Insomnia is a real problem in America; research from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine indicates that ten percent of Americans suffer chronic insomnia disorder, while thirty percent struggle with brief symptoms of insomnia.
Those who fail to get enough sleep suffer compromised professional and academic performance, as well as obesity, mental illness, and a whole host of other health issues.
The cure for insomnia is rarely simple, but what many current sufferers do not realize is that tossing and turning can be at least somewhat eased through the adoption of a regular yoga routine. Yoga performed in the evening is particularly beneficial, as it helps participants process the stressful events of the day and place themselves in a better mindset that is more conducive to sleep.
Let tossing and turning be a thing of the past -- get out your yoga mat and bolsters, and get ready to catch some Z's.
How Yoga Improves Sleep Quality
A variety of factors can make it difficult to sleep at night, but mental chatter is one of the most common problems. After a stressful day, it's only natural to ruminate on things you could have done differently. These ruminations make it difficult to relax and fall asleep. Worrying about your inability to fall asleep only makes the situation worse.
Yoga instructs you to stop fighting the incessant thoughts, and instead, observe them as an outsider before allowing them to drift away.
In addition to addressing the immediate anxiety that causes insomnia, yoga can be used to ease the many physical conditions that make it difficult to sleep at night. While insomnia is most commonly caused by stress and anxiety, it can also result from a wide array of physical conditions. Although many of these issues must first be addressed medically, yoga can ease the most problematic symptoms.
For example, insomnia often results from chronic back pain, which can be addressed via yoga. The symptoms of arthritis can also be eased with the help of certain yoga poses, which expand flexibility and range of motion, all while reducing pain and soreness.
Yoga Poses For Better Sleep
Not all yoga poses are conducive to promoting a good night's sleep, so simply grabbing your yoga mat and completing your favorite moves will not guarantee a restful night. Many poses are preferable during the early morning or the daytime, as they have an energizing effect.
Other poses, however, induce relaxation, thereby prepping insomniacs for the night ahead. These poses are particularly effective when executed with bolsters, blankets, and other props.
Whether you wake up repeatedly throughout the night or struggle to fall asleep in the first place, you can benefit greatly from incorporating these poses into your bedtime routine:
A perennially popular restorative position, child's pose delivers an immediate sense of serenity. Begin by kneeling on the floor with your big toes touching. Sit back on your heels and let your knees fall open, ideally about hip's width apart. You can either lay your hands alongside your torso or extend them out in front of your body. Hold the pose for at least a minute.
After that, remain in position as long as you like. The goal is to physically relax your body and focus on your breathing.
Reclined Cobbler's Pose
An adapted version of a popular hip-opening pose, the reclined cobbler's pose is a restorative position designed to relax the mind and body.
A minute or two in this pose will lower your blood pressure, decrease your heart rate, and ease any anxiety that threatens to keep you up at night. Although this pose is typically completed while lying flat on your back, the addition of bolsters propped near your sacrum may prove beneficial at night. Lie back with the soles of your feet pressed together and allow your knees to open up naturally.
If needed, place blocks or other props beneath the knees for added support.
At yoga studios, the legs-up-the-wall pose is generally completed immediately prior to the final savasana. The restorative position relieves cramping and soreness in the feet, ankles, and calves, and is thus ideal for pregnant women and those who have been on their feet all day. Simply lie on your back with your legs extended and resting against the wall.
A bolster can be placed under your lower back for added support. Focus on your breath and let any lingering tension float away.
Often referred to as the corpse pose, savasana is sometimes mistakenly thought of as an opportunity to take a quick nap at the end of yoga class. In reality, the pose can be quite challenging if you are new to yoga and meditation, as it asks you to absorb the hard work you've done in yoga class while stilling your mind.
The key to savasana -- as in all of yoga -- is focusing on your breath and permitting mental clutter to drift off. This is not easy, but the more you practice savasana, the less you'll find yourself worrying endlessly right before it's time to go to bed.
Not everybody feels safe or relaxed while completing the corpse pose. This vulnerable position leaves some people feeling anxious and unsafe, in part because the pose exposes the stomach. Side-lying savasana is a great alternative that delivers all of the benefits of traditional savasana while minimizing associated anxiety.
It is also a preferred restorative pose for pregnant women. It's typical to incorporate props into this pose, either beneath the head or between the legs. Some people prefer to have an additional pillow or bolster available to hug as they ease into the pose.
From child's pose to savasana, a variety of yoga positions can relax your body, ease your worries, and prepare you for a truly restful night.
Your insomnia may not be cured the first time you practice yoga before bed, but with dedication, you can let go of the physical tension and mental ruminations that keep you up at night.
What are some of your favorite poses before bed? Comment below!