Can Yoga Help You Sleep Better Throughout the Night?

Yoga is an ancient practice known to promote both physical and mental health. These benefits have led many to wonder, can yoga help you sleep better?

By Nicole Gleichmann

We all know that yoga can improve our flexibility and fitness levels. But did you know that it can also benefit your sleep? The unique incorporation of physical exercise, meditation, and breath work can help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep throughout the night.

So, how is it that yoga might help you sleep better? We’ll reveal yoga’s secret powers for optimal sleep and how you can get the most from them.

How Can Yoga Help You Sleep Better?

There are three primary ways that yoga works to encourage a good night’s sleep. These include stress relief, pain relief, and the formation of a healthy sleep routine.

1. Yoga Relieves Stress

Worry and anxiety make it hard to drift off to sleep and can even keep you up if you accidentally wake in the middle of the night. Finding ways to quiet our minds and relax can help us sleep better.

So, why is yoga, in particular, so good at helping calm our anxiety levels and stress response? Yoga reduces stress through more than just the beneficial effects of exercise. Two of the primary contributors are the deep breathing and meditation aspects of yoga.

Yoga encourages calming the mind (similar to meditation) combined with a type of deep breathing known as pranayama. Both meditation and pranayama on their own can provide immediate stress relief. They do this through normalizing the activity in your sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, helping your body and mind relax.

2. Yoga Protects Against Pain

Pain, whether chronic or fleeting, can make sound sleep a distant memory. Yoga can be a tool against pain, particularly chronic pain conditions. Research has found yoga to help people with conditions involving chronic pain, including osteoarthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, and multiple sclerosis.

Regular yoga increases flexibility, allowing fewer aches and pains thanks to loosened joints and muscles. While these benefits are best seen through a regular yoga routine, some people might find symptomatic relief after one nightly yoga session, helping them sleep better quickly.

3. Yoga Is a Good Bedtime Routine

Setting a bedtime routine that promotes proper sleep hygiene is important. What this means is doing something before bed that encourages sleep rather than distracts from it.

Instead of watching television, checking your email, or reading a page-turner that can encourage you to stay up past your bedtime, practicing yoga creates a peaceful transition between the end of your day and your bedtime. This healthy routine can help you to sleep better every night.

The Best Yoga Poses for Better Sleep

While a regular yoga practice is the best way to enhance sleep for those looking for relief from chronic pain or sleep disorders, simply practicing yoga before bed can help to calm the body and mind. The National Sleep Foundation suggests the following three poses to help you get a good night’s sleep.

1. Legs Up the Wall

Inversions, positions where your heart is above your head, are touted to hold a variety of benefits. Included in these are pain relief and calming of the nervous system. Position your yoga mat so that it lines up perpendicularly to the wall, lay facing the wall, and scoot until your legs are resting against the wall, perpendicular to your body.

2. Lying Butterfly

You’ve probably done the butterfly stretch before, where you sit with the bottoms of your feet pressed together and your knees falling open. You can do this same position while laying on your back, allowing your knees to fall towards the ground. If it feels better, put folded towels or blocks underneath your knees to make the stretch less intense.

3. Corpse Pose

Also known as “Savasana,” corpse pose is traditionally the last pose held in yoga classes. To get into corpse pose, lay on your back with your legs and arms slightly spread, palms facing up.

To get the most from this pose, practice a meditation to encourage maximum relaxation throughout your body. You can start at your toes, sending your concentration there and releasing any and all tension that you feel. Next, your feet, then your calves and lower legs, knees, and so on, until you have focused on relaxing each part of your body.

Once you’ve reached a state of complete relaxation, end by allowing your mind, too, to calm as a form of meditation. You can concentrate on slowing your breathing, gently breathing in and out. Do this for however long feels good, releasing the mental and physical tension that you’ve held onto during your day.

One helpful tip: if you find yourself uncomfortable in when lying flat on the ground, use a folded blanket or two to relieve discomfort. Use them underneath your knees, head, or elsewhere.

Do I Need a Yoga Teacher?

A common concern that I hear from people who want to start yoga is that they cannot afford the time or the cost of a traditional yoga class. Fortunately, you can get many of the benefits of yoga for sleep all on your own in the comfort of your home. Simply find guided yoga classes online (look for meditation or relaxed classes), or practice some of your favorite relaxing poses before bedtime to revel in the sleep-promoting benefits of a yoga practice.

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