The fast pace of modern day life leaves many of us to regularly deal with stress and worry—two huge contributing factors for all kinds of physical and emotional health issues as well as the inability to get a good night’s sleep. Insomnia can be tricky to treat, and those who suffer with it are often willing to try just about anything. But you might not have to look much further than your yoga mat! If you are one of the millions of people worldwide who have difficulty sleeping, practicing a bit of meditation or yoga for sleep might be just what you need to add some sweetness back into your slumber.
Yoga Proven as a Sleep Aid
A study conducted in 2017 found that 49.3% of Americans reported having sleep problems. Of those people, 29.8% use mind-body medicine such as yoga and meditation to manage their sleep issues. Another study found that yoga can help to improve sleep and lower stress levels during the third trimester of pregnancy.
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The way yoga and meditation help with sleep issues is by down-regulating the nervous system, engaging the parasympathetic rather than the sympathetic system. This means that the nervous system can take a break from the stress of being in “fight or flight” mode and wind down into “rest and digest” mode, which is essential for good quality sleep.
Yoga for Sleep and Other Nighttime Tips
Attending an evening yoga class is a great way to calm down your nervous system right before bed, particularly if you choose a less dynamic style like gentle or restorative yoga, yoga nidra, or yin.
Alternatively, if you’re short on time or a beginner who feels anxious about going to a class, there are many simple ways that you can incorporate yoga, meditation, and mindful breathing into your nighttime routine and improve your sleep hygiene right from home—even right from your bed!
Here are our top tips for creating an optimal setting for healthy sleep:
Turn Off Your Screens
Stop using electronic devices around one hour before you plan to go to sleep. The blue light emitted from LED-based devices like our phones and computers increases the release of cortisol, which stimulates you and decreases your production of melatonin, the sleep hormone.
Even just five minutes spent guiding your focus to your breath can help you wind down after a busy day. Remember, it’s completely normal for your thoughts to run wild. Just let them go as they arise and continue to refocus on the breath.
Try the 4-7-8 Breathing Technique
Inhale for a count of four, hold the breath for a count of seven, and exhale for a count of eight. Prolonging the exhale this way helps you to tap into the parasympathetic nervous system, and focusing on the breath is a great distraction from late night worries and overthinking.
Practice Yin Yoga
Yin yoga, in which you stay in each pose for several breaths or even minutes at a time, can really help to downregulate the nervous system and bring you into a state of calm before bed. Try legs-up-the-wall, wall-supported butterfly, and child’s pose, then end with shavasana in bed!
Try to have a set bedtime and wake up around the same time every day. This helps regulate the body’s internal clock, helping you fall asleep more easily and wake up with less resistance.
We already know how beneficial yoga can be for improving strength, flexibility, and mood, and as these studies show, it also offers great relief for those with difficulty sleeping. Not only can yoga help you to fall asleep more easily, but it can also improve the overall quality of your sleep as well as your ability to deal with stress and recover from exhaustion. Namaste and sleep tight!
YOGA POSES FOR INSOMNIA
See our complete list of the best 30 yoga poses that reduce stress and balance the body’s systems to promote good sleep.