Yoga for Sleep and Anxiety

Yoga for Sleep and Anxiety

teaching yoga for sleepBy Faye Martins and  Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500, YACEP

We read a lot about Yoga for sleep and anxiety, but how does it work? Yoga can be helpful for sleep and anxiety in a number of ways. First, it can help to improve sleep quality by promoting relaxation and reducing stress levels. Additionally, yoga can help reduce anxiety symptoms by teaching people to focus on their breath and be present in the moment. Lastly, Yoga can help create a sense of community and support, which can be beneficial for people struggling with sleep or anxiety.

Common Sleep Disorders

There are many different types of sleep disorders, but the five most common are insomnia, sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, narcolepsy, and night terrors. Insomnia is the most common and is characterized by difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. Sleep apnea is a condition in which a person stops breathing for short periods during sleep. Restless leg syndrome is a condition in which a person experiences uncomfortable sensations in the legs that make it difficult to sleep. Narcolepsy is a condition characterized by excessive daytime sleepiness and sudden attacks of sleep. Night terrors are a type of sleep disorder that causes a person to wake up suddenly in a state of fear or terror.


Why Do We Need Sleep?

We need sleep for many reasons. Sleep helps our bodies recover from the day’s activities. It also gives our brains a break so that we can process information more effectively. Sleep also helps regulate our mood and anxiety levels. When we don’t get enough sleep, we are more likely to feel irritable and anxious. That’s why it’s important to ensure that we get enough sleep every night.


What is Circadian Rhythm?

Circadian rhythm is the daily light and darkness cycle regulating our bodies. It helps to regulate our sleep-wake cycle, hormone production, and metabolism. When our circadian rhythm is off, we can feel tired during the day and have difficulty sleeping at night. Practicing Yoga for sleep can help to regulate our circadian rhythm and improve our sleep cycles.


Organizing a Yoga Sleep Schedule

There are a few things you can do to help ease your anxiety and get a better night’s sleep. One is to establish a regular Yoga practice. This doesn’t mean you have to do hour-long sessions every day. Even 10-15 minutes of gentle stretching can make a difference. It can be helpful to set aside some time for Yoga before bed, so you can wind down and relax your body and mind. You might also want to try some restorative Yoga poses or pranayama (breath work) exercises. Just be sure not to do anything too strenuous or energetic just before bedtime; that could leave you feeling revved up instead of calm.


Can Yoga Nidra Help?

Yoga Nidra is a technique that is specifically designed for people who have trouble sleeping. It involves lying down in a comfortable position and focusing on your breath. The goal is to relax your body and mind so that you can fall asleep. Yoga Nidra has been shown to be effective for treating sleep disorders, such as insomnia. It can also help reduce anxiety and stress levels.


What is a REM Sleep State?

Most people are familiar with the term REM sleep but may not know exactly what it stands for. REM stands for Rapid Eye Movement and is the stage of sleep when we dream. It is also the deepest stage of sleep and is very important for both our physical and mental health. During REM sleep, our bodies are able to rest and repair, and our brains are able to process information and consolidate memories. If we don’t get enough REM sleep, we can feel tired, anxious, and irritable.


Can Yoga Nidra Replace Sleep?

The short answer is, “No.” Yoga Nidra, also known as “yogic sleep,” is a state of conscious deep sleep. It is one of the most restful and rejuvenating Yoga practices. Many people who suffer from insomnia or anxiety find that Yoga Nidra helps them to get a good night’s sleep. Some even claim that it is more effective than sleep medication. While there is not enough scientific evidence to support these claims, many people find Yoga Nidra to be a helpful tool in managing their sleep and anxiety levels.


Myths and Proof

In fact, some students do fall asleep while practicing Yoga Nidra. Sometimes, students are taught that sleeping while practicing Yoga Nidra is a failure. However, you will be fine if your objective is to fall asleep. There is some debate among researchers, scientists, and Yoga practitioners as to whether or not Yoga Nidra can actually help a person reach a REM state. However, many people who practice Yoga Nidra say that it has helped them sleep better and reduced their anxiety levels. While there is no scientific proof that Yoga Nidra can help people reach a REM state, it is well worth trying if you are struggling with an overactive mind, lack of sleep, or anxiety. Ultimately, if you begin Yoga Nidra, fall asleep, and reach a REM state, you have successfully slept, and that’s a good thing.


