidra. One is a body scan in which you’re invited to bring awareness to each body part. Another stage guides you to bring awareness to the breath and its directional currents in the body. And yet another calls on the senses to visualize a journey into nature.
Jennifer says Divine Sleep Yoga Nidra is the antidote to modern life. “We’re so busy and disembodied in the modern world,” she says. “We’re often multitasking and moving in multiple directions at once, but Divine Sleep Yoga Nidra turns your senses inward for restoration and peace.”
Practiced regularly, Divine Sleep Yoga Nidra might do more than improve your sleep—it can also reduce stress, prevent illness, improve memory, enhance clarity and concentration, sharpen intuition, and increase happiness.