Getting a Good Night’s Sleep

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Course Overview

Explore with us how to bring your body and mind back into balance so that you can get a good night’s sleep.

Sound sleep promotes healing, builds strong immunity, and enhances memory and thinking, while lack of sleep can contribute to chronic illness, irritability, and depression. We’ll examine the role of stress and lifestyle habits in feeding insomnia and review Western approaches to treating it. Then we’ll look at ayurvedic and yogic methods to calm the nervous system and mind, so that you can surrender into sleep with ease.

Sleep is the best meditation.

— Dalai Lama

Join us to learn:

  • How excess vata dosha (the airy, ungrounded aspect of our constitution) underlies insomnia

  • Ayurvedic tools to calm and ground vata dosha—naturally

  • The key lifestyle elements needed to restore sound sleep

  • A bedtime and waking routine that ayurveda and Western medicine agree will create healthy sleep habits

Certificate of completion

3 CEU’s Upon Completion

Self Paced Learning

Course Outline

1.5 hrs to complete

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Section 1
  • Sleep is like eating and drinking—it’s basic! Scientists have been studying sleep in depth for the past decade. They know that when animals lack sleep they die earlier, that healing and immune support increase with proper sleep, and that our memory and ability to think clearly are improved. We understand now that there is a lot happening inside us during sleep, rather than sleep being a state of total inertia. The body builds and restores itself during sleep——growth hormones are secreted, and there is constructive metabolism during sleep.
  • The subjective definition of insomnia is "I’M UP!" The "I" stands for difficulty Initiating sleep, the "M" for difficulty Maintaining sleep, the "U" for Unrefreshing sleep, and the "P" for Premature awakening. A general more formal definition is “a problem with either sleep latency (falling asleep) or maintaining sleep.” Sleep deprivation differs from insomnia in that it’s more lifestyle driven (working too much, for example). Difficulty with sleep is a factor in many chronic diseases and can affect work productivity, create accidents, and lead to depression. There are a number of risk factors...
  • A condition called “hyper-arousal” often underlies insomnia. Hyper-aroused people are more easily overstimulated or stressed by their environment or lifestyle than others. (They may be more sensitive to caffeine, light, and loud noise, for example.) It’s still unclear what role genetics plays in hyper-arousal. People with insomnia have elevated levels of stress hormones in their blood, a sign that stress is a major factor in insomnia. The Spielman model looks at how genetics, acute stressors, and perpetuating habits around sleep lead to chronic insomnia.
  • Six to eight hours of sleep is recommended for most people, but each of us is different. If you find yourself nodding off during the day whenever your mind isn’t stimulated, you probably need more sleep. If you feel awake and vibrant with 4-5 hours of sleep on a regular basis, then that’s all the sleep you need.
  • Ayurveda and yoga are sister sciences and emphasize living in harmony with your own nature. Ayurveda is based on the three doshas (types of body/mind constitution): kapha, pitta, and vata. Kapha is water and earth elements, pitta is fire and water elements, and vata is air and space elements. Dr. Carrie describes the physical and mental characteristics associated with each dosha, focusing especially on vata dosha, which plays a major role in insomnia.
  • In ayurveda, each of the three doshas dominates at a different time of the day. Kapha dominates 6-10 am and pm, pitta dominates 10-2 am/pm, and vata is dominant 2-6 am/pm. According to ayurveda, it’s best to coordinate your daily schedule with this ayurvedic clock, so that you go to sleep at night during kapha time and wake up in the morning during vata time. This schedule supports sound sleep. Learn more about the the Ayurvedic Clock
Section 2
  • There are five stages of sleep: In the first two, we transition into sleep and our brain waves begin to slow down. Stages 3 and 4, called “slow-wave sleep,” are the two stages in which the body and mind really restore. The fifth and final stage is rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, in which there’s a lot of brain activity, including dreaming. Dr. Carrie describes how we move through these stages in a cycle that repeats itself during the night, how deep sleep occurs mainly in the first half of the night, and how some people bounce out of REM sleep into wakefulness.
  • Today's lifestyle contributes to insomnia. Our sleep/wake cycle, which is based on the brain’s sense of sunlight and darkness, gets disturbed when we stay up late with the lights on or don’t get natural sunlight. (Irregular light and darkness inhibit the release of melatonin.) Caffeine and other stimulants also interfere with sleep, as do high cortisol levels from chronic stress. Dr. Carrie reviews the major factors contributing to problems with sleep latency (falling asleep) and sleep maintenance (staying asleep).
  • From an ayurvedic viewpoint, excess vata is the main problem underlying insomnia. Ayurvedic treatment therefore seeks to pacify vata by balancing its characteristics—dry, cold, irregular/mobile, and sensitive—with their opposites. So ayurveda treats excess vata with moisture, warmth, and regularity/routine, as well nourishing the nervous system. This is achieved through lifestyle changes and herbal therapies. Dr. Carrie offers specific recommendations for pacifying vata and thereby supporting sleep. Learn more about Vata
  • Pitta dosha can aggravate vata dosha, thus affecting our sleep. Pitta is the fiery dosha that underlies the drive to accomplish things. Pitta’s qualities are oily, hot, intense, and edgy. Dr. Carrie offers advice on calming pitta (while at the same time not aggravating vata) through diet, herbs, exercise, and playful or relaxing activities that diffuse pitta intensity. Learn more about Pitta
  • Conventional Western medicine agrees with ayurveda on a bedtime/wakeup routine to support sleep: A 30-60 minute wind-down routine before bed, doing nothing that will excite you, is key in getting to sleep. If you still can't sleep, do something boring (but do not turn on any electronics), and then try to go back to sleep. When your alarm sounds, get up! Even if you’re exhausted, it’s important to create a habit of sleeping at night. Dr. Carrie describes some other conventional treatments for sleep, including behavioral therapy, pharmaceuticals, and treatments for underlying conditions such as pain.
  • Dr. Carrie outlines the basics of sleep hygiene: Plan a bedtime routine that allows you time to relax and wind down before sleep; don’t spend excessive time in bed, including daytime napping; get into bed when you’re tired and sleepy; and maintain a regular sleep/wake schedule. Bed is for sleep and sex only, not TV. Increase exercise and fitness, avoid caffeine and nicotine at least 4-6 hours before going to bed, and avoid or limit your use of alcohol. Dr. Carrie also recommends relaxation practice, diaphragmatic breathing, and yoga.
  • Dr. Carrie invites you to write down specific things you can do to improve your sleep hygiene basics—perhaps going to bed earlier, cutting back on stimulants, or creating a relaxing bedtime routine for yourself. Make these changes small enough that they are doable and fit into your life.
  • Diaphragmatic Breathing in Crocodile to Calm the Nervous System

  • Systematic Relaxation for Better Sleep


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Meet Your Teacher

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Carrie Demers
Carrie Demers MD, has practiced integrative medicine for 22 years. After earning her medical degree and... Read more

Frequently Asked Questions

Absolutely, you can include this course in your Yoga Alliance training hours, with each hour equivalent to one continuing education credit.
This course is entirely self- paced, allowing you to learn at your convenience.There are no imposed deadlines or time constraints for Course completion.
No prerequisites are required; this course is open to anyone interested in deepening their knowledge and practice.
No, the course is accessible to all individuals interested in enriching their understanding and practice of yoga.Yoga teaching certification is not a prerequisite.

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