Does Yoga help us in sleeping better? In this Blog article I will explore and reflect on scientific findings and my personal experience regarding yoga for a better sleep.
Sleep in an essential part of our circadian rhythm: in order to function properly not only we need to sleep a certain amount of hours but also with a certain quality.
My sleep improved a lot since I started practicing yoga, and with time I found what it better works for me.
When I am still agitated around 21:00 I have a certain routine to follow to tap in my Parasympathetic Nervous System the rest, digest and restore response in the body.
But let’s see what science is telling us to finish with my personal experience and some yoga tips for a better sleep.
Let’s set the scene
Since I am a yoga teacher, I read a lot of articles and blog posts claiming that that Yoga cures everything: it seems that there are yoga poses, breathing techniques, meditation for every single struggle we might experience as human being. From physical, emotional, mental and spiritual problems.
Don’t get me wrong, I am a yoga practitioner (2012) and teacher (2013), and I know the power of this practice, from my personal experience and the one from my students.
But I also know that we live in the digital era of misinformation and fake news and we need to be extra careful about the credibility of the sources and the quality of the information.
For this reason, it’s becoming more and more important for me, or even better essential, be extra careful in what I write, the information or sources that I share with my community.
The findings that I will share with you come from the work of Mary Flaherty PHD, a psychologist, researcher and yogi who for one year dove into scientific researches on yoga and the physiological, emotional and mental effects on a human being.
Here’s the link to her work if you are curious: https://doesyogawork.com
How did I get to know her? Thanks to the recommendation of a world recognise Yoga Teacher, Therapist and Author: Donna Farhi. Click HERE to find more info about her.
Does Yoga work for sleep? Mary Flaherty PHD research
Insomnia means that one has trouble to fall asleep or staying asleep. It becomes a real problem when it happens for at least 3 nights in a week, causing a day-time destress.
Roughly 30% of the population suffers from insomnia (this index raises up to 60% -80% for the persons with chronic pain) and it tends to worsen as we age: it’s a common problem among older adults.
The daily quantity of digital inputs from our phones, computers and TV are not helping us to nourish good sleep.
How does Yoga can help at least in young adults?
Studies shows that the arousal of the mind, or well-known as an over active mind (chitta vritti) is one of the main causes of insomnia.
“Yoga might help us sleep by quietening the stress response. Stress sets off the communication between the hypothalamus and the pituitary glands: this stimulates the adrenaline glands, which end up flushing stress hormones” as Mary Flaherty PHD says.
With high state of arousal, the Sympathetic Nervous System (fight, flight and freeze response – the gas pedal of the body) kicks in and it’s a major cause of insomnia.
Yoga Practices such as specific Breathing Techniques, Yoga Nidra, Yin and Restorative Yoga help us in tapping in the Parasympathetic Nervous System (the rest, digest and restore response – the brake) in the body.
Mary Flaherty PHD goes deep in her dissertation and the following are the summarized key evidence from her research regarding healthy adults:
- Yoga has been found to help healthy adults in sleeping better, and the more time spend during yoga, the better is the sleep
- It may take up to 12 weeks of regular yoga practice to see any positive effects on insomnia
- Yoga helps people over 60 to sleep and feel better the next day (optimal 3 practices per week)
- Yoga has NOT been shown to relieve insomnia in menopausal woman or cancer patients
- Yoga might help sleep disturbances for people with chronic pain
I can relate a lot to all the things that Mary Flaherty PHD says in her dissertation.
I could see for myself that adding specific Yoga styles in the evening help me to naturally slide in to a quite state and for sure better sleep.
The last dynamic class that I teach or practice is at 18:00 as I know that sometimes too dynamic practices can activate the SNS and boost my energy too much in the evening, having trouble to relax and sleep.
I prefer and recommend to integrate Yoga style like: Yin, Restorative, Yoga Nidra and specific Breathing Techniques to quite the body, mind and heart.
Try this practice out and let me know how it goes!
Do you want to have a deeper experience and practice for 4 days Yoga Practices to nourish the need of rest? CLICK HERE TO RECEIVE THEM.
I try to integrate as much as I can what it’s called “sleep hygiene”:
- Not watching TV or the Phone for at least one hour or two before going to bed
- Darken the bedroom
To sum up, we could say that also science is with us (for the most of the cases) supporting the thesis that Yoga really helps us sleeping and restore. And I feel that we need what I call a Rest Revolution to feel better and align with Mother Nature.
Now I am curious:
What is your experince?
Do you suffer from insomina?
Does Yoga help?
I am all ears, really passionate to support you in consolidating your knowledge around yoga so that you too, can build a regular, free and needs-based yoga practice at home.