Inflammation is one of our body’s greatest healers—but in excess, it wreaks havoc on our health. Chronic inflammation creates an environment where the immune system is focused on attacking our bodies rather than killing pathogens, and the healing of damaged tissues is stalled. Inflammation also creates issues like low absorption of nutrients, pain, buildup of plaque that leads to heart attacks, and may even contribute to cancer. Prevention and reversal of inflammation should be personalized and mindful with consideration of many lifestyle factors like what you eat and your stress levels.
The inflammation-sleep connection.
What is often overlooked is the huge impact that sleep has on inflammation. When we sleep, our bodies heal themselves and stress levels are reduced. Chronic inflammation decreases as our systems become calm and balanced. To achieve healing during sleep, we need both enough sleep and good-quality sleep.
Follow my tips to lead yourself into deep, restful sleep to decrease inflammation:
- Go to sleep at about the same time every night.
- Avoid drinking wine or other forms of alcohol before bed. We may feel it relaxes us, but it actually strongly disrupts sleep patterns and prevents us from moving through all the stages of sleep that we need to heal.
- Don’t eat right before bed. You want your body to be focused on healing your gut rather than working hard to digest.
- Add a relaxing movement ritual to your nightly routine. It will calm you for sleep and reduce tension, already beginning the process of reducing cortisol to create healing sleep.
Try this series each evening to create deep sleep and reduce inflammation:
Begin lying on your back with your legs straight. Bring one leg in, bending your knee toward your chest to place a band or strap around the foot. Extend the leg toward a 45-degree angle and slowly draw the leg up while maintaining a straight leg, keeping the pelvis squared. Reach your sitz bone and heel away from each other to feel an active/gentle stretch in the hamstring and calf. Breathe deeply and hold the position for 1 to 3 minutes on each leg.
Sit with both knees bent and stack the legs on top of each other creating an inverted triangle. The top foot should stack directly above the bottom knee, and the bottom foot directly under the top knee. Think of reaching the top of your head away from your sitz bones to lengthen your spine. Keeping your spine long and neutral, slightly fold forward at the hips until you feel a stretch at the back of the hips and piriformis.
Begin sitting with one leg bent under you and the other bent in front. Place your hands behind you and guide your upper body toward the mat, keeping your spine long, until you feel a gentle stretch in the top of the leg bent under you. Hold the position for 1 minute. Return to sit upright and switch the positioning of the legs to repeat on the other side.
Sit cross-legged on the floor or on a block. Find a tall, neutral spine. Begin by naturally inhaling and exhaling. Then, direct your breath low into your pelvis and visualize your pelvic floor and abdominal muscles relaxing as you inhale and gently lift and tone as you exhale. Continue to breathe slowly with that focus and add on the feeling of allowing the back of your torso to open and expand as you inhale to fill your torso with air. From there, let your spine grow taller as you exhale. Breathe with awareness for at least one minute.
Did you know there are other ways to reduce inflammation? Here' s a guide to fighting inflammation while exercising.
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