Solutions for Sleeplessness

There are many solutions for sleeplessness, but Yoga has no shortage of techniques. In fact, Yoga Nidra, Poses, breathing, and meditation are great options because they can help to both relax the mind and body. Yoga poses that are particularly helpful for sleep include the Child’s pose, which helps to relax the muscles, and the Corpse pose, which encourages complete relaxation. Breath work is also important in Yoga for sleep; deep breathing can help to slow down the heart rate and calm the nervous system.

Preparing Your Bedroom

Creating a conducive environment for sleep is important if you want to get the most out of your slumber. This means preparing your bedroom in advance so that it is dark, quiet, and cool. You should also make sure that your bed is comfortable and that there are no distractions in the room that could keep you awake. Taking some time to do some Yoga for sleep before bed can also help you relax and sleep better.


Creating a Successful Sleep Routine

There are many things you can do to help improve your sleep. One of the most important things is to create a sleep routine. This means going to bed at the same time each night and waking up at the same time each morning. Avoid caffeine and alcohol before bed, as they can interfere with sleep. Instead, try drinking chamomile tea or taking a warm bath before bed. Create a relaxing environment in your bedroom by using soft sheets, investing in a comfortable mattress, and using noise-cancelling headphones if needed. Lastly, comfortable pillows come in different sizes and shapes. Truly, only you know which pillow feels best. The morning after healthy sleep should not be filled with neck pain.

© Copyright – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

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Related Research

Afonso, R. F., Hachul, H., Kozasa, E. H., Oliveira, D., Goto, V., Rodrigues, D., Tufik, S., & Leite, J. R. (2012). Yoga decreases insomnia in postmenopausal women: a randomized clinical trial. Menopause (New York, N.Y.), 19(2), 186–193.

Bankar, M. A., Chaudhari, S. K., & Chaudhari, K. D. (2013). Impact of long-term Yoga practice on sleep quality and quality of life in the elderly. Journal of Ayurveda and integrative medicine, 4(1), 28–32.

Black, D. S., O’Reilly, G. A., Olmstead, R., Breen, E. C., & Irwin, M. R. (2015). Mindfulness meditation and improvement in sleep quality and daytime impairment among older adults with sleep disturbances: a randomized clinical trial. JAMA internal medicine, 175(4), 494–501.

Field, T., Diego, M., Delgado, J., & Medina, L. (2013). Tai chi/yoga reduces prenatal depression, anxiety and sleep disturbances. Complementary therapies in clinical practice, 19(1), 6–10.

Hariprasad, V. R., Sivakumar, P. T., Koparde, V., Varambally, S., Thirthalli, J., Varghese, M., Basavaraddi, I. V., & Gangadhar, B. N. (2013). Effects of yoga intervention on sleep and quality-of-life in elderly: A randomized controlled trial. Indian journal of psychiatry, 55(Suppl 3), S364–S368.

Related Studies

Lu, X., Liu, L., & Yuan, R. (2020). Effect of the Information Support Method Combined with Yoga Exercise on the Depression, Anxiety, and Sleep Quality of Menopausal Women. Psychiatria Danubina, 32(3-4), 380–388.

Moszeik, E.N., von Oertzen, T. & Renner, KH. Effectiveness of a short Yoga Nidra meditation on stress, sleep, and well-being in a large and diverse sample. Curr Psychol (2020).

Vera, F. M., Manzaneque, J. M., Maldonado, E. F., Carranque, G. A., Rodriguez, F. M., Blanca, M. J., & Morell, M. (2009). Subjective Sleep Quality and hormonal modulation in long-term yoga practitioners. Biological psychology, 81(3), 164–168.

