Get Refreshing Sleep Without Medication
Insomnia is the most common disorder of sleep. It’s also one of the most frequent reasons a person visits a doctor. About 10% of people have some ongoing insomnia nightly, and roughly half the adults in our culture have some trouble with insomnia–a huge number considering how debilitating insomnia can be!
Yoga Therapy is a revolutionary new approach to working with common physical and mental ailments. Combining yoga postures with the latest in conventional and alternative medical treatments, each book in the Yoga Therapy series presents a fresh, effective approach to healing.
In Yoga Therapy for Overcoming Insomnia, an experienced medical doctor and an acclaimed professional yoga teacher share the ingredients that support a good night’s sleep. You’ll discover simple and important steps to help prepare you for sleep. And, you’ll learn how to use Ananda Yoga, a relaxing series of gentle stretches, breathing exercises, and positive thoughts—all of which have been proved to be helpful in insomnia.
- Everything you ever wanted to know about sleep.
- Types, causes, and treatments of insomnia.
- How to create good “sleep habits.”
- Instructions for simple yoga postures and breathing exercises to lead you into sleep.
- How to use “self-talk” affirmations to relax your mind and body.
Yoga Therapy is clear and comprehensive. Most people can easily practice and enjoy these exercises and suggestions immediately. Get ready for a good night’s sleep!
A Note on the Yoga Practices in This Book
Chapter One: Insomnia is a Major Problem
Chapter Two: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Sleep
Chapter Three: Insomnia: Its Types, Causes, and Treatments
Chapter Four: Ananda Yoga—An Ideal Insomnia Treatment
Chapter Five: Keys to the Practice of Ananda Yoga for Insomnia Relief
Chapter Six: Ananda Yoga Routine
Chapter Seven: How to Have a Good Night’s Sleep
Chapter Eight: Putting It All Together
Chapter Seven: Next Steps with Ananda Yoga
"Doc, If I could just get a good nights sleep!"
You look at the clock at your bedside and it’s 3:00 AM and you think, "Oh no, not another night when I don’t sleep! I have so much to do tomorrow!". If this is happening to you, there is help available right now. You should also know that you are not alone with the problem of insomnia. Roughly half the adults in our culture have some trouble with insomnia and some have a severe debilitating form of it. Whether your insomnia is mild and occasional or an every night torture, this book can help you. Using the latest scientific research, we will give you a clear understanding of the nature of insomnia including its common causes and treatments. This is a comprehensive program you can start using tonight for deep, sound sleep.
As a cornerstone of our treatment plan, we will be using the well-known Ananda
Yoga system as a way to let you relax deeply and prepare your mind and body for refreshing sleep. You’ll learn how you can deeply relax at will using specific yoga postures, stretches, methods of relaxation, breathing techniques, and affirmations. These techniques, when performed along with our recommendations for healthy sleep habits, can give you the sound sleep you are wanting. You can work with this program on your own or you can use this approach in conjunction with any treatment your physician recommends. The healthy sleep habits suggested in this book are ones that most physicians would wholeheartedly endorse. Your health care provider may have already recommended this book or activities like this.
You’ll find that most physicians are already familiar with the positive effects that relaxation, affirmation, attitude, habit changes, and stretching techniques can have on a host of medical problems, including insomnia. For example, one study done on insomnia in 2001 demonstrated that simply modifying a person’s attitudes about sleep and teaching them good sleep habits produced better long-term outcomes than giving them medication! The great news is that most people can be taught routines for ensuring sound sleep that will be effective for a lifetime.
You’ll find this is an excellent handbook with enjoyable, and highly effective, yoga routines and other sleep recommendations that you can start using today. Help is on the way. Get ready for a great night’s sleep!
A Note on the Yoga Practices in This Book
This book is designed to blend seamlessly with the medical care you may already be receiving for insomnia. Any actual changes in your medication or treatment should, of course, be made in consultation with your health care provider.
