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Reasons Why Bedtime Yoga Serves a Dual Purpose in Preparing You For a Peaceful Sleep

If you’ve experimented with melatonin and magnesium, practicing deep breathing after you slip beneath the covers, and even made a commitment to keep screens out of your bedroom, but still find yourself restless. One suggestion? You could derive benefits from a bedtime yoga routine.

This is because of yoga’s remarkable ability to unwind both the body and mind. Our thoughts and physical sensations can significantly impact our ability to sleep and remain asleep. Engaging in a restorative form of yoga before bedtime is a technique recommended by experts to alleviate both racing thoughts and sore muscles.

Ways in which yoga can assist with sleep

Studies have shown that yoga can enhance sleep. As writer Saanya Ali previously covered for Well+Good in an article about the science of yoga for sleep, “A study in 2013 conducted on individuals aged 65 or older discovered that those who practiced yoga experienced an overall improvement in sleep quality, fewer instances of disturbed sleep, and quicker sleep onset. Further research found that individuals with chronic insomnia experienced better sleep with regular yoga practice.”

What makes yoga so effective? Here are three primary reasons why yoga can be your ultimate sleep companion.

1. Yoga can alleviate anxiety

As we are aware, stress is a major factor affecting the ability to fall asleep and obtain high-quality sleep. Fortuitously, yoga has been proven to alleviate stress by pacifying the nervous system—something essential for a restful night’s sleep.

“Sleep is a function of the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for rest and digestion,” Katie Hagel, a yoga instructor at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, previously stated to Well+Good regarding the connection between yoga, sleep, and stress. “It’s no surprise that both sleep onset and yoga are linked to an increase in parasympathetic activity.”

By engaging in a yoga sequence before bed, you are setting in motion the process of transitioning your body from a state of stress (regulated by the sympathetic nervous system) to a state of relaxation (the parasympathetic nervous system).

2. Yoga can relieve discomfort and soreness

The combination of movement and breath can assist your muscles and joints in resolving any tension before you become acutely aware of them when getting into bed.

“The movements or asanas present an opportunity to modulate the health of connective tissue,” Sarah Trahan, NMD, a staff physician at the Neil Riordan Center for Regenerative Medicine specializing in enhancing health through a natural approach, previously informed Well+Good about yoga and pain. “Yoga postures stretch long chains of muscles and fascia, which can pacify the nervous system that largely impacts our physical sensations. Poor posture and muscle condition in addition to emotional stress contribute to everyday aches and pains as well as chronic pain conditions.”

Due to the functioning of our circadian rhythms, discomfort and soreness can intensify at bedtime, making it a challenge to get comfortable in bed. A calming yoga routine can prevent this frustrating pattern.

3. Bedtime yoga can assist in establishing a habit

Having a nightly ritual signals to your body that it’s time to transition from wakefulness to sleep.

“Slumping on the sofa and consciously preparing for bed are not the same,” licensed therapist and OLLY ambassador Kier Gaines previously explained to Well+Good about sleep strategies. “Some individuals find relaxation in the routine of a nightly regimen.”

Anchoring that routine with bedtime yoga serves a dual purpose, as both the practice and the routine itself assist in preparing you for bed.

Approach to yoga for sleep

Yoga encompasses a variety of styles, from intense to soothing. If you are practicing yoga for sleep, especially before bed, it is advisable to opt for a restorative yoga practice.

“Restorative yoga aims to induce deep mental and physical relaxation by calming down the nervous system,” Rachel Land, a Yoga Medicine therapeutic specialist, once explained to Well+Good regarding restorative yoga. “[It] has the capacity to offer wide-ranging physical and mental benefits, including effects on heart rate, blood pressure, breath rate, digestion, resting muscle tension, mental state, fatigue, and even perceived pain.”

Restorative yoga poses are sometimes held for several minutes, leading to the stretching and elongating of muscles, connective tissue, and fascia. It also offers a calming “workout” for your mind while requiring you to concentrate on your breath.

Optimal timing for yoga practice for sleep

The timing of yoga for sleep is crucial. According to Michelle Cassidy, a yoga instructor at Emily Sky FIT, you should attempt to make yoga the final activity before closing your eyes. This means refraining from looking at your phone or any other screen during or after the practice, and not taking on a longer yoga session than you can handle. A few minutes can suffice.

Top bedtime yoga poses

As an experiment, Well+Good reporter Amber Sayer embarked on a bedtime yoga practice for a period of two weeks to observe its impact on her sleep. As a result, she fell asleep in one third of the time it previously took her, prior to commencing with bedtime yoga! Here are the yoga expert-recommended poses she practiced, each held for approximately 30 seconds.

  1. Child’s pose: Seated on your knees, lower your forehead to the mat, extend your fingertips forward, and shift your weight onto your heels.
  2. Sphinx pose: Lying flat on your stomach, position your elbows under your shoulders and forearms flat on the floor, while lifting your upper body into a slight backbend.
  3. Pigeon pose: Starting in downward dog, bring one knee forward and place it behind the wrist on the same side, then move the back leg backward and lean your upper body forward over the front shin.
  4. Legs up the wall pose: Lying on your back with your buttocks near a wall, rest your feet against the wall.
  5. Cat-cow: From a hands-and-knees quadruped position, slowly arch the spine lifting the head, then contract and drop the head down.
  6. Supine twist: Lying on your back with legs straight, bend one knee and guide it across your body in the opposite direction, allowing it to rest toward the floor while gazing in the opposite direction.
  7. Bridge pose: Lying on your back with feet flat on the ground, elevate your hips until there’s a straight line from your knees to your shoulders.

Prefer to follow the guidance of a skilled instructor? You can attempt this calming 18-minute evening yoga routine from Crunch group fitness instructor Liz Fichtner, designed for Well+Good’s Trainer of the Month Club:

While Fichtner designed this sequence for seniors, it can truly benefit anyone with its relaxing and sleep-inducing effects. You will even make use of a pillow to truly aid in preparing for bed. That’s what we call a seamless transition into rest.

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