Wang, W. L., Chen, K. H., Pan, Y. C., Yang, S. N., & Chan, Y. Y. (2020). The effect of yoga on sleep quality and insomnia in women with sleep problems: a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC psychiatry, 20(1), 195.

Woodyard C. (2011). Exploring the therapeutic effects of yoga and its ability to increase the quality of life. International journal of yoga, 4(2), 49–54.


Yoga for Sleep: Establishing a Regular Rhythm

By: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed

Deeply restorative and refreshing sleep can be quite elusive for many people. With the hectic pace of life, winding down for a good night’s sleep is frequently challenging, if not impossible. As we all rush to squeeze in one appointment after another during our already fully scheduled days, the fight or flight response is often locked on overdrive, and anxiety and stress levels can stay high well into the night. When this happens, the body and mind are physiologically unable to unwind and ease into a peaceful state of being rather than constantly doing.

Overactive Mind

Turning off an overactive mind at the end of the day is crucial to being able to rest deeply. An overly anxious or busy mind that is always in “doing mode” drives the sympathetic nervous system to remain on as the mind simultaneously continues to plan what to do next. This is all too true for many Yogis and Yoginis even after a modern-day mini-crisis, such as making it to the bank or post office before the stroke of 5, comes to an end. If you find that you often operate on the adrenalin rush that your own body produces in response to an unending series of crises throughout the day, you probably have difficulty falling asleep and sleeping uninterruptedly throughout the night.

Bedtime Ritual

By creating a soothing bedtime ritual for yourself, you will cue your body and mind to begin to unwind from the day and to enter into a state of peaceful being, rather than staying stuck in a state of constant “doing” by planning for the next day and rehashing the day you have just lived. Ruminating about the past or the future will keep you in a state of doing and will prevent you from sleeping restoratively. There are a number of ways to create a soothing bedtime ritual for yourself. A few tried and true ways of demarcating a time of rest are taking a hot bath, drinking a calming cup of herbal tea, and reading a good book in bed. Practicing restorative Yoga for sleep and quieting Yogic breathing exercises are also wonderful ways to support your body and mind in letting go of the concerns of the day.


Dirga Pranayama or Three Part Breathing

In terms of creating a regular rhythm to support you in resting well, practicing a calming Yogic breathing exercise just prior to turning in for the evening will quickly and effectively calm your mind as the sympathetic nervous system, which drives the fight and flight response, comes to a barely perceptible idle. Dirga Pranayama is a simple and highly effective Yogic breathing exercise for establishing a regular rhythm in the body and calming the mind’s thought waves. Practicing Dirga Pranayama helps you to become deeply aware of your own breathing patterns and to breathe fully, deeply, and completely.

How to Start

To practice Dirga Pranayama, come to a prone position on your Yoga mat or sit on a chair with your feet resting flat on the floor and your spine erect. You can also practice this calming Yogic breathing exercise just prior to drifting off to sleep as you lie cozily in your bed. When you are ready to practice Dirga Pranayama, place your right hand on your lower abdomen and your left hand on your heart. Placing your hands will help you be aware of each inhalation and exhalation.

Three Parts

The practice of Dirga Pranayama is also known as the Three Part Breath. Each inhalation is divided into three parts. The first part of the inhalation fills up your lower belly. The second part of the inhalation fills up your abdominal area to your lower ribs, and the third part of the inhalation fills up your chest cavity completely, all the way up to your collar bones. The exhalation is long and continuous and should ideally be the same count as all three “mini” inhalations put together.


In other words, if you counted to three with each part of your inhalation for a total of nine counts, your exhalation should be a total of nine counts at the same pace. A series of three “mini” inhalations followed by a long, continuous exhalation is one round of Dirga Pranayama. Practice this soothing Yoga breathing exercise for at least five rounds. The regular rhythm of this breathing exercise will help your body and mind come to a quiet place of rest and repose in preparation for the night ahead.

© Copyright – Virginia Iversen / Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

Yoga for Sleep As Summer Ends

By: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed

At the present time, there is just a touch of coolness in the air in the Northeastern United States. As summer subtly wanes into early fall, the humidity level is dropping, and the trees are beginning to reveal a hint of the brilliant fall foliage to come. I have always loved the fall. It is one of my favorite times of the year in the Northeast. The leaves’ colors at their peak are simply breathtaking, and the swirling energy of the season is always invigorating and filled with promise.