While the exercises we present here are simple and easy, not all yoga practices are suitable for everyone. To reduce the risk of injury, it’s a good idea to consult your doctor before beginning any exercise program like this one. Obviously, the instructions and advice in this book are not intended as substitutes for medical counsel from your health care advisor. At the end of chapter eight, we have specific recommendations for those few who do not find adequate improvement after trying the suggestions in this book.
The therapeutic approach in this book is intended to benefit a wide range of people suffering from insomnia, and for most people it is an excellent starting point. For some it will be all they need long term. To get the greatest therapeutic benefit from the yoga program, it’s even better to work individually with a qualified yoga instructor who can draw upon a broader range of yoga therapy techniques and tailor your program to your own unique needs and abilities. Bear in mind that although yoga therapy often has immediate effects and improves most insomnia symptoms immediately, it is not just a
"quick fix" like a sleeping pill. It is a gradual route to enduring harmony on all levels of your being. For more information about Ananda Yoga and actual personal instruction, look in the section titled,
"Additional Steps You Can Take."
Chapter One—Insomnia is a Major Problem
Almost everyone has an occasional problem with sleeping poorly. It may be the night before a final exam in
school or during a time of major stress such as the death of a loved one. Most people may have experienced the
insomnia associated with severe jet lag after a long airline trip. You know how frustrating it can be to be
unable to sleep when you want and need to but your body wants to be wide awake! In fact, close to 50% of
people in our culture have an intermittent but recurrent problem with difficulty sleeping. Insomnia is the
most common sleep related disorder and is one the most frequent reasons a person visits a doctor. While for
most, insomnia is just occasional, for some it is a chronic problem of nightly insomnia that pesters them
for months or years. About 10% of people have some ongoing insomnia nightly—a huge number
particularly when you consider how debilitating insomnia can be.
Case Study #1—Mike: He Just Can’t Seem to Fall Asleep
Mike recently graduated from college and now has a responsible job with an accounting firm. He often has to
take work home in the evening to complete it but is expected to be at work ready to go at 8am. He enjoys his
work but just wishes he could stop thinking about all the details when he’s done for the day. Starting about
three months ago, he began having some problems falling asleep—not every night, but about half the time.
Typically, once he fell asleep, he slept pretty soundly. However, this last month he’s had trouble falling
asleep every single night. Once he didn’t fall asleep until an hour before his alarm went off! He’s never had a sleep problem before.
Everyone has suggestions for him about his insomnia. He’s tried doing a really hot bath and an aerobics work
out just before bed so he’d be really tired and relaxed but, amazingly, it just made him more awake than ever.
One friend recommended a stiff drink of brandy every night as a cure while others have suggested their favorite
bedtime herbal remedy. So far he’s tried every single one of them. Some even help for a few nights before they
stop working. Mike is actually starting to get nervous when he knows bedtime is approaching. Mike thinks to himself,
"Not another night where I can’t go to sleep! I just can’t stand it." The quality of his work has begun
slipping and he’s getting grouchy and irritable. Once he even slept right through his alarm and was three hours
late for work. He sees prescription sleep medication advertised everywhere but he doesn’t want to get addicted
to a medication. Mike sees that his insomnia problem is now a downward spiral but he hasn’t got a clue what to do.
It turns out that Mike’s particular insomnia problem is likely straightforward. He has developed very poor sleep
"habits" and his body and mind have learned this insomnia behavior very well in just a few short months! Fortunately
for Mike, he can easily learn the right habits and attitudes for sound sleep. When this is coupled with special
relaxation techniques to get him ready for sleep every night his problem will likely vanish within weeks. Also,
he’ll have a clear understanding how to keep his sleep deep and refreshing for a lifetime. The techniques and
information in this book would be ideal for him.
Case Study #2—Susan: She Keeps Waking Up All Night
Susan is a high school teacher who loves teaching. About six months ago, her marriage of eight years ended. Even though she and her "ex"
parted on friendly terms she’s been feeling pretty flat emotionally and nothing seems to interest her much. For example,
she just hasn’t had her normal energy to prepare her lesson plans for school. Right after the break-up, she began having
sleep problems. She falls asleep fine, in fact, she looks forward to going to bed hoping tomorrow she’ll be rested and
energetic. It’s too bad, but after a few hours she wakes up and can’t go back to sleep—usually for about an hour but
sometimes the rest of the night! She’ll keep waking up every few hours like this until morning. On school days, she
wishes she could "sleep in" but she needs to get up and ready for work. Sometimes on the weekend she’ll stay in
bed for 14 hours at a stretch but will actually sleep only about half of that—the rest of the time she just lays there.
