Insomnia is a common sleep disorder. In fact, 95 percent of adults experience insomnia at some point in our lives, and 33 percent typically experience insomnia each year. With insomnia, we often suffer from sleepiness, fatigue, decreased alertness and performance, poor concentration, and difficulty with mood. It typically results in an overall degradation in quality of life and makes it difficult to function each day.
There are many causes behind insomnia, including stress, mental health, and physical health. There are also many solutions for insomnia, and these can include meditation and yoga practice.
How Yoga and Meditation Helps With Sleep
Yoga and meditation can help with insomnia by offering exercise, relaxation, and the ability to clear your mind of worry and anxiety that may keep you up at night. These practices are known for reducing stress, which can help alleviate the symptoms of insomnia.
When we practice yoga or meditation, we trigger a physiological relaxation response in the parasympathetic nervous system (the "rest and digest" system). This response reduces psychological distress and results in physical changes including decreased oxygen consumption and increased exhaled nitric oxide. Brain wave patterns slow down, muscle tension and heart rate decrease, and blood pressure falls.
The relaxation response has been found to mitigate depression and anxiety (which can cause insomnia), as well as insomnia itself. It can offer an improved sense of well being. Practiced regularly, meditation and yoga can support positive genetic alterations with anti oxidation and anti inflammatory changes that can counteract the effect of stress on your body.
Mindfulness meditation in particular has been found to help fight insomnia. A 2015 clinical trial compared the effectiveness of mindfulness and sleep education at fighting insomnia, and found that meditation was more effective in improving sleep quality. In the study, mindfulness was effective in reducing daytime fatigue and depression symptoms as well.
Using Yoga and Meditation to Beat Insomnia
Add yoga to your bedtime routine no matter where you are. A consistent bedtime routine is excellent for supporting healthy sleep, and yoga is a good choice for bedtime routine activities. Try a few easy, relaxing poses before you head off to bed. Integrate mindfulness meditation into your yoga practice, using mindful breathing to put your focus on your breath instead of the worries of the day.
Practice mindfulness meditation in bed before sleep. Meditation and relaxation can continue on your mattress with progressive muscle relaxation and counting meditation. These practices may be effective in helping you drift off to sleep and especially helpful with clearing anxiety and thoughts that might otherwise keep you up at night. Mindful breathing with the 4-7-8 method can be relaxing. Inhale through your nose for a four count, hold your breath for a seven count, then exhale through your mouth for an eight count, repeating and focusing on your breath as it moves through your body.
Make yoga and meditation your go-to stress relievers. Of course, yoga and meditation can be used throughout the day to relieve stress, which can alleviate insomnia. When you feel the fight or flight response kicking in, even a few moments of mindful breathing can drastically reduce stress. You can also simply focus on your breath and counting to 100 or as far as you need to in order to calm down and trigger the relaxation response.
Lovely guest yogini pic by Michelle Rene @myshellbythesea.