Autumn Energy

Every year, the fall season sparkles with the crisp energy of hope and enthusiasm. This often translates into a new school year, training program, or continuing education course of study for many of us. As the long, warm days of summer begin to shorten, many Yoga students and Yoga teachers find themselves rushing to fit into their busy schedules a variety of wonderful summer activities before the days shorten and the temperatures drop to a point where some of these activities, such as swimming or surfing, are no longer possible. At least not without a very thick wetsuit!

Change of Season and Mood

The combination of seeking to fully enjoy the final weeks of summer, in addition to added academic and professional goals and responsibilities, often generates an underlying feeling of anxiety. Unfortunately, the busyness of a full schedule can increase anxiety levels to a point where you may find it difficult to sleep. If this is the case for you, practicing some soothing, restorative Yoga poses will help your body and mind to calm down, which will allow you to rest in a place of quietude. Resting in a place of peace and quietude will support you to sleep more deeply and restoratively.

Viparita Karani or Legs Up the Wall Pose

Viparita Karani is also known as Legs Up the Wall Pose. This simple and accessible Yoga inversion helps calm frayed nerves, quiet your mind and replenish your vital life force energy. Viparita Karani is usually practiced toward the end of a Yoga class or session. It is generally one of the finishing postures in a sequence of Yoga poses practiced just before Shavasana.

Benefits of Legs Up the Wall Pose

Some of the benefits of practicing Viparita Karani for five to fifteen minutes are: improving blood flow throughout the entire body, restoring tired legs and feet, alleviating headaches, easing tension in the lower back, calming anxiety, relieving insomnia, and stretching out the front of the torso, the back of the neck and the hamstring muscles. To practice Legs Up in the Wall Pose in a restorative fashion, you will need a folded blanket, an eye pillow or small towel, and a weighted sandbag for your feet. You may also wish to place an additional blanket over your torso for a fuller sense of being nurtured and to stay warm, of course.

How to Begin

When you are ready to practice Legs Up the Wall Pose, place your Yoga mat perpendicular to a free wall in your home or Yoga studio. Place any props you are using on one side of your Yoga mat. Lie down on your side on the Yoga mat with your buttocks touching the wall. With an inhale, gently roll yourself onto your back as you raise your legs up the wall. Extend your legs fully and keep your feet slightly flexed.

Getting Comfortable

If you are using a folded blanket, place it underneath your hips for added support. Place the other blanket snugly over your torso and rest the sandbag on your feet. When you have all of the Yoga props positioned properly, place the eye pillow over your eyes and extend your arms out to your sides at chest height with your palms facing up in a gesture of release and openness. Sink into the floor or earth beneath you and breathe fully and deeply. Hold this posture for five to fifteen minutes, and then remove the props, roll to your right side and gently push yourself up to Easy Seat. Pause for a few breaths to feel the blanket of peace and quietude enveloping you that your practice of this restorative Yoga pose has generated before moving into Shavasana.


Bedtime Yoga Review

Bedtime Yoga for sleep can be very helpful for people who have difficulty sleeping or are experiencing anxiety. The exercises mentioned above help to relax the body and mind, which can lead to a better night’s sleep. There are many different Yoga poses that can be done at bedtime, so it is important to find the ones that work best for you. Some people find that doing a few minutes of Yoga before bedtime helps them to sleep better and feel less anxious.

© Copyright – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

4 thoughts on “Yoga for Sleep and Anxiety”

  1. Yoga for sleeping and Dirga Pranayama breathing exercise just before turning in for the evening will quickly and effectively calm our mind as the sympathetic nervous system, which helps for better sleeping. Nice sharing!

  2. Wow! Thank you for the yoga for sleeping tips. The regular rhythm of Dirga Pranayama breathing exercises helps us to come to a quiet place of rest and repose in preparation for better sleeping at night.

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