Many people struggle to sleep well at night – 36% of adults in the UK say they suffer from poor sleep at least once a week. A lack of sleep can have an impact on your mood, your body and your mental health. The average person should be spending around a third of their life sleeping so it’s important that we sleep well in order to live well!
The popularity of Matthew Walker’s ‘Why We Sleep’ book (you can listen to an excerpt here) a few years ago gave many people a better understanding of the importance of sleep, but there’s still much to be learnt. In his words, “there is no major physiological system of the body or major operation of the brain that isn’t wonderfully enhanced by sleep when we get it or demonstrably impaired when we don’t get enough.”.
So, sleep is important but can yoga help with sleep?
In short, the answer is yes. According to the Sleep Foundation, a survey found that over 55% of people who did yoga found that it helped them get better sleep. They state that even occasional yoga practice will likely improve sleep quality more than no practice at all. However, regular, long-term practitioners experience better sleep quality.
Here’s why it’s thought it helps:
– Stretching of muscles: one possible explanation for better sleep quality is that yoga exercises involve stretching and relaxing of muscles causing significant physical and mental exertion resulting in less sleep latency, more deep sleep, less sleep disturbances, and better sleep efficiency. (National Library for Medicine)
– It can boost circulation: certain postures can aid blood flow and healthy circulation can have many benefits, including improved sleep
– Focus on breathing: breathwork is a fundamental part of yoga and paying attention to your breath and practicing slow, deep breathing can help to calm the mind and nervous system
So, if you needed another reason to do yoga, then look no further.
What yoga postures can I try before bed for better sleep?
Our Hotpod Flow classes are vinyasa-based and because we practise in the heat at Hotpod Yoga, will elevate the heart rate so, when done at least several hours before bedtime, can help you sleep better at night. However, if you wish to practise yoga nearer to bedtime you will find a slower and restorative type of yoga more suitable.
Here’s some postures you can try at home (we recommend doing on a mat or a rug on the floor, rather than in bed) and having a folded blanket handy:
– Gently come onto your back
– Slowly raise your legs so they are at a 90 degree angle with the floor
– Keep the lower back grounded on the floor
– Find a comfortable position for your arms, let the shoulders relax
– If it’s helpful you can add a folded blanket or yoga block underneath your tailbone (flat part at the bottom of your back)
– Or, you can do this against a wall for support
– Allow your eyes to close
– Stay here for 10 long breaths in and out
– Lie down on your back
– Slowly bend your legs so the soles of your feet are facing the ceiling and your hands are either around the back of your thighs, ankles or or the outside (pinky toe) edges of your feet
– Try to ensure your lower back is still in contact with the floor and it’s not lifting up. If it is, bring your legs wider or try changing your hand position (maybe bring to backs of thighs)
– Gently tuck your chin so you’re keeping the length at the back of your neck long
– Stay here for 10 long breaths in and out
– Every time you exhale, see whether you can bring your tailbone (very bottom of your spine) closer to the floor
– Lie down with with your back on the floor and bend your knees, placing the soles of your feet on the floor
– Reach your arms out to the side (like a capital T) with palms facing down
– Shift your hips slightly to the right and bring your knees over the the left. If your knees don’t touch the floor, you can always put a blanket underneath
– Gently keep your shoulder blades pressing towards the floor
– Bring your gaze towards your right hand, if it’s comfortable. If not, find a point on the ceiling to focus on and maybe close your eyes
– Stay here for ten long controlled breaths, relaxing more into the floor with each exhale
– Take a final inhale, and exhale to roll back to centre and release your legs to the floor
– Repeat on the other side (swapping your right for left)
– Lie down with with your back on the floor
– Try bringing your feet wider than hip width (about the width of a yoga mat if you have one). Let your feet flop out to either side in a comfortable position
– Bring your arms out to the side, wider than your mat if you are using one. Turn your palms to face upwards towards the ceiling, allowing fingers to gently curl in
– Tuck your chin slightly so your spine feels long
– Relax your jaw, tongue and any tension being held in the face
– The aim is to be as comfortable as possible, so make any adjustments to make sure this is the case. To help ease the lower back you can bend your knees and press the soles of the feet into the floor
– Take a deep breath in through your nose and exhale through your mouth
– Repeat this step one or two times
– Now start to find some stillness
– Close your eyes and let your breath come and go naturally
– Stay in this position for as long as you like, but aim for at least five minutes
– When you are ready, don’t just get straight up, slowly start to awaken the body by wiggling the fingers and toes
– Blink your eyes open
– Slowly come to sitting
– Take a moment to notice how you are feeling and try and take that feeling with you into the rest of your bedtime routine
What else can help?
We know that the environment can be as important for getting the right vibe for sleep (anyone who’s been to one of our classes will know we take the environment inside the pod very seriously!). Here’s some tips we use in the pod which you can use to help create an extra relaxing space at home are:
– Lighting: we love the glowing purple hue of the pod and whilst that may be difficult to recreate at home, avoiding bright light exposure before you sleep can help. So, dim the lighting in your room as you prepare to go to bed
– Unplug: we encourage everyone to leave their phones outside the pod when they practice. So at home, try leaving your phone in a different room or, if you need it for your alarm, put it face down out of reach so you’re not tempted by that blue light
– Music: we handpick our playlists to get the mood and pace just right. If you have our app then you can playback your last HPY class using the Hotpod Sounds link, or search ‘Hotpod Yoga’ on Spotify to find some of our favourite tunes to relax to
– Scent: scent really can be evocative so why not give your space a spritz of something that calms you, like our Atmosphere Spray or even try a couple of drops of our body oil on your temples before sleep
We hope you find this useful! Hotpod Yoga studios across the UK will be hosting Sleep Sessions in aid of the mental health charity Mind for World Mental Heath Day on Sunday 9th October 2022. Book to join a session at your local studio here.