How to Sleep Better With Yoga: Poses And Their Benefits

a woman doing yoga for sleep benefits

The benefits of yoga tend to be common knowledge these days…

  • Increased strength and flexibility
  • Better cardiovascular health
  • Decreased stress
  • Improved breath
  • Increased mental clarity1

What more could you want from a workout?

Plus, being low-impact and modifiable for all body types and abilities makes it an accessible type of exercise for nearly everyone. It’s not surprising that over the last two decades, yoga has exploded in popularity.

Lebron James does yoga to improve his stamina and keep him sharp.

Jennifer Anniston has done yoga regularly since 2005.

There’s yoga in the park. There’s yoga on the beach. Yoga classes are offered at many wellness clinics. You can do yoga at a brewery and grab a beer after rolling up your mat. You can even do yoga with goats.

Chances are, you’ve probably done yoga at least once. In fact, 1 out of 3 Americans have tried yoga.2

But did you know that, besides the widely known health benefits of yoga, regular yoga practice is linked to better sleep quality?4

 

The Relationship Between Yoga and Sleep

a person doing yoga for benefits in sleep

Poor sleep is a huge problem in America. We’re obsessed with being busy and living demanding lives. As a result, 70% of Americans struggle with sleep occasionally, and 25% of Americans experience insomnia each year.3

Besides making your morning a little rough, sleep deprivation also has devastating effects on long-term health. It increases the risk of chronic conditions like heart disease and diabetes. Sleep quality is an aspect of our health that we need to take seriously.

That’s where yoga comes in.

Studies have shown that when people who suffer from insomnia do yoga regularly, they have better quality sleep. This means they sleep longer, fall asleep faster, and have fewer sleep disturbances in the middle of the night.4 All of this is attributed only to yoga practice. No medication, and no other intervention.

 

How Does Yoga Improve Sleep?

In general, regular exercise improves sleep and increases energy levels. But yoga goes above and beyond what a typical workout does for you. Yoga —  especially Hatha yoga (focuses on body positions) and Nidra yoga (focuses on restorative poses and breathing) —  can prepare your mind and body for sleep in 4 specific ways.4

 

1. Yoga Helps Reduce Anxiety and Stress

Odds are, if you’re experiencing a lot of anxiety and stress, you’re also probably sleep-deprived.

Yoga practice helps with this. Yoga stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system.5 Basically, this is the nervous system responsible for lowering heart rate and preparing for rest.5 Activating this response helps lower stress. And less stress means more sleep!

 

2. Yoga Improves Breathing and Oxygen Circulation

Snoring can be a major sleep disturbance. However, the slow, deep breathing techniques practiced during yoga can help prevent some of the causes of snoring.5 The result is deeper, uninterrupted sleep.

These same breathing exercises help improve oxygen circulation in your blood. This renews the body while we sleep, distributing the oxygen to the cells.5 The purpose of sleep is to renew and refresh your body, and yoga boosts the renewal process.

 

3. Yoga Calms the Mind

We’ve all had one of those nights where thoughts running through our heads keep us from falling asleep. It can be infuriating to want so desperately to sleep, but the chatter in your mind keeps you awake.

But on the other hand… have you ever finished a yoga session by nearly falling asleep during the final Savasana?

The calm you feel at the end of a yoga session is a result of purposeful movement and breathing. It can help quiet the mind of all the clutter that keeps you up at night, preparing your mind for a peaceful sleep.5

 

4. Yoga Eases Body Pain

Chronic pain can cause insomnia. Getting quality sleep and staying asleep throughout the night can be nearly impossible with pain plaguing your body.

If you suffer from muscle and joint pain, regular yoga practice can help. The stretching and increased blood flow from yoga practice helps to relieve aches and pains that keep you up at night.5

Restorative styles of yoga especially can help ease the tension in muscles. Which can be a game-changer when it comes to bedtime.

By easing stress, improving breathing, calming the mind, and alleviating pain, yoga targets four major reasons people struggle to sleep.

Also read: How Yoga and Meditation Can Help Addiction Recovery

 

Simple Yoga Poses to Get You Started

It’s clear that yoga can step up your sleep game. But if you don’t currently do yoga, starting may seem like an intimidating commitment. You’re already busy and stressed. Hence, sleep issues.

The good news is that you don’t have to do an hour-long yoga session every single day.

You can reap the benefits of yoga by practicing as little as 3 times a week! Plus, if you don’t have the time to fit in a lengthy session at a yoga studio, a ten-minute session via video at home is still wildly beneficial, if you can do it regularly.

For many, incorporating a few of these simple poses into their bedtime routine makes a world of difference.

 

1. Child’s Pose (Balasana)

a woman doing child yoga pose

How to do this pose:

  • Kneel on your mat. Touch the insides of your feet together and sit on your heels. Then, separate your knees to about hip-width.
  • Exhale and lower your torso down between your thighs. Rest your forehead on the floor.
  • Stretch your arms straight in front of you and rest them onto the mat, palms down.
  • Hold for 3-5 minutes.6

Sleep Benefits of this pose:

  • Calms the mind
  • Gives the spine, hips, and thighs a gentle stretch
  • Helps relieve back pain6

 

2. Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana)

a group of women performing standing forward bend pose

How to do this pose:

  • Stand with feet hip-width apart with your hands on your hips.
  • Bend forward from the hips, keeping legs straight.
  • Stretch your arms downward, placing palms on the floor, feet, or back of ankles. Alternately, you can hang your arms down, holding the opposite elbow with the opposite palm.
  • Stay in this pose for 2-4 minutes. With each inhale, lengthen and lift the spine. With each exhale, release deeper into the fold.6

Sleep Benefits of this pose:

  • Stretches calves, hips, and thighs
  • Relaxes the body to prepare you for sleep
  • Allows you to focus on restorative breathing6

 

3. Legs up the Wall Pose (Viparita Karani)

a woman doing legs up the wall pose

How to do this pose:

  • Place your mat close to the wall.
  • Lie on your mat and gently place your legs up the wall.
  • Relax your arms by your side.
  • Use bolsters as needed for your head, shoulders, and hips.
  • Stay in this pose for up to 5 minutes.6

Sleep Benefits of this pose:

  • As a passive pose, this can help relax the muscles and calm the mind
  • Helps to relieve pain and swelling in the feet from standing or walking all-day
  • Relieves some causes of back pain6

Also read: How Yoga at Workplace Can Improve Employee Wellbeing

 

Start Incorporating Yoga Practice Into Your Bedtime Routine

Becoming a yogi for the sake of good sleep is as easy as doing the above poses before bedtime. Simply spreading your mat out on the floor of your home and doing some relaxing poses is a great way to prepare for bed!

I love this video for a twelve-minute, guided yoga session specifically for winding down. It’s a great way to clear your head for sleep and doesn’t take too much of your time.

Many yoga studios have restorative yoga classes that are great for sleep prep.

No matter what way you decide to practice, the important part is to do it and make it a regular habit. When you wake up well-rested and ready to tackle the stresses of the day, you’ll be happy you did.

 

References:

  1. https://osteopathic.org/what-is-osteopathic-medicine/benefits-of-yoga/
  2. https://www.thegoodbody.com/yoga-statistics/
  3. https://www.sleephealth.org/sleep-health/the-state-of-sleephealth-in-america/
  4. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/yoga-for-sleep
  5. https://www.siddhiyoga.com/benefits-yoga-bedtime
  6. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/8753-201512048753

 

Share

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *