Do you toss and turn at night? Do you wake up feeling exhausted rather than refreshed? Believe it or not, your daytime activities could be greatly impacting your sleep quality. Studies show that adding yoga and/or meditation to your daily routine can help you get better Z’s.
Ready to snooze more soundly? Read on to learn about five research-backed ways yoga and meditation can lead to a restful night’s sleep—and improve your overall health.
Unfortunately, daytime stressors don’t magically vanish the moment we climb into bed. Although stress is an inevitable part of daily life, implementing a yoga and/or meditation practice can lessen its harmful effects on the mind and body.
A research study published by JAMA Internal Medicine compared two test groups in an effort to determine whether mindfulness meditation or sleep hygiene education is more effective for better sleep. Those participants practicing mindfulness meditation reported less insomnia and fatigue after completing the 6-week trial. This group also noted decreased depression.
As it turns out, there’s a physiological explanation as to why meditation promotes better sleep. Dr. Herbert Benson of the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine explains that mindfulness meditation evokes a “relaxation response” in the mind and body.
In an interview with Harvard University, Benson notes that “the relaxation response can help ease many stress-related ailments, including depression, pain, and high blood pressure.” He adds, “For many people, sleep disorders are closely tied to stress.”
Not keen on starting a meditation practice? No problem! If you’d prefer a more active approach, yoga has been proven to produce similar benefits. The Mayo Clinic shares that practicing yoga can help reduce stress and anxiety, which can result in a better night’s sleep. As an added bonus, those practicing yoga often report a boost in mood and improved sense of well-being.
A Restful Routine
With constant advances in technology, it has become more difficult to unplug and unwind before bed. Practicing yoga or meditation, rather than scrolling through social media feeds or breaking news articles, means less time subjected to brain stimulating blue light.
Quiet your mind and unplug from the outside world by implementing a sleep-promoting nightly ritual. Try these 15 poses by Yoga Journal to help you sleep soundly tonight.
A Mind/Body Workout
There’s so much emphasis on maintaining a healthy physique, but keeping the mind in tip-top shape is equally important for overall health and sleep quality. By practicing yoga or a combination of yoga and meditation, you’ll not only reap the benefits of a low-impact workout—which can lead to better sleep; you’re also more likely to fall asleep faster, wake up less frequently throughout the night, and sleep for a longer period.
When it comes to fitness and sleep quality, a holistic approach is best. A truly effective routine incorporates the mind as well as the body.
You may be aware that melatonin is produced by the brain’s pineal gland, which controls our sleep/wake cycles, but did you know that practicing meditation or yoga boosts melatonin levels, leading to more restful sleep?
As a welcome bonus, these practices also increase serotonin levels, which regulate mood, appetite, digestion, memory, and sexual desire, in addition to promoting good sleep. Not only will your yoga and/or meditation practice benefit your sleep quality; it’s also likely to lead to better overall mental and physical health, as well increased happiness.
If you suffer from occasional or chronic pain that keeps you from sleeping soundly at night, yoga and meditation can help. Research shows that implementing mindfulness meditation techniques and yoga can reduce pain associated with poor sleep quality.
One study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) found that a relaxation-based yoga routine produced successful results among participants with sleep problems related to pain from rheumatoid arthritis. More than half of the study participants who adopted a yoga routine continued practicing relaxation-based yoga after the trial concluded.
If stress and anxiety, an active mind, or aches and pains are keeping you up at night, you’ll likely benefit greatly from meditation or yoga, or a combination of the two. Always check with a medical professional before starting a new fitness routine, and remember to practice good sleep hygiene in addition to your new yoga or meditation practice. If you are having trouble falling asleep at night and staying awake during the day, take Alaska Sleep Clinic's short, free Insomnia assessment quiz.
About the Author: Joanna has been practising yoga for over 20 years and teaches Bikram Yoga at her local gym. You can read more of her yoga-related articles over at Hobby Help.