Health / Sleep

The Benefits of Sleep Yoga (Yoga Nidra): A Guide to Restorative Sleep

Experts share the benefits of sleep yoga.

You know how important sleep is to your overall health and wellness, so you probably aim for the recommended 7-9 hours of shut-eye each night. While this isn’t always attainable, there are many things you can do in your day-to-day life to help foster good sleep habits that encourage you to go to bed at the same time each night and have little-to-no-trouble falling (and staying) asleep.

One of those sleep-enhancing strategies is called sleep yoga, or yoga nidra, which is a type of guided meditation that aims to promote relaxation and, therefore, allow you to achieve better sleep. “Sleep yoga uses reflection and meditation to help calm your mind and rest your body, as well as improve the synergistic connection between body and mind,” explains Jamie Bacharach, Dipl.Ac. of Acupuncture Jerusalem in Israel and yoga instructor. 

Despite its increase in popularity, sleep yoga has actually been around for hundreds of years. In fact, it was derived from the philosophy known as Sankhya, which originates from roughly around 700BC. “As the years went by people expanded this philosophy and included the teachings of Buddha and Patanjali to get what we now call yoga nidra,” Bacharach explains. “This spans an extraordinary spectrum of experience and practical counsel, all pointing to a basic truth: at our core, we are the quiet of awareness, and when investigated, this inner light leads us into the macrocosm and the realization of our unity.”

The benefits of sleep yoga

Here’s a look at some of the ways you can stand to benefit from partaking in sleep yoga, according to experts.

Reduces insomnia

As many as 1 in 3 adults worldwide experience insomnia, per the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a debilitating sleep disorder where patients may have trouble falling and staying asleep or getting good sleep quality over all. “By increasing relaxation and using breathing techniques to promote stillness within the mind, sleep yoga can help you fall asleep faster, sleep for longer without any disturbances and help you to go back to sleep after waking up in the middle of the night,” explains Bacharach. 

Increased relaxation

There’s no denying that we’re living in a high-stress world in which relaxation can, unfortunately, be difficult to achieve. Yoga Nidra can help by guiding individuals through several stages of consciousness, starting from a relaxed waking state and leading to a state of ‘conscious sleep’ during which the individual remains aware of their surroundings, but feels deeply relaxed,” explains Sunjya Schweig, MD, founder and director at the California Center for Functional Medicine. “This practice helps mitigate physical and mental tension, relieve stress, and promote a sense of tranquility that can last long after the session ends.” 

Improved sleep quality

By systematically calming both the mind and body, sleep quality is improved, according to Dr. Schweig. “Sleep yoga creates a bridge to deeper, more restful sleep by helping individuals let go of the day’s stress and prepare their bodies for rest,” he says. “With regular practice, it can help recalibrate disrupted sleep patterns and alleviate conditions like insomnia.” Another interesting point he makes is that, due to the deep rest it provides, it can help individuals wake up feeling more refreshed and revitalized.

Enhanced mindfulness

Countless research has backed the benefits of mindfulness and its ability to foster positive sleep habits. Due to the fact that sleep yoga can increase a person’s general state of awareness, they can carry this level of presentness into their thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations in daily life. “This expanded awareness can help individuals become more connected with their inner selves, leading to better self-understanding, and increased presence and engagement with the world around them,” says Dr. Schweig. 

Reduced stress 

Dr. Schweig explains that the deep restorative rest that one experiences during a session of yoga nidra helps activate the body’s relaxation response while simultaneously quieting the body’s stress response. “This has powerful implications for overall stress management, as it can reduce the physiological impacts of stress (like high blood pressure or heart rate) and promote mental clarity and calm,” he says. “Regular practice can lead to significant reductions in anxiety and stress levels, which in turn can lower the risk of stress-related conditions, improve mental and physical health, and enhance well-being.”

Emotional healing

Believe it or not, but yoga nidra can help heal emotional trauma as well by providing participants with a safe place in which to explore their inner thoughts and emotions. “Its guided practice can allow individuals to confront and acknowledge emotional upheavals or traumas, and, with continued practice, begin to diminish their impacts,” says Dr. Schweig. “By fostering a sense of acceptance and equanimity, yoga nidra can promote emotional resilience, helping individuals process emotional experiences more effectively and leading to greater emotional stability and mental health.”

Improved physical wellbeing

Since getting adequate amounts of quality sleep is crucial to the overall wellness of your body, yoga nidra can improve your physical health. “During sleep, the body works to repair cells, restore energy, and release hormones that regulate growth and appetite,” says Dr. Schweig. “Quality sleep contributes to a vigorous immune system, aids in tissue repair, and supports heart and blood vessel health.”

Ready to garner the benefits of sleep yoga? Try this “Deep Sleep Yoga Nidra” class by Jade with the Aaptiv app.

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