Sleep deprivation is fast becoming a major public health concern and millions of Americans suffer from insomnia and other sleep disorders. Chronic lack of sleep has been linked to serious health issues such as depression, cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. According to research even getting an hour less than the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep can shorten life span. To save themselves from such harmful effects of insomnia, a lot of people turn to sleep aids such as sleeping pills and even alcohol but what’s worse is that even they have their own side effects can further trigger health issues.
Yoga is a gentle and restorative way to help you settle for sleep by unwinding yourself after a long hectic day. According to a survey 85% people who did yoga said it helped reduce stress and 55% found that it helped them sleep better.
By calming the sympathetic nervous system and quieting the mind, yoga works both ways to help you sleep better. According to Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School and author of Harvard Medical School ebook Your Brain on Yoga, Dr Sat Bir Khalsa, “Yoga is an effective treatment because it addresses Indonesia’s physical and psychological aspects”.
Dr. Khalsa conducted a study along with other researchers at the Harvard Medical School to investigate the impact of a bedtime yoga regime on the sleep quality of people suffering from chronic insomnia.
The study included 20 participants suffering from different types of insomnia, including primary and secondary insomnia. People suffering from primary insomnia having difficulty falling asleep and wake up frequently during the night. This sleeplessness problem is not attributed to any medical condition or sleep disorder. Secondary insomnia on the other hand is sleeplessness as a result of some medical condition such as cancer, depression, hormonal imbalance etc. Medications taken to cure certain health conditions can also trigger secondary insomnia.
The 20 participants were asked to maintain a sleep wake diary for two weeks after which they were given a basic yoga training session and were taught breathing, meditation and mantra. They were then asked to practice yoga every night before bed and maintain a sleep diary for another eight weeks. At the end, the researchers evaluated the participants’ sleep efficiency, total sleep time, total wake time, sleep onset latency, wake time after sleep onset, number of awakenings, and sleep quality measures by analyzing the information in their sleep wake diaries and found a significant improvement in all of these areas. The study showed that yoga can really help relieve chronic insomnia.
Yoga and mindful meditation can also help to relieve sleep problems among the elderly. Sleep disturbances are most prevalent among the elderly and are seldom treated. Treatment options are limited and basic meditation practices can prove to be an easy solution. According to a recent study conducted in 2015 by researchers at the University of Southern California, mindful meditation can significantly improve sleep quality and daytime impairment among older adults with sleep disturbances. The study included 2 groups of elderly participants with a mean age of 66 years and moderate sleep disturbances. One group was asked to develop mindful awareness practices (MAP) such as meditation and breathing exercises and the other group was asked to practice sleep hygiene exercises (SHE) such as avoiding caffeine and nicotine close to bedtime, avoiding daytime naps and so on. Both groups received 2 hours per week of assigned homework. After 6 weeks the researchers evaluated the sleep quality of both groups and found that the MAP group had significantly lower insomnia, fatigue and depression symptoms as compared to the SHE group.
Another research study conducted by the Federal University of Sao Paulo shows that a specific sequence of yoga helps to increase quality of life and relieve insomnia in postmenopausal women. The study included 44 participants between the age of 50 and 65 years, who were not undergoing any hormone therapy. The participants were randomly assigned to 3 different groups, yoga, passive stretching and no treatment for 4 months. The participants were given questionnaires before and 4 months after the grouping to evaluate daytime sleepiness and insomnia severity as well as quality of life, anxiety, depression and climacteric symptoms. The results showed that the yoga group had significantly lower insomnia severity and higher scores for quality of life and resistance phase of stress compared to both the control and passive stretching groups.
More and more scientific studies are now proving yoga to have a positive impact on reducing insomnia and improving quality of sleep. So if you’re looking for a drug free solution to help you sleep better, yoga is the answer.
About Eugene Gabriel
Eugene Gabriel is a passionate blogger. He has always been fascinated by sleep and how it relates to health and wellness. Read his post on Getting Better Sleep. You can follow him on twitter @eugenegabrielj.