A good night’s sleep is important for both physical as well as mental health, but many people today suffer from sleep-related problems. The prevalence of these problems suggests that people are discounting the importance of sleep.
An estimated 50 to 70 million adults in the United States have sleep or wakefulness disorders, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Trouble sleeping can be due to stress, a change in location, a side effect of medication, an illness, pain or other factors. When poor sleep is a regular occurrence, it can take a toll on your mood, energy, productivity, and ability to handle stress.
Popping one sleeping pill after another is not the solution. Your body becomes addicted to such drugs, and you will soon find that you are unable to go to sleep without them.
For a natural approach to ensure sound sleep, yoga is very beneficial. This traditional form of meditation and exercise therapy helps calm you and relax your body, so that you can easily go to sleep in a peaceful state of mind.
It’s a good idea to do these poses on a soft carpet or yoga mat to reduce strain on your body.
Here are some great yoga exercises that can help you sleep better.
1. Child’s Pose (Balasana)
This simple yoga exercise helps you focus your thoughts and energies inward, while drowning out sounds and concerns of the outside world. It has a calming effect on the whole body.
This pose stretches and relieves tension in the muscles of the lower back, hips and thighs.
This restorative pose also helps release stress, one of the main causes of poor sleep.
- Kneel on the floor with your knees hip-width apart and hands on the floor.
- Touch your big toes together.
- Take in deep breaths and slowly exhale. Focus on your breathing as you let all worries and thoughts slip away.
- With your final exhalation, slowly lower your upper torso.
- Rest your upper body on your thighs and let your forehead touch the floor.
- Stretch your arms out in front of you, keeping them in line with your shoulders and placing your palms flat on the floor.
- Maintain this position for up to 1 minute.
- Inhale and slowly raise your upper body, keeping your arms stretched out.
- Exhale as you lower your arms.
Do this once as a part of your daily regime before going to bed.
Practice this yoga pose at least 3 hours after your last meal, as your stomach and bowels should be empty for this exercise.
Caution: Pregnant women and those with recent or chronic injury to the knees should not practice this pose.
2. Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana)
This is another stretching pose that helps relieve stiffness in your back, hip and thigh muscles, while freeing your mind from daily stress and anxiety.
This pose is an essential part of Sun Salutation or Surya Namaskar Pose.
- Stand up straight, with your hands by your side and feet shoulder-width apart.
- Take in a deep breath as you slowly raise your hands toward the ceiling.
- Exhale while slowly bending your upper body from your hip joints.
- Keeping your knees straight, stretch out your fingers and try to touch your toes. In the beginning, just try to stretch down as much as you can.
- Maintain this position for 5 to 10 breaths.
- Inhale as you gradually return your upper body to starting position.
- Exhale and lower your arms to your sides.
- Repeat 5 to 10 times for restful sleep.
Caution: Those who have had recent back or knee surgery should not do this yoga pose.
3. Sitting Forward Fold (Paschimottanasana)
This is another effective yoga exercise that helps you to sleep better. You can perform it right before going to bed.
It helps stretches the spine, shoulders and hamstrings, thus releasing tension and relaxing your body.
- Sit on the floor, keeping your back upright.
- Stretch your legs out in front of you, keeping them together and pointing your toes upward.
- Maintain the position such that your body forms a 90-degree angle.
- Take a deep breath and raise your arms toward the ceiling.
- Exhale and slowly bend from your waist, keeping your arms stretched out.
- Continue bending down until your fingertips touch your toes.
- Stretch out your upper body, including your head, neck and ribs.
- Stay in this position for 1 to 3 minutes.
- Inhale and slowly raise your upper body back to its original position.
- Exhale as you lower your arms.
- Repeat the process 10 to 12 times for a restful, long night’s sleep.
Caution: Those with asthma or diarrhea issues should not practice this pose.