How To Do Yoga For Sleep
Sleep quality can affect your daily life. People who suffer from insomnia struggle with symptoms of daytime dysfunction, such as lethargy or anxiety. These symptoms are typically caused by sleep disturbances or poor sleep quality.
While certain sleep medications can help with this, there is also a more natural way of improving sleep efficiency. There’s no question that physical activity is highly beneficial for your health. So, it’s no surprise that doing a bit of yoga before going to bed helps you sleep faster, better, and longer. This gentle form of exercise can lead to an improvement in sleep efficiency, resulting in feeling healthier physically and mentally during the day.
But how exactly does yoga help, and does every type of yoga have the same outcome? Keep reading to find out.
What Is A Good Measure Of Sleep Quality?
Before we dive into which types of yoga are most conducive to keeping daytime dysfunction at bay, let’s talk about what constitutes habitual sleep efficiency.
Scientists at the University of Pittsburgh have created quite an accurate measure of sleep quality using the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index. It is a self-report questionnaire that tests you for sleep quality scores. The questionnaire has been used by researchers all over the globe to understand poor sleep efficiency in multiple populations.
The Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index questionnaire consists of 19 individual items divided into 7 types of sleep-related questions. The resulting sleep quality scores are based on the following factors:
- Sleep duration
- Subjective sleep quality
- Sleep latency (how long it takes for you to fall asleep)
- Habitual sleep efficiency
- Use of sleep medication
- Sleep disturbances
- Daytime dysfunctions
If you're serious about making improvements to your subjective sleep quality, you can take the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index test by contacting the University of Pittsburgh.
If you don’t have the time to go through the whole process or attend clinical trials, simply keep these categories in mind when assessing your own sleeping habits at home.
Yoga For Sleep
If you're new to yoga, you may wonder if there's a standardized yoga program specifically designed to improve sleep problems. While there isn't one specific sleep-oriented routine, many types of yoga practices can improve sleep continuity and quality. However, it's also important to note that some types of yoga can hurt more than help.
For example, Vinyasa or hot yoga is a more strenuous type of physical activity. That means Vinyasa yoga participants usually leave the room feeling rejuvenated and ready to start the day, which directly and negatively impacts sleep efficiency.
Instead, yoga participants with sleep issues should consider something like the Hatha practice, which combines restorative poses with gentle aerobic exercise. Men and women with sleep problems may also find the calming breathing exercises helpful at bedtime.
Adding yoga to your day-to-day life doesn't have to be a drastic lifestyle intervention. You don't have to deviate from your usual activity schedule or completely change your life to access the magnitude of yoga's sleep benefits.
The best part about this non-standardized yoga intervention is that anybody can do it with little time and effort. Men and women with sleep problems can incorporate a few simple yoga poses before bedtime.
Benefits Of Incorporating Yoga Into Your Routine
Here are some ways bedtime yoga can help you get better, more restful, and more restorative sleep.
Helps You Relax And Wind Down
Various clinical trials and individual studies back to yoga's primary outcomes and effects on sleep quality. For example, roughly 55 percent of study participants in a national survey reported that doing yoga helped them sleep better. Another 85 percent of yoga participants noted that gentle aerobic exercise helped them reduce stress.
In short, reducing daytime dysfunction through yoga lowers stress and anxiety levels, which is the key to better sleep quality scores. In addition, doing multiple yoga sessions per week can reduce your cortisol levels and release tension in your body, helping with poor sleep quality overall.
But the magnitude of sleep benefits of a standard yoga intervention don't end there. One of the secondary outcomes of regular practice is the mediation of depressive symptoms. Because yoga stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, it relaxes both your mind and body, which is exactly what you need when trying to improve sleep quality scores.
Combats Poor Sleep Quality
Breathing techniques in yoga are just as important as the physical poses. Yoga instructors will always say that concentrating on your breath can soothe your mind.
The Ocean Breath technique often used in yoga can be particularly effective. It involves breathing in deeply through your nose, then breathing out also through the nose, with the back of the throat constricted.
The intentional deep breathing that yoga facilitates can even help with obstructive sleep apnea. This is because mindful breathing techniques condition your body to move away from the fast, shallow breathing that is sometimes related to sleep disorders.
Fall Asleep Faster And Deeper Than Medication
Frequent sleep disturbances aren't just frustrating, they also result in poor sleep efficiency throughout the night. Sleep continuity is one of the major components of sleep, and getting up every few hours means you don't get the rest you need.
