By featured writer Ellie Porter, Managing Editor | SleepHelp.org
The connection between stress and sleep loss is no secret. However, the body isn’t meant to maintain the prolonged stress levels that have become part of modern life. Everything from the muscles to adrenal glands go into overdrive when stressed.
Getting and keeping stress under control not only helps your current mental state but your long-term health and ability to sleep. A regular yoga routine is an effective way to manage stress and other factors that contribute to sleeplessness.
What Happens During Sleep Deprivation?
To fully understand the benefits of yoga, we have to look at what happens to the body during sleep deprivation:
Slow Brain Functions: Neurons in the brain slow down, which means reaction times, decision-making skills, and reasoning abilities slow down too.
Appetite and Metabolism Control: The body releases more hunger hormones and fewer satiety hormones when the body is tired. That often leads to overeating, unwanted weight gain, and obesity, which comes many other health problems.
Immune System Goes Down: The immune system doesn’t function as well when sleep deprived. It doesn’t have the time necessary to heal the body nor to recharge itself, leading to more illnesses that last longer.
Changes in Memory: Without adequate sleep, the brain can’t make important connections between old memories and new experiences. It makes it harder for you to use what you already know to navigate new problems or challenges.
The effects of sleep deprivation go on and on. However, yoga is one way to reduce stress and improve your ability to fall asleep.
Reducing Stress and Improving Health
Both stress and sleep deprivation cause inflammation, wherein the body releases proteins that lead to achiness, redness, and/or swelling. Everything from a cut to a splinter in your finger can trigger an inflammatory response, and, of course, stress.
A regular yoga routine has been shown to reduce levels of inflammation in both beginner and expert practitioners. Yoga has also been used to help inflammation in cancer patients who experience chronic pain and nurses who suffer from sleep deprivation and stress.
Yoga can also help with anxiety and depression. It doesn’t seem to matter whether you use a strenuous yoga routine for exercise or a quiet, relaxing one to help calm mind and body; both work for improving mood control. The combination of controlled breathing with yoga poses reduces your heart rate, lowers blood pressure, and improves respiration all of which contribute to better mood regulation.
Using Yoga for Better Sleep
Whether it’s stress reduction or mood improvement that helps you sleep better, yoga can be an invaluable asset to getting the shut-eye you need. While doing yoga at any time of day can work wonders for your mental and physical health, when used as part of a bedtime routine, you can help your body prepare for deep, restful sleep.
For a bedtime routine to be effective, you first need to make sure you have the right conditions in your bedroom.If you want do some yoga positions on your bed, make sure that you have a firm mattress that doesn’t sink and lead to overstretching. The room should be kept dark, quiet, and at a comfortably cool 60-68 degrees for optimal sleep conditions.
If stress keeps you awake, you may want to start your routine by writing down the events you’re worried about. Journal writing can also be used to focus the mind on gratitude and other positive thoughts, which help in stress relief. After relieving the mind of stressful thoughts, there are several gentle yoga poses that can be performed while in bed like child’s pose or legs up the wall pose. Not all yoga is the same and some poses might be far too stimulating before sleep. They can get your heart raising and make it harder to relax.
Using the right poses when using yoga, along deep meditative breathing, they can release tension and stress so you can successfully drift off to sleep.
Yoga can be a useful tool, but if you’re not sure on how best to use it to get to sleep, you might want to seek out a yoga teacher who can help you with your sleep prep routine. iRest® meditation, a research and evidence-based practice, can help you sleep better. Remember, it’s important that you find the poses that suit your needs, and the best way to do that is through kind, gentle and understanding guidance.