How Yoga Can Improve Your Sleep
You may have heard that doing vigorous exercise an hour or two before bedtime can make it harder to fall asleep and can lead to an interrupted sleep cycle that night. People with chronic insomnia have often been coached against exercising at nighttime, but new studies show that engaging in basic low impact yoga routines in the evening can have a huge impact on the quality of an individual’s sleep and overall health.
Yoga in general has numerous documented health benefits, including increased flexibility and reduced stress for regularly practicing yogis. Only recently has new research documented how yoga can be used as an effective treatment for people with chronic insomnia. A Harvard Medical School study found that doing yoga for eight weeks led to subjects having improved sleep efficiency, less time taken to fall asleep each night, and more total amount of time asleep on average.
What Kind Of Yoga Should I Do Before Bed?
The rule still stands that you should not engage in any high-impact exercise right before trying to fall asleep. This means that you should avoid more challenging or energizing routines like the Sun Salutation sequence. But there are still plenty of yoga routines, including ones specifically tailored for rest and relaxation, that you can explore. Try hatha yoga or nidra, styles that focus on body mindfulness and breathing in order to get better attuned to your body and calm your mind. You can simultaneously incorporate breathing techniques like the 4-7-8 series or alternate nostril breathing that can help with anxiety and stress management.
If you are new to yoga, there are many great free online resources that can help you get started. You can start by trying to do one or two simple poses, like these ones recommended by Harvard Medical School. And there’s no need to invest in yoga matts or other equipment for most of the basic postures. The Legs Up the Wall pose, also called Viparita Karani, can be done in your room with just a pillow and helps increase blood circulation after a long day of working.
Once you feel comfortable performing basic poses, you can also try doing a guided yoga practice. Yoga With Adriene is a popular yoga YouTube channel that has videos that range in length and difficulty, and luckily it also has short videos with nighttime routines. I recommend trying this 7 minute bedtime yoga video to get started! And if you have an injury or your doctor does not recommend yoga for you, you can always give meditation a try as it is a simple (and free!) way to calm the mind without putting any strain on your body. Now you can hopefully do some yoga then lay down on the floor or on a comfortable mattress, close your eyes for a short meditation session, and then sleep like a baby!