The Secret to Managing Stress and Getting Better Sleep

ayurveda brain health healthy living meditation morning practice resilience sleep stress-free Oct 29, 2023

I’m sure we all have our go-to strategies for managing stress—whether or not we actually do them is another story!

Why is that?  Perhaps it’s because in our overly-scheduled lives there just isn’t any time.  Or we’re used to putting everyone else’s needs first.

Many people talk about how long it takes them to get to sleep once their head hits the pillow.  So much to think about and plan for the next day!

Or what I used to struggle with: I usually found it easy to fall asleep within minutes after the light turned off, but then it wasn’t uncommon for me to wake up around 2 or 3 am, with my mind going a mile a minute.  Already planning the new day.  Almost wishing that it was time to get up.

And yet I knew that I hadn’t had enough sleep and needed to get back at it.  And I know I’m not alone!

From an Ayurveda perspective, 2 am to 6 am Is the windy Vata time of the morning.  It’s no wonder our minds are whirling, and we can’t seem to calm ourselves down.

What to do?
What made the difference for me and my whirling thoughts at 2 am?  I’m sure it won’t surprise you to hear me say that a strong, regular meditation practice goes a long way to manage stress. 

And so this can mean having a morning practice, which is my favourite time while I’m still a little bit sleepy, I’m not quite awake, and I have yet to awaken to the distractions of the outside world. 

Another time to meditate might be late afternoon.  This is a nice transition from the busyness of the day, when we’re often out in the world, to coming home to family, to preparing dinner, and to winding down before sleep.  (Remember that recommendation to turn screens off before 8 pm?)

And before bed, a short meditation, whether it’s during a restorative yoga pose like "legs up the wall," or perhaps a gratitude offering, can be very calming.
But it turns out that meditation is also helpful as we’re trying to fall asleep both at the beginning of the night and also anytime we’re awake and know that we need a few more hours.

But what’s the secret?
Of course, there are many styles of meditation, each with differing goals and purposes.

One of my favourites, one that I find most effective especially in the middle of the night, is focusing on my breath.
Using awareness of the breath to bring your focus within, let go of distractions, and indeed, to let go of anything that is not Present Moment awareness.  

And so this becomes a Breath Meditation.  

So many of us who practice this find it very relaxing, calming, and a way to take us away from those thoughts that may be stirring us up and contributing to an anxious mind.
And like other forms of meditation, the more we practice it, just like a muscle, the stronger it is.
The yogis call this Pranayama, otherwise known as a Breathwork.
And there are many different types of Breathwork.  

One of the simplest to begin with, is to simply inhale, hold your breath, and then exhale, allowing the exhale to be longer than the inhale.
One of the benefits of extending your exhale is that it will calm down the “fight or flight” of the sympathetic nervous system, and turn on the parasympathetic nervous system, which is what is active when we “rest and digest.”
And while this practice is thousands of years old, recent studies show that it works!
So whether you practice pranayama as part of a sitting meditation, a yoga practice, or in the middle of the night when trying to get back to sleep, having this available to you may calm you down, rest your mind, and allow you to drift off once more to sleep!

Home practice
Who’s got five minutes?
Well, I think the answer to that question is:  really, we all do.

  • See if you can find five minutes near the beginning of each day to sit and breathe.  

  • It doesn’t have to be complicated.  

  • If it helps to count, you can inhale for a count of four, hold for a count of seven, and then exhale for a count of eight.  Or whatever timing works for you and your body.

  • And as you get used to this practice in the morning, or perhaps later in the afternoon, it’s going to be available to you and your mind and body will be used to it, if you remember to use it in the middle of the night with the winds of Vata swirling through your head!

  • Yes, I did say 5 minutes, but as you get used to it, try to extend the time for even more calming benefits!


So What's Next?

Here’s a Sneak Peak of the new 


15 days, Five habits, 1 goal

· Education, Coaching

· Accountability, Empowerment

· Five Habits that make a difference

· Coaching and accountability to keep you on track

· Change is possible!

Great Sleep is only 2 weeks away

· Together, we can do this!


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