Yoga and meditation are known to aid well-being, by keeping you healthy, active, and calm. According to Dr Deepak Mittal, Founder and Meditation Expert, Divine Soul Yoga, these are ancient restorative sciences that promote holistic healing of the mind, soul, and body.
Apart from their many known health benefits, did you know that yoga and meditation can also help you get a good night’s sleep? “Yoga helps settle the mind and rest the body. When the body and mind are in a restful state it makes it easier to drift off,” Dr Narendra Shetty, Chief Wellness Officer, Kshemavana said.
“A study in the journal BMC Psychiatry found a direct link between time spent in yoga class and improved quality of sleep. Older adults who incorporate yoga into daily routines also experience better sleep and quality of life over the short and long term,” according to sleepassociation.org.
Dr Shetty added that it is the human mind’s tendency to get caught up in thoughts, especially at the end of the day. These constant thoughts about external interactions and emotional situations severely impact sleep.
Elaborating, Dr Rajeev Rajesh, Chief Yoga Officer, Jindal Naturecure Institute said that our autonomic nervous system is under excessive pressure at the workplace due to the prevalence of stress and worry. “Not only can stress and anxiety affect fundamental bodily functions like digestion, blood flow, heart rate, and breathing, but they also interfere with sleep and impair attention, creativity, clarity, and concentration. Productivity is affected by each of these problems, both directly and indirectly,” he said, adding that yoga and meditation help regulate blood pressure, digestion, stress levels, and immune function, thereby, inducing peaceful sleep.
Adding, Dr Shetty elucidated how meditation, in particular, helps one sleep better. When we meditate, we progressively let go of the experiences of the day, detaching ourselves from the events and their emotional imprints in our mind, he explained.
“This process of detaching the practitioner from the actual experiences helps to create internal harmony. Meditation activates the brain’s parts that induce sleep and reduce heart rate and blood pressure. It increases the production of the sleep hormone, melatonin, thereby improving the quality of sleep.”
While there are many asanas that boast of sleep-inducing benefits, Yoga Nidra is a special recuperative technique wherein sleep is used as a meditation process for healing purposes. Also known as ‘yogic sleep’ or ‘effortless relaxation’, “it is a guided process wherein experts direct practitioners into a deep state of relaxation that stands on the edge of waking and sleeping, which results in calming the nervous system down,” Dr Mittal said.
In a study on the effects of Yoga Nidra on sleep, the morning practice has been found to increase parasympathetic drive at night causing sleep to be more restorative, which may explain significant improvement in sleep-quality ratings.
Unlike other yoga activities, it doesn’t involve performing asanas. “Instead, it’s about relaxing, getting into a meditative state of mind and going into conscious sleep. While in meditation one is awake, in yogic sleep it’s possible to enter a state of bliss which is deeply healing; the mind and body are relaxed while the consciousness is awake,” he explained.
Dr Rajesh listed the following benefits of Yoga Nidra
*Enhancement of cognitive abilities
*Increases self-esteem and confidence
*Increases attention and clarity of mind, as well as Mindfulness
*Improves sleep quality and overall health
*Reduces the symptoms of stress, anxiety, depression, chronic pain, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Mindfulness meditation and sleep
Mindfulness meditation — a specific type of meditation — has also been shown to “reduce ruminative thoughts, reduce emotional reactivity, and promote objective reappraisal of salient experiences, all of which may aid in sleep,” Dr Shetty said. Several studies have found that mindfulness meditation can improve sleep quality in a variety of clinical populations suffering from sleep disorders. As such, according to research published in JAMA Internal Medicine, people practising mindfulness meditation had less insomnia, fatigue, and depression at the end of the six sessions.
While practising mindfulness, you remain fully present, aware of where you are and what you are doing. It can be done in almost every activity that we perform during the day — whether it is taking a bath, eating food or travelling.
The expert suggested beginning with 5-10 minutes of awareness practice.
Some yoga asanas to help you sleep better
The experts suggested the following yoga poses to sleep better.
*Viparita Karani or Legs-up-the-Wall
*Supta Baddha Konasana or Reclined Butterfly
*Balasana or Child’s Pose
*Shavasana or Corpse Pose
*Utthanasana or Standing Forward Bend
(Next in the series: What is the right position to sleep?)