Yoga, including physical poses, breathing techniques, and meditation, can help calm down a busy mind and get rid of nervous energy. Yoga has both energizing (brahmana in Sanskrit) and calming (langhana) elements, and the combination of the two can help a sense of balance. Yoga also helps you become more aware of the mental and physical states that are preventing sleep. Yoga can be safely integrated with the current main form of therapy for insomnia: cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I).
Yoga, meditation, and other mindfulness have been shown to improve sleep in several studies, including helping people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, military veterans, the elderly, and nurses. Yoga also can improve sleep quality in people with physical illnesses, including osteoarthritis, breast cancer, Parkinson’s disease, and irritable bowel syndrome. A recent national randomized controlled study found that a yoga program that integrates poses, breathing, and meditation improves overall sleep quality and memory in cancer survivors.
One study used focus groups to find out how mindfulness changes sleep. Several people found that mindfulness helped them relax so that they could “just decompress and fall asleep.” One person experienced immediate effects:
My sleep was almost immediately, positively impacted though I didn’t sleep longer, but I slept better. So, I woke up more refreshed even though I wasn’t sleeping more, and that happened for me very quickly.Mindfulness also increased awareness of disruptions. One person stopped using the phone at night and reported becoming “possessive of my winding down time.”
Participants also noticed that consistent practice is key:
I couldn’t meditate during the vacation. And I noticed that the benefits left me. I came back home and here was the chatter all back again, “I shouldn’t have said that. Shouldn’t have done that. I said the wrong thing to that person.”…It was all back.
And as I went to lay down and go to sleep I couldn’t go to sleep. And when I do the meditation that chatter goes away. And I can’t even say how it goes away, it just goes away. I lay down at night, and I’m not chattery.“Body scan? That’s sort of everybody’s enemy or best friend at some point. I remember I really hated it at first,” one person observed. Not everyone will enjoy the same elements of yoga. You might find it difficult to sit still in meditation, or you might find poses repetitive. But just because it feels frustrating, you can find rewards over time.
So find what works best for you, and keep in mind that your experience of the identical exercise will change day to day. Continue reading >>