Yoga’s Positive Impact on Sleep
None of us are immune to an occasional sleepless night. However, if you’re staring at the ceiling more often than not, yoga can help. The mental and physical benefits of yoga improve your health and have some surprisingly amazing effects on the mind. They all come together to reduce stress, inflammation, and help you fully relax so you can get some sleep.
Illness, injury, aging, and daily wear and tear can create inflammation in any of the body’s tissues. Inflammation is your immune system responding exactly as it’s designed to when faced with injury. However, sometimes the immune system causes more inflammation than necessary or even causes it in the wrong places. The consequent swelling, soreness, and achiness it brings may go beyond what is needed for normal healing.
And, all that achiness can get in the way of sleep.
Yoga has been shown to reduce inflammation in some pretty incredible ways. An Ohio State University study found that a regular yoga routine can lower the number of inflammatory proteins in the blood, particularly the kind caused by stress and aging. In the study, yoga successfully reduced the inflammatory response both before and during a stressful event. That would give you the power to not only reduce your stress but lower your stress levels in the face of adversity.
Use Yoga to Get a Headstart on Stress
Yoga’s ability to rein in inflammation relies in part on how it affects stress levels, and anything that reduces stress benefits sleep. Without enough sleep, the area of the brain that processes emotions becomes hypersensitive to negative experiences and thoughts. It also has less of an ability to apply logic and reasoning when sleep deprived, which often causes increased irritability, aggression, sadness, and anxiety.
Reducing stress, and its related inflammation through yoga, allows the mind and body to relax. Yoga can help you break a stress/sleep deprivation cycle that can go on for days or weeks. Plus, it gives you a head start on stress management.
Better Health Means Better Sleep
Yoga is a form of exercise, and a healthier body sleeps better. For example, a 2017 study found that yoga can successfully be used to lower body mass index (BMI). Obesity or those with a high BMI are more likely to have sleep apnea or other sleep disorders caused or influenced by weight gain.
The same study also found that regularly practicing yoga can reduce blood pressure. If stress is at the center of your high blood pressure, yoga can help bring them both back under control. Bringing down that blood pressure creates ideal conditions for a calm mind and body, which, of course, can fall asleep faster.
Mingling Meditation with Exercise
As you hold poses, that focus on the in and out movement and sound of your breath is meditative in nature. Meditation can restore the balance between the brain’s logic and emotional centers, which further reduces stress, and, once again, contributes to better sleep.
Deep breathing and gentle yoga poses might be the perfect addition to your bedtime routine. They can be done in bed propped up with a supportive pillow or next to your bed if you need to let out more physical tension.
Whether you decide to try gentle yoga before bed or a more vigorous form as part of a morning routine, it can all come back to benefit your sleep. With sleep on your side, your body will be rejuvenated and strengthened so you’re fully prepared for everything the day brings.
By Ellie Porter at sleephelp.org