She had trouble like this about fifteen years ago after she was let go during a "down sizing" at her previous school.
That time, however, her sleep got better after a few months.
Now, she’s stopped exercising simply because she’s too tired in the evening and has gained about 10 lbs in the last three
months. She stopped seeing friends in the evening at all because she wants to get to bed early. Her self-esteem is in the
dumps. She finally went to her doctor to get some sleeping pills and to her surprise was offered an anti-depressant medication.
She told her doctor, "I’m not depressed. In fact, if I just had a good night’s sleep, I’d be fine. I just need a pill
to keep me asleep."
Susan has a kind of insomnia sometimes called "early awakening" where she awakens in the middle of the night and can’t
go back to sleep. In Susan’s case, her insomnia is likely being caused by the mild depression she’s experiencing. Her
sleep disturbance is actually one of the clues. While most people with insomnia simply have a sleep disorder for some it
will be the chief sign of an underlying problem like depression or anxiety. Susan also made her insomnia symptoms worse by
some of the negative life style changes that she’d recently made, like stopping her exercise program. Susan will benefit
from a sleep program such as outlined in this book but she may need to address her depression more directly if her symptoms continue.
What is Insomnia?
Simply put, insomnia is the inability to have a refreshing night’s sleep when you want it. The problems that are
typical in insomnia include difficulty falling asleep or with waking up during the night and being unable to return to
sleep rapidly, as we’ve seen in our two case studies. The real key to understanding insomnia is that it’s not just
about the total amount of sleep time one has, it’s the inability to have sleep that leaves one refreshed in the morning.
Actually sleep requirements are highly individual. One person may feel completely recharged after only 6 hours sleep.
Another may require a full eight hours for the same level of rejuvenation. If you are that "eight hour a night" person
who sleeps only six hours, you may feel sleep deprived the next day.
Not everyone who gets inadequate sleep is suffering from insomnia. Many people who are sleep deprived are missing
sleep by choice or because they are forced by their circumstances to limit their sleep time. For example, a surgeon on
night call at a hospital or a mother caring for her sick children may get less than three hours of sleep one night,
which is enough to hurt their function the next day. However, they may not have any problem with insomnia. Given the
chance to sleep, and they would probably love it, they would sleep normally.
The Consequences of Inadequate Sleep
Sleep deprivation caused by insomnia or by simply not sleeping enough can affect your daytime function tremendously.
If you are sleep deprived, you can have memory problems, difficulty concentrating, poor social interactions, daytime
sleepiness and fatigue, as well as annoying symptoms of physical stress such as headaches and gastrointestinal woes.
There are even problems with decreased immune function. While those with mild or short-term insomnia (less than a month)
may find that this has limited effects on their daytime function, those with chronic insomnia may have significant
trouble with their performance during the day. For example, those with chronic insomnia are twice as likely to have
auto accidents as those who sleep normally.
Many people in our culture are not sleeping enough. Students often stay up late but leave for school very early
and some are chronically under sleeping. People who work at jobs that have shifts may sleep less. Because they sleep
and work at unusual times compared to the rest of us, the typical shift worker sleeps 8 hours less a week than those
with normal work schedules. Some professions like health care demand long hours of night call with little or no sleep.
For our culture as a whole, we sleep 25% less than our ancestors did a hundred years ago but there is no evidence that
shows we need less sleep than they did. Also, with the current 24 hour a day availability of TV, shopping, and the
Internet we can find many excuses at home to delay or forgo adequate sleep.
When a person’s sleep patterns become distorted by choice or life’s circumstances, they may go on to develop
insomnia where they cannot sleep when they want to. This very common form of insomnia is actually from bad sleep
habits their bodies have learned. This was Mike’s problem in our case studies. Poor sleep habits are often referred
to as "poor sleep hygiene."
