Are you struggling to get some high-quality shut-eye?
Yoga is an inherently relaxing practice, so it’s probably not all that surprising that it can help you sleep better. And while it can be beneficial at any time of the day, doing yoga before bed is particularly helpful for calming down your nervous system and supporting better sleep habits—even if it’s just a five-minute routine you do after brushing your teeth.
Getting started with sleep yoga is easy. If you’re interested in incorporating yoga into your nighttime routine, read on to learn why it’s so effective, plus the best yoga poses for achieving deeper, more restful sleep.
Sleep yoga is a meditative practice that consists of a series of relaxation-inducing poses, most of which are performed lying down and all with the intention of helping you fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly.
Similar to other sorts of nighttime relaxation routines (such as guided meditations and body scans), yoga before bed works to gradually quiet your mind and lead your body into a state of calm. A typical routine takes about 20 minutes, but any amount of sleep yoga will do you good.
The great thing about yoga for sleep is that it can be done anytime, anywhere, and by anyone. You don’t need to have a background in yoga to try out a basic yoga sleep pose or two, nor do you need any sort of special equipment or clothing. Try it out in pursuit of a more blissful bedtime, and discover for yourself why so many people swear by a pre-bed yoga practice.
There are various types of yoga, all of which are done with various intentions. When the goal is better sleep, you want to avoid high-energy forms of yoga like vinyasa that are geared toward exercise, and instead focus on yoga that will help slow your breath and induce a state of relaxation.
Here are four types of yoga that can support you on your journey to improved sleep:
This type of yoga helps balance mind and body by focusing specifically on connecting movement with breath. Movements are slower and gentler than in more aerobic forms of yoga and can be combined with guided meditation for enhanced results.
Restorative yoga is the gentlest of all yoga forms and is mostly intended as a means of promoting healing and serenity. Use a pillow or rolled up blanket to deepen your poses, and let yourself sink into each movement.
With yin yoga, poses are held for a sustained amount of time—sometimes as long as five minutes each—to relieve tension throughout the body. There is a strong meditative aspect to the practice, and you’re encouraged to slow down your mind along with your body, using the time to observe and let go of unwanted thoughts and emotions.
Yoga nidra, or yogic sleep, is a type of meditative yoga that’s meant to induce complete relaxation. Practitioners spend the whole time either lying or sitting on the floor, with a guided track that helps transition the body into a restful state. Head to your phone’s app store to search yoga nidra apps, or download a general meditation app such as Insight Timer and browse yoga nidra tracks.
Most of us probably wish that we were getting better sleep. More than a third of American adults fail to clock in seven hours a night, according to a 2020 poll by the National Sleep Foundation, and anywhere from 10% to 30% of adults struggle with insomnia.
Consequences of all this insufficient sleep vary, but irritability, headaches, and general feelings of unwellness tend to be the most common side effects—none of which are ideal to experience on a regular basis.
Sleep yoga offers a possible solution that can be used as a supplement or alternative to other sleep aids. A survey for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics found that 55% of yoga practitioners report better sleep, and more than two-thirds report less stress and higher levels of relaxation.
Other possible benefits you may get out of sleep yoga include:
Yoga is not a magic cure-all for serious sleep problems. But by helping you regulate your breathing and dropping you into a mindful, meditative state, sleep yoga can greatly increase your chances of getting quality sleep, even if you struggle with insomnia or other related sleep difficulties.
Yoga for Beginners: A Full Body Introductory Routine
What yogic sleep pose will get you the best results? There are several worth giving a shot. Try out these simple yoga poses for sleep, and design a custom routine that will help ease you into a restful state.
A seated forward bend provides you with a full-body stretch that can relieve stress and induce relaxation. Place a pillow under your knees or on top of your legs if you can’t quite reach your toes or the stretch feels too intense, and try to hold the pose for at least a minute while taking controlled deep breaths in and out.
Create an L-shape with your body, positioning your back on the floor and your legs up on the wall. This restorative yoga pose relieves tension in your legs and neck and helps calm your nerves. If you need a modification, place a pillow under your hips or widen your legs instead of keeping them pointed straight up toward the ceiling.
Ease yourself into child’s pose with your knees together or apart and your upper body stretched forward at the hips. Arms can be extended forward or held straight back at your sides. Spending time in this yoga sleep pose can relieve stress from your day and help circulate breath throughout the body, in turn promoting relaxation and preparing you for a solid night of sleep.
Yoganidrasana translates quite literally to “yogic sleep pose” and is a reclining position where the legs are brought up and behind your head. This is more of an advanced yoga pose, so make sure that you are properly stretched out before trying it and don’t push your body further than you feel it can go. For an easier version with similar benefits, try happy baby pose, which has you lay on your back and grab the soles of your feet while gently drawing your knees down.
Position yourself on hands and knees on the floor, then gently alternate between arching your back high like a cat and arching it down like a cow. This stress-relieving position is great for new yogis who are learning to connect their breath with movement and has the added benefit of providing a nice stretch to your lower back.
A good bedtime routine is essential for quality sleep. Make a point of doing sleep yoga all or most nights of the week to see if it helps you out, keeping in mind that you can do it for as much or as little time as you feel like. And if you want to make it even more of a serene practice, dim the lights, play some relaxing music, and light a scented candle to fully indulge your spirit and set yourself up for sleep success.
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