While using sleep medication can improve sleep efficiency and overall continuity, it can also lead to potential dependencies. In contrast, the effects of yoga compared to sleep medication can feel more natural and safe while being just as effective. This is especially important if you have any pre-existing medical conditions (e.g.breast cancer patients, etc.) that don’t allow you to take certain sleep medications.
People who do bedtime yoga regularly experience fewer sleep disturbances throughout the night, while taking fewer sleep medications and still feeling more refreshed when waking up in the morning. After all, sleep continuity is the key to feeling ready for the day.
Longer And Uninterrupted Sleep Duration
Not only does yoga help you fall asleep faster, but it can also increase your sleep duration. Incorporating yoga into your nighttime routine sends signals to your body and brain that it's time to relax and recharge for the next day.
When both body and mind feel relaxed, you are more likely to have a longer sleep time. This is why sleep duration is a key factor in measuring sleep quality scores in the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index.
Renews And Revitalizes Your Body
Beyond its ability to soothe your mind, systematic reviews list many positive effects of yoga. This includes overall improvements in sleep quality due to more time spent in restorative sleep.
Yoga participants also experience two primary outcomes when aerobic exercise is part of their daily lives. Namely, better oxygen circulation and a constant release of toxins from their systems. Additionally, a consistent yoga practice can help with exercise & fitness concerns, which may also help with daytime dysfunction.
Helps Manage Other Health Conditions
While the primary outcomes of regular yoga practice include better sleep and lower anxiety overall, the positive effects don't stop there.
Middle-aged women with breast cancer and postmenopausal women may benefit significantly from standardized yoga intervention. In addition, yoga participants undergoing radiation therapy may see marked improvements in sleep quality and lessened daytime dysfunction while also relieving the physical stress of medical procedures.
5 Yoga Poses For Better Sleep
Try this standardized yoga intervention routine before bedtime to help combat poor sleep efficiency. Use breathing techniques as you work through the yoga sequence.
Initially, hold each pose for roughly three minutes. Eventually, build up to five minutes for each pose. If you’re able to, consult a local yoga instructor to better understand these poses.
This is an all-purpose, restorative pose that relieves stress and fatigue. It calms the mind and stretches the thighs, hips, and ankles.
- Kneel on the floor and bring your feet together. Your knees should be hip-width apart.
- Exhale deeply as you lower your torso onto your thighs and point your arms behind you with palms facing up. For a more active pose, reach your arms further in front of you with the palms facing down.
- Keep your forehead touching the floor (or as close to it as possible). You can also roll your head from side to side to release tension.
- Continue to inhale and exhale steadily.
Standing Forward Bend
For this yoga pose, there's no particular point you have to reach. The goal is to elongate your spine and reduce tension in your neck. It's also great for stretching your hamstrings, calves, and hips.
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart and inhale deeply.
- As you exhale, fold forward, extending your torso forward and over your legs. This elongates your spine.
- Rest your hands on the floor or on your thighs or hold on to your elbows. Just make sure you’re not straining.
- Don't forget to breathe.
Legs Up The Wall
This pose can relieve anxiety, improve circulation, reduce cramped legs, and stretch the legs and the torso.
- Lie down on your yoga mat with your legs extended in the air and pressed against the wall. Your body should make an L shape.
- If you can, flatten your hamstrings and calves against the wall. Keep your feet flexed and your arms relaxed at your side, with palms facing up.
- Relax and hold the position as you concentrate on breathing.
This is another relaxing pose that stretches the inner thighs and groin. Those who deal with sciatic nerve pain may find this yoga pose especially helpful.
- Lie down on your back with the bottom of your feet pressed together. Let each knee fall to the side. Y
- Press lightly on each knee with your hands to get a deeper stretch or simply rest your hands on your abdomen as you practice your yoga breathing.
Don't worry! It's not as gruesome as it sounds. As the traditional end to any yoga flow, you should feel completely relaxed from head to toe by the time you're finished.
- Lie down on your back on your yoga mat and hug your knees into your chest.
- Inhale deeply and stretch your legs out onto the floor, keeping your tailbone grounded.
- Soften your lower back and let your arms relax at your sides, with your palms facing upward.
- Inhale and exhale.
Get The Sleep You Need
Achieving an increased sleep time is essential for feeling your best. Unfortunately, it's all too easy to feel stressed, anxious, and rushed at bedtime, so sometimes we have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. Luckily, by adding a few simple yoga moves to your bedtime routine, you can take some control over your sleep hygiene routine.
But if you need a little bit more help, check out our mattress selection – you’ll finally get the shut-eye you deserve!