Sleep Habits “A to ZZZ”: Meditation + Exercise = Sleep

Sleep is universal. It is an important aspect of life as it restores and renews. Sleep is a key component in optimal health and disease prevention. As humans we spend one third of our lives asleep. Without sleep, organs deteriorate at a rapid pace, and the mind loses its acuity. Many cultures recognized the significance of sleep. For instance, the ancient Greeks believed that sleep was a short-term separation of vital organs from the rest of the body.

Many people, unfortunately, struggle to achieve a truly restful sleep. The recommendation for adults is 7-8 hours of quality sleep per night. According to traditional Chinese medicine, going to bed at 10:30 pm is best as the liver Qi resets at 11:00 pm. Ayurvedic principles support the traditional Chinese medicine time line as nighttime (10:00 pm until 2:00 am) has the pitta (fire) dosha active. The pitta dosha is used at nighttime for the repair and transformation of cells.

Without proper sleep, cellular repair is unable to fully occur. Sleep deprivation has been linked to weight gain and disease, specifically cancer and heart disease. Two hormones are affected greatly when sleep cycles are disrupted. Ghrelin is the hormone that says when to eat, and with sleep-deprivation, there is more ghrelin. Leptin is the hormone that says when to stop eating, and with sleep deprivation, there is less leptin. Creating an optimal sleeping environment is vital to achieve a good night’s rest.

Common tips to improve sleep:

1. Environment

Cool temperature in room, quiet, well ventilated, and dark. If you place your hand twelve inches in front of your face and you can clearly see it, then the room is not dark enough.

2. Quiet the mind through meditation and exercise:

Try It: Diaphragmatic Breathing Visualization

• Find a comfortable position where your abdomen and ribcage are free to move.
•  Imagine your diaphragm as a large dome upon which sits your heart and lungs. As you inhale, your diaphragm contracts and opens up the space for your lungs to expand. Think of this like a vacuum; as you create the space/decrease the pressure in your lungs, air is drawn in to fill it up.
• Continue breathing with this image of your diaphragm and lungs working in harmony for 4 breaths.
• Now imagine your heart sitting on your diaphragm. As your diaphragm descends and lifts with each inhale and exhale, your heart follows that movement, gliding up and down as if riding a mini elevator.
• Continue to breathe, combining these images into a visualization of the harmonious movement of organs and muscles.

Try It: Joseph Pilates specifically suggests spinal rolling exercises for better and deeper sleep

Standing Rolldown:

• Stand tall, rooting down into your feet while sending energy up through the crown of your head. Inhale to increase this length.
• Exhale roll your gaze down towards the floor, allowing your head, neck and spine to follow. Continue to stand tall through your legs standing evenly through the fronts and backs of your feet, noticing if they your weight shifts towards your heels.
• At the bottom hold for 4 breath cycles. Allow your spine to dangle like a rag doll, seeing if you can release a little muscular effort in your body with each breath.
• When you are ready to roll back up, root down through your feet, putting more weight in the balls of your feet than in your heels. Exhale and let your pelvis guide the movement back up. Direct your sit bones and tailbone down the backs of your legs towards the floor and feel how that movement pulls your spine into a vertical position like an elastic band recoiling. Your gaze will be the last thing to return to the start position.
• Stand tall again and notice if you feel any different in your body than when you began.
• Repeat as many times as feels good for your body.

3. Keep a regular schedule and routine

Try documenting your sleep habits and fine tune the right amount of hours you need to feel rested.

4. Be mindful of what goes into your body in relation to food and drink

Besides the possibility of acid reflux and heart burn, your body can become stimulated when the digestion process begins resulting in reduced quality of sleep.

Karyn Staples PT, PhD, OCS, NCPT POLESTAR® Educator

Click to Read Karyn’s Highlight

1. Pilates can help improve sleep quality. A study at Appalachian State University in North Carolina revealed that after participants took a Pilates class for a semester, sleep quality and mood improved (Caldwell K et al. Developing Mindfulness in College Students through Movement Based Courses: Effects on Self-Regulatory Self-Efficacy, Mood, Stress, and Sleep Quality. J Am Coll Health. 2010; 58(5): 433–442. doi:10.1080/07448480903540481)
2. Greek Philosophy on Sleep (2009, August 25) Retrieved September 16, 2014, from
3. Pilates J. Return to Life through Contrology.

Reader Interactions

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.