It Can Be Hard to Tell How Much Sleep Deprivation is Affecting You
Those who are sleep deprived may be unaware how impaired they are. One study done at a sleep laboratory where
volunteers were kept awake constantly for days at time found that the mental abilities of the subjects as measured
by standardized tests worsened with each passing day. The curious thing was that the volunteers often commented that
as the number of sleepless days increased they felt like they were "adjusting to the lack of sleep" and were
convinced they were starting to perform better on those tests even as their actual scores worsened!
Studies done on sleep deprived professional truck drivers done in a laboratory using driving simulators found that
they often couldn’t tell they were beginning to nod off while driving. They would simply awake with great surprise
to find they had driven the simulator into a ditch!
One sobering study looked at how surgeons performed the day after spending a night on call when they got less
than 3 hours sleep in total. They were compared to surgeons who were normally rested when performing a particular
surgical task. The "under slept" surgeons coming off a night on call took 40% longer doing the surgical task
and made twice as many errors—all from just one night of very inadequate sleep! Frequent insomnia can cause
significant sleep deprivation over time and potentially puts you and those around you at risk.
Insomnia: a $100 Billion Dollar Problem
As you can see, those with insomnia may be really suffering. The less you sleep because of insomnia the more
likely you are to feel lousy and have other sleep deprivation symptoms the following day. With very intermittent
insomnia there may be little in the way of bad effects. However, if you have severe chronic insomnia, you are
quite likely to have significant impairments and complaints. Roughly half of those with insomnia complain of not
feeling well physically. This is what will often get them to finally go see a doctor. Longstanding insomnia
predisposes you to depression and anxiety problems. Some people actually develop tremendous anxiety over not
sleeping well as we saw in Mike’s case.
Out of frustration at being unable to sleep, many insomniacs become dependent on alcohol or other sedatives
to put them to sleep. In fact, about 10% of alcoholics became alcohol dependent because
of insomnia initially! Many others take non-prescription sleeping pills nightly and the side effect of these
drugs can also negatively affect their function the next day. You can end up dependent on these over-the-counter
medications that give only unnatural and unrefreshing sleep.
Put bluntly the effect of insomnia on our culture is catastrophic. The costs of all the problems caused by
insomnia are staggering—particularly if we look at those who are sleeping less than 5 and 1/2 hours a night.
If we include fatigue related accidents, poor job performance, absenteeism, and the expense of sleep medications,
the cost totals over 100 billion dollars a year! There are untold deaths yearly from auto accidents caused by
sleepy drivers. Lost jobs, lost promotions, lost friendships, and decreased productivity at work can all result
from the simple inability to sleep.
Not Many with Insomnia Seek Medical Help—in Part Because Many Doctors have Difficulty Treating Insomnia
Surprisingly few insomniacs, even those with severe symptoms, seek medical help. Less than 15% of those with
insomnia have seen a doctor and less than a third of those seen come away from their visit with a clear
understanding of their problem. When a patient with insomnia visits their doctor, they may find that their
physician is ill equipped to help them. The scientific understanding of insomnia and its treatment has
advanced considerably in the last twenty years but the average physicians’ understanding has often lagged
behind. Even many conscientious physicians don’t understand that patients really need to be educated in
depth about insomnia and need to be taught about ways they can help themselves to sleep better—not simply
given a sleeping pill prescription.
Studies reveal that the treatment of insomnia tends to be frustrating for the patient and the doctor with
the outcome frequently unsatisfactory for both. The average physician when confronted with a somewhat desperate
patient with severe insomnia may inwardly be saying, "Oh no, not another one!" Often physicians simply
reach for their prescription pads out of frustration or a lack of time. The drugs typically prescribed for
insomnia by physicians are designed for short term or occasional use only. No one really wants to be dependent
on drugs to sleep.
A Lasting Fix for Insomnia is Possible
However there is good news. Modern research has shown that giving a patient a few simple lifestyle rules,
easy and enjoyable techniques to help relax, and specific suggestions for their sleep routine works as well
as prescription sleeping pills and it is natural sleep not chemically induced.
