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What to Know About Yoga for Better Sleep

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on November 27, 2021

Losing sleep doesn't just make you tired in the morning. It can affect your thinking, mental health, and physical health. Practicing yoga at night can help you relax before you go to bed so you can sleep better.

Benefits of Practicing Yoga at Night

The type of slow, controlled breathing used in yoga stimulates your vagus nerve. This nerve affects your parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), which controls your body’s rest function and helps you get better sleep. Yoga lowers your heart rate and improves digestion, as well.

Yoga also focuses on mindfulness. This means being aware and in the moment. Practicing mindfulness can boost your levels of melatonin, a hormone that helps you sleep. Mindfulness can also help control your heart rate and breathing changes that are linked with anxiety.

Mindfulness lowers the level of some stress hormones in your body. This can improve your sleep quality. Mindfulness through yoga has been tied to falling asleep faster, sleeping longer, and waking up less often during the night.

According to a CDC survey, 86% of people who practiced yoga felt that it reduced their stress and helped them relax. It also found that 67% of people feel better emotionally because of their yoga practice.

Types of Yoga to Practice at Night

There are many types of yoga. High-energy kinds like hot yoga and vinyasa can give you a moderate to high-intensity workout. This may help you sleep better and provide the benefits of regular exercise as long as you do it no later than several hours before bedtime. If you prefer to practice yoga right before bed, focus on relaxing forms like.

Restorative yoga. This uses poses designed for relaxation. You also use props such as blankets and cushions to help you hold poses and slow down. These poses are held longer than in traditional yoga. Restorative yoga has been found to lower blood pressure and heart rate. It may help you get to sleep faster.

Hatha yoga. Hatha yoga is a gentle style that focuses on delaying the phases of breathing. While holding gentle postures, you lengthen your inhalations, hold your breath, and then slowly exhale. Hatha yoga aims to unify your physical body, breath, and concentration.

Yoga Nidra. This type is done while lying down. It's a kind of guided meditation that helps you focus on your personal intentions and observation. You focus on parts of your body while noticing your breath.

 

Yoga Poses to Practice at Night

Here are a few more poses to encourage relaxation before you go to bed at night.

Viparita karani. This is commonly known as the legs-up-the-wall pose. Put your yoga mat perpendicular to a blank wall. Lie on your mat with your legs going up the wall so that your body forms the shape of an "L." Relax your arms at your side.

Supta baddha konasana. This is the reclining butterfly pose. Lie on your back with your knees bent. Put the soles of your feet together and let your knees fall to the sides. Rest your hands at your side or above your head, whichever is more comfortable.

Savasana. This is called “corpse pose.” It's traditionally the last pose during a yoga session. Lie on your mat with your arms at your side and your palms up. Keep your legs straight, and focus on your breathing. 

Show Sources

SOURCES:

BMC Psychiatry: "The effect of yoga on sleep quality and insomnia in women with sleep problems: a systematic review and meta-analysis."

Breast Cancer: Basic and Clinical Research: "Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia, Mindfulness, and Yoga in Patients With Breast Cancer with Sleep Disturbance: A Literature Review."

Current Psychology: "Effectiveness of a short Yoga Nidra meditation on stress, sleep, and well-being in a large and diverse sample."

Evidence-Based Complementary Medicine: "The Effect of Mind-Body Therapies on Insomnia: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis."

International Journal of Yoga: "Exploring the therapeutic effects of yoga and its ability to increase quality of life."

Journal of the American College of Cardiology: "Acute and sub-acute hemodynamic effects of restorative yoga."

Mayo Clinic: "Mayo Clinic Q and A: The health benefits of yoga."

National Health Statistics Reports: "Wellness-related Use of Common Complementary Health Approaches Among Adults: United States, 2012."

Sleep Foundation: "Yoga and Sleep."

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