Yoga is good for your body at any time of day. But, if you’re having trouble sleeping, it can be what you need to help you get a full seven to eight hours of high-quality rest. Yoga has some impressive effects on your mind and body that lead to better sleep, starting with its ability to reduce and manage stress.
Stress and Sleep Loss
Stress is the body’s fight or flight response to perceived danger. While stress in and of itself isn’t dangerous, chronic stress is, especially when it causes you to lose sleep. Unfortunately, stress and sleep loss have an interconnected relationship.
Stress often causes the initial sleep problems, which may be a delay in the onset of sleep or waking during the night. However, when you’re sleep deprived, the emotional center of your brain becomes more sensitive to negative stimuli while the reasoning center of your brain becomes less active. The changes in your emotional state brought on my sleep loss can lead to an increase in stress.
Yoga Reduces Inflammation and Cortisol
A study published in Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity followed 90 participants who, for 12 weeks did 90 minutes of yoga five days a week. Researchers found that yoga reduced the levels of the stress hormone cortisol in their blood, which in turn reduced inflammation.
Another study published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience measured the effects of a three-month yoga retreat on inflammation and stress on the body. Participants in the study went through several intense hours of meditative yoga each day, which increased the levels of anti-inflammatory markers in their blood. The same participants reported less depression, anxiety, and fewer physical ailments.
Yoga Improves Mood and Reduces Fatigue
As stress goes down, the benefits of yoga go up. A study published in Palliative and Supportive Care monitored the effect of a 90 minute, twice a week yoga regimen over the course of three months. All participants were cancer survivors who suffered from pain, anxiety, and fatigue. For the group of participants that follow the yoga regimen, inflammation was decreased with an improvement in mood and energy levels.
A similar study conducted with nurses found that yoga reduced work-related stress and improved sleep quality. Participants practiced yoga twice a week for 50 to 60 minutes for six months. Even after the conclusion of the study, participants reported less stress and better sleep.
How to Add Yoga to Your Bedtime Routine
The benefits of yoga add up, but how do you incorporate it into your bedtime routine – a few simple poses at the time. Bedtime routines help your mind and body recognize when it’s time to start the release of sleep hormones. The routine should be performed at the same time and in the same order each day to help trigger the onset of sleep.
Gentle yoga poses can be done next to your bed or even in bed. If you perform yoga in bed, your mattress type will affect the depth of your stretch. A softer mattress may lead to over-stretching, so you might want to consider if it’s time to buy a new mattress. But, the depth of your stretch isn’t as important as following the deep breathing meditative methods that go along with yoga. Child’s pose, legs-up-the-wall pose, and corpse pose are only a few poses that can help you let go of stress and get the high-quality sleep you need. Building a consistent yoga routine can help you gain control over stress while increasing your mental and physical well-being.
About the Author
Samantha Kent is a researcher for SleepHelp.org. Her favorite writing topic is how getting enough sleep can improve your life. Currently residing in Boise, Idaho, she sleeps in a California King bed, often with a cat on her face.