These techniques will often provide a lasting "fix" to sleep problems. Even if medication is needed
initially as an aide, it can often be discontinued over time as long as you are doing other positive things
to keep sleeping well.
Obviously, helping you change your sleep habits and routine, teaching you relaxation techniques to prepare
for sleep, and giving you positive sleep affirmations, is more helpful and much safer than taking sleeping pills
in the long run. This book will train you to use the Ananda Yoga system as a way of improving your sleep. When
done in conjunction with the other well-researched lifestyle modifications we suggest, it is a powerful tool
to restore normal sleep patterns. Using this "non drug" approach to insomnia we expect the vast majority
of people will not only sleep better but many can eliminate their use of sleep medication.
First let’s look at what constitutes normal sleep and some of the causes of insomnia. Then we’ll show
you how Ananda Yoga can be used in a program to improve your sleep patterns. Lastly, we’ll look at other
ractical suggestions for getting a great night’s sleep
"Insomnia is the single most prevalent sleep disorder with an estimated ten percent of the American population having insomnia nightly. Yoga is a recognized exercise technique with established healing effects. Now Yoga has been applied to treating insomnia with a therapeutic regimen made accessible for the non-specialist general reader through the collaborative efforts of practicing primary care physician Peter Van Houten and Rich McCord, the worldwide director of Ananda Yoga.
"Yoga Therapy For Overcoming Insomnia articulately discusses the types, causes, and treatments of insomnia, as well as providing expert instruction on creating good sleep habits. Extensive information is provided on how to use yoga postures as an aid in treating and preventing insomnia, along with useful conventional and alternative treatments to supplement the utilization of yoga in combating insomnia. Enhanced with a variety of additional tips, techniques, and tools.
Yoga Therapy For Overcoming Insomnia requires no prior knowledge of, or expertise with, yoga in order to quickly benefit from the advice and instruction provided. If you or a loved one is grappling with the problem on insomnia, whether chronic or intermittent, then give a careful reading to Yoga Therapy For Overcoming Insomnia."
—Midwest Book Review
"Yoga Therapy for Overcoming Insomnia is a powerful book that has changed my life in a very positive way. I now can sleep 7-1/2 hours per night for the first time in 31 years.
"In my university days in I learned to get along with 4-5 hours sleep or less. This was all fine as a young person, however, in later years as I continued this pattern, I began to pay the price. I couldn’t go to sleep, or when I did, if I awakened, I could not return to sleep. I had INSOMNIA.
"I tried all kinds of things: classes, medications, breathing techniques to SLEEP. It would NOT come and my condition worsened. My doctors assigned me to a Sleep Problem Workshop. That helped for a few weeks, BUT, my chronic problem of insomnia returned.
"I am now averaging the (golden hours) eight hours of sleep per night. My escape from insomnia is due primarily to Overcoming Insomnia. I use the program as outlined in this book for deep, sound sleep. Thank you and God bless you."
"This book contains excellent advice from an acclaimed professional yoga teacher and an experienced medical doctor.
"You will find information on the reasons people can’t sleep, what the body does while we sleep, how sunlight and darkness affect sleep patterns, how to create good sleep habits, the secrets of a great night’s sleep, relaxing Ananda Yoga Postures and affirmations, breathing exercises to lead you into sleep, what to do when you wake up in the middle of the night and want to go back to sleep and if you should consider a snack before bed and what type of snack?
"So, if you are tired of taking sleep medications, give yoga a try. You can incorporate this into your regular exercise routine or daily routine. Yoga is a healing therapy that can truly help you to sleep. That is why I generally do relaxing yoga workouts in the evening. There are many different styles of yoga and you may find that one style invigorates your body, while a gentle practice will lead you to a place of complete joy and peaceful sleep.
"Gyandev McCord has also created videos to teach the Ananda Yoga routines. Look for Yoga for Busy People and Yoga to Awaken the Chakras. I found that imagining colors inside your body is actually very healing and relaxing. It might sound different, but it definitely works for me."