In recent years, researchers have discovered that getting a good night’s sleep is far more important than they had realised.
Sleep isn’t just essential for restoring your energy levels and repairing damage to your body.
It is plays a role in everything from weight loss and stress reduction to impulse control and cognitive performance.
Unfortunately, many people still find it difficult to get a restful night’s sleep.
If you find yourself staring at the ceiling for an hour after going to bed or waking up throughout the night, you aren’t alone — about two-thirds of adults in the UK often suffer from disrupted sleep.
The answer to your sleep problems may be yoga.
Researchers from Harvard University have found that regular yoga practice can increase total sleep time, sleep efficiency, and how quickly people get to sleep.
In this post, I’ll explain why yoga helps people get a better night’s sleep and share a few of the best yoga poses for improving how well you sleep.
How does yoga help you get better sleep?
Yoga is a meditative practice that strengthens the body and calms the mind.
While researchers don’t understand precisely why yoga improves sleep, they suspect that numerous factors are contributing including:
Yoga increases the secretion of melatonin
Researchers have found that practising Hatha yoga can increase the secretion of melatonin, a hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle.
Melatonin is also important to cellular growth and can reduce cortisol levels (the stress hormone), which influences sleep.
Melatonin is released by the pineal gland, a tiny gland found in the brain.
Interestingly, this gland corresponds to a chakra located at the top of the head, which Hindus believe influences happiness.
Other studies have found that meditation can also increase melatonin levels, so spending some more time meditating may also be useful.
Yoga reduces anxiety, depression, and stress
Anxiety, depression, and stress can all have a significant impact on the quality of your sleep.
They can make it harder to get to sleep, affect the quality of your sleep, and cause your sleep patterns may change.
These conditions can eventually cause insomnia, which makes it extremely difficult to fall or stay asleep.
Regular yoga practice has been scientifically proven to reduce the symptoms of these conditions.
It does so by calming the brain, reducing the impact of the stress response, engaging the parasympathetic nervous system, and improving the physical condition of the body.
Yoga can reduce chronic pain
If you suffer from a condition like arthritis, migraines, or back pain, then you know how difficult it is to deal with chronic pain.
Not only does chronic pain interfere with your daily life — it can make it very difficult to get a good night’s sleep.
Researchers have found that yoga can change how the body perceives pain, which can make it easier to get the sleep you need.
Yoga can help you deal with persistent repetitive thoughts
Yoga has a meditative quality to it.
As you move between asanas, your mind will be entirely focused on your breathing and the direction that your body is moving.
Yoga practitioners eventually gain the ability to focus their mind entirely on their physical body — quietening any random or negative thoughts that pop into their heads.
Mastering this technique helps you focus on your physical body while in bed, making it easier to sleep.
Yoga improves your physical health
Yoga is a strenuous form of physical activity that can completely transform your body.
You will develop more flexibility and much stronger muscles by practicing yoga regularly.
It can also reduce the symptoms of illnesses like heart disease and obesity, which include difficulty sleeping.
Yoga makes it easier to breathe
Most yoga asanas involve the use of Pranayama (yogic breathing).
This is a form of highly focussed breathing developed through various exercises and techniques.
Pranayama can strengthen the muscles with breathing and improve your lung capacity.
Practicing pranayama will help you breath more comfortably while laying down, making it easier to sleep well.
Yoga poses to help you sleep well
Here are three yoga poses that you can perform before bed to help you prepare the body for sleep.
Child’s pose (Balasana)
This simple pose stretches the back, hips, thighs, and frontal abdominals.
It also calms the mind and stimulates melatonin production.
To perform Child’s Pose:
- Start on all fours. Widen your knees so they are a hip-width apart, touch your big toes together and sit back on the heels.
- Exhale as you lay your torso across the thighs. You can place a cushion between your legs if it makes you more comfortable.
- Your arms in front of you, palms down
- Hold this position for 10 breaths (or more) then inhale as you rise
Forward fold (Uttanasana)
Forward fold activates the parasympathetic nervous system, releases tension, and helps your body relax.
It primarily stretches the hamstrings and lower back.
To perform a Forward Fold:
- Stand with your feet about hip-distance apart
- Take a large breath in while raising your arms to your side then bring them together above your head
- On the exhale, gently lean forward, bending at the waist as you contract your thigh muscles
- Grasp opposite elbows and settle into the stretch
- Take between 10-15 breaths before rising
Legs Up The Wall Pose (Viparita Karani)
This pose will help you relax in the evening and prepare for bed.
Performing it for 5 minutes will help to calm your mind and prepare you for sleep.
To perform Legs Up The Wall Pose:
- Start in a seated position with the left side of your body touching a wall
- Turn your body slowly to the left while positioning your legs up against the wall. Use your hands to shift your weight
- Gently lower your back so it is on the floor. Your head and shoulders should be relaxed and on the floor
- Shift your weight side to side so you can pull your buttocks closer to the wall if needed. Lay your arms to your sides with palms up.
- Hold this position for 5 to 10 minutes
Thanks for reading How Yoga Can Help You Get A Better Night’s Sleep.
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