We all know instinctively that sleep is good for us. After all, when you wake up after a great night’s sleep you feel like you can take on the world. However, thanks to recent breakthroughs in medical research we’re beginning to understand exactly how good for us sleep truly is. Unfortunately just as we are learning this as a society we have never slept worse. One study suggests that eighty years ago only 8% of the population regularly got less than six hours a night, in 2017 that number was up to almost 50%.
There are many things we can do to help improve our odds of getting a good night’s rest, from avoiding caffeine and alcohol in the evening, to going to be at a similar time each and every evening. Yes, that includes weekends before you ask.
There is one very useful addition to your daily routine that is proven to have a substantial impact on how well you will sleep and that’s yoga. Read on below and see the top four ways in which yoga improves the quantity and quality of your slumber.
Yoga helps us to destress
Why is that when we climb into bed, pull the sheets over our tired body and lay our head upon the pillow our brain suddenly bursts into action? Instead of feeling tired we feel the opposite, we feel wired. We lie awake as our brain replays the days events, pointing out our mistakes and how they are going to come back and haunt us. We toss and turn and worry about the following day, even when there’s nothing at all to worry about. This is our monkey mind and it’s constant simian chattering is the anathema to quality sleep.
Yoga can help us get control of this chattering by helping us destress and calm an overstimulated brain. By focusing on poses and flows we take our mind away from the stresses of work, family or finances. The attention given to deep breathing and gentle stretching are the combine to lower blood pressure and decrease heart rate. The perfect recipe for sleep. Another way to help quieten the voice in your head at night, is to try some useful mind clearing and focusing exercises.
Exercise improves sleep
Daily exercise, whether it is going for a run in the morning, a hike in the afternoon or doing a yoga session in the evening is proven to improve sleep. Charlene Gamaldo, M.D., medical director of Johns Hopkins Center for Sleep explains the relationship between the two, “We have solid evidence that exercise does, in fact, help you fall asleep more quickly and improves sleep quality.”
Like many things related to sleep the exact mechanisms at play aren’t completely understood but it is likely something to do with the reduction of cortisol in our system, also known as the ‘stress hormone’. In addition to the increase of mood enhancing chemicals in the form of endorphins. A thirty minute yoga session, of even the most gentle kind will help you nod off more quickly and stay asleep longer.
Evening yoga is the perfect pre-bed ritual
Many sleep experts speak highly of the benefit of getting into a healthy pre-bed wind down routine. This means logging out and switching off any light emitting device at least an hour before bed, such as your television, tablet or smartphone. In addition to avoiding any potentially stressful activity, such as attempting to complete your tax return or even your child’s algebra homework.
Instead of watching Netflix and scrolling through Facebook before bed the experts suggest adopting a set of simple, low-impact, and importantly easily replicable activities that you can repeat each and every night. This could be laying out your clothes for the following day, listening to music, reading a book, or having a bath. An evening yoga session fits the bills as a perfect pre-bed wind down activity. It’s low impact, it doesn’t require screens and it won’t create any unwanted stress. Quite the opposite, it will help to eradicate any residual anxiety remaining from the day.
Yoga won’t lead to adrenaline spikes
While any exercise is proven to improve the quality of sleep, not all exercises are created equally. Yoga with its concentration of calm, fluid and controlled movements is almost perfectly designed to lull the body into a sleep like state. Especially if you finish your session with a prolonged corpse pose (known as savasana to yogis) and a short meditation practice.Unlike other forms of exercise, pre-bed yoga isn’t likely to lead to spikes in adrenaline that may in fact keep you awake. The same can’t be said for a squash match or weightlifting shortly before bed.
Good night, sweet dreams and namaste!