7 Easy Yoga Moves For Restful Sleep
By Sophie M.
June 17, 2020
Sleep doesn't come so easily for me. It's usually a daily struggle of tossing and turning for about an hour before the mind decides it's done for the day and I'm off to dreamland.
Difficulty falling asleep is part of insomnia and our increasingly digital life is making it more common. About 1 in 4 Americans develop insomnia each year.
What happens when you don't get enough sleep?
If you're waking up feeling tired, moody and yawn throughout the day, your body hasn't rested well throughout the night. Apart from general fatigue and crankiness, lack of sleep can wreak havoc on your health.
- It weakens the immune system. The deepest stage of sleep, or healing stage, is when physiological changes happen to boost the body's immune system.
- It can cause weight gain. Hormones like ghrelin and leptin that regulate feelings of fullness and hunger are thrown off balance, leading to more cravings of sweet and fatty foods.
- It can affect your mental health. Insomnia and sleep problems increase the risk of developing depression.
How can I sleep better at night naturally?
Your body is clever at adapting to a routine. Developing good habits before bed or 'sleep hygiene', to prepare yourself to sleep is a great way to signal to your body that the day is over and it's time to rest.
Stimulation control are activities or conditions that signal to the body that it's time for bed. Some good habits to try include not using your phone an hour before sleeping, using blackout curtains to block out any light, going to bed and rising the same time, and avoiding heavy meals and alcohol before bed.
Relaxation techniques help to calm the mind and body. Deep breathing exercises and meditating before bed clears the mind and lowers anxiety to help you sleep faster. It might also give you clearer skin!
Now add these simple yoga stretches below to unwind before bed.
1. Breath Work
Sit or lie down comfortably. Take long deep inhales through the nose and feel the belly expand. Hold for 3 seconds. Exhale slowly through the nose. Repeat 10x or until you feel relaxed.
2. Child's Pose
Kneel with knees hip-width apart. On an exhale, fold over and extend arms forward. Relax shoulders completely. Relax in pose for 10 breaths.
3. Cat Cow
On all fours, keep knees hip-width apart and hands directly below your shoulders.
Cow pose: Inhale as you drop your belly and lift your gaze and tail bone towards the ceiling.
Cat pose: Exhale as you slowly tuck your chin towards your chest, round your spine and tuck your tailbone in.
Complete 10 breath cycles.
4. Forward Fold
Bend forward from the hips. Focus on bringing chest to thigh, instead of reaