When it comes to health and wellness, most people probably think I’ve got it all together. I am a yoga teacher, yoga therapist, personal trainer, and wellness coach. I do my best to “walk the talk” and practice what I preach. I exercise, meditate, practice yoga, and eat a whole foods diet.

For many years, though, I suffered with an invisible problem. I wasn’t sleeping well. Specifically, I wasn’t staying asleep well. And I’m not alone in this. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one third of US adults get less than the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep per night.

Chronic sleep debt is linked with type
2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and depression. It increases our
risk for accidents and injuries. It’s a big deal for individuals, and it’s a
big deal for communities.

Why Sleep Eludes Women Over 60

Many women over 60 suffer from sleep challenges, including aches and pains, nocturia (the need to urinate during the night), and hormonal changes. Additionally, they may take new medications due to age-related changes.

Research shows that the stereotypical
“senior problem” of nodding off at 7 pm and waking up at 3 am isn’t just
because you are bored in the evening. As we age, our internal clock really does
change. It’s called “advanced sleep phase syndrome.”

Sleep aids are often prescribed when women voice concerns to their doctors. According to CDC, over nine million Americans take some form of prescription sleep aid. Sometimes sleep aids are necessary to get through a crisis time, but sleep aids are not designed to be used long-term.

Each has its own side effects. A big concern for older women is that sleep aids are associated with an increased risk of falls and fractures.

It’s essential to rule out sleep
disorders and health conditions with your medical team. Concurrently, you may
benefit from improving your sleep hygiene and sleep mindset. I’ll share what I
did, and how meditation and a yoga lifestyle helped me improve my sleep.

Two Main Obstacles to Good Sleep and What to Do About Them

Sleeping well requires adjustments to
our physiology and psychology. Sleep
happens in our body, and our brain-mind must cooperate with the process.

I used the lens of yoga philosophy and
practices to view my sleep challenges. Applying yoga philosophy to sleep helped
me condense all the “reasons” that I didn’t sleep into two categories.

  • Not living in harmony with nature;
  • Not surrendering my ego to the Infinite.

Identifying the problems made the
solutions clear.

Get in Harmony with Nature

For me, to live in harmony with nature
means get up with the sunrise (or close to it), wind down with the sunset, and
observe good sleep hygiene. I’ll go into more detail on that in a moment.

Surrender My Ego

On the yoga path to enlightenment, we ultimately
do surrender our egos to a higher power, God, Ultimate Reality, Cosmic
Consciousness, or whatever you want to call it. In Sanskrit, this act of
surrendering is called Isvarapranidhana,
and it’s one of the 10 core lifestyle principles of yoga.

On a more mundane level, it can mean
letting go of the need to be in control, to be perfect, or to get one more
thing done tonight. For me, it means recognizing that worrying about things
instead of sleeping doesn’t help one bit, so I can just let it go and literally
“sleep on it.”

Clean Up Your Sleep Hygiene to Get in Sync with Nature’s Rhythms

You likely know about sleep hygiene,
but are you doing it? Connecting yoga principles and practices to sleep hygiene
helped me do what I knew was good for me. Here are the steps I took that made
the biggest impact and how I connected them to my bigger purpose.


Pratyahara means we calm our senses
inward instead of outward to stimulation. This step involves:

  • Making
    my bedroom dark, quiet, and cool (60-67 F);
  • No
    clocks with lights;
  • Nothing
    plugged in;
  • Cell
    phones and Wi-fi off.


Brahmacharya means continence. It is the
conservation of vital forces. Yogis do not dissipate their energy with
non-useful activities that distract us from what is good for us. Here I:

  • End
    screen time early (cut-off is 7:30 pm).
  • Use
    my computer and screen time in the daytime and “unplug” in the evening with
    non-tech activities.


means cleanliness, which applies to our dietary habits. Eating processed foods
and using caffeine and alcohol interrupts sleep.

Gut health and good digestion are key. 80 percent of our
serotonin is made in the gut, and serotonin is necessary for the production of
melatonin, which helps us fall and stay asleep.

This final step includes:

  • Minimizing/eliminating
    alcohol, caffeine, processed foods, and sugar.
  • Aiming
    to eat just the right amount at dinner so that I don’t need a snack or wake up
    hungry. I try to have dinner by 7:30 pm.

How Yoga and Meditation Help Us Sleep

When we breathe smoothly, and practice yoga meditatively, we send physiological signals to our brain and body that everything is OK. This helps us lower cortisol, feel calmer, fall asleep, and stay asleep.

Besides the lifestyle guidelines
discussed above, yoga practice also includes postures, breathing, and

Ideal yoga postures for relaxation

  • Legs up the wall – Viparita Karani
  • Reclined
    cobbler’s pose – Supta Baddha Konasana
  • Bridge pose – Setu Banda Sarvangasana
  • Child’s
    pose – Adho Mukha Virasana
  • Corpse
    Pose – Savasana

You can learn these from a certified
yoga instructor and practice them before bed, or any time, to relax.

There are many yogic breathing and meditation techniques. Meditation has been shown to aid in sleep and reduce the need for sleeping pills. Scientists believe this is due to the decreased stimulation and decreased cortisol.

Over time, meditation practices
strengthen the pre-frontal cortex of the brain. This “command center” helps us
do what we know is good for us and follow through on good sleep hygiene.

It also helps us adjust our sleep
mindset and let go (surrender) what is not in our control. We can put worries
to bed, and then put ourselves to bed!

Measure It to Improve It

I’m not done learning
about sleep. Most of the time, my sleep patterns are far better than they used
to be. I work at it every day and strive to make sleep a top priority. When I’m
rested, I do better in all areas of life.

​How do you make sleep a top priority?
What sleep hygiene tips do you find most useful? How do you shift your mindset
around sleep? Please share your comments with the community!

Let\’s Have a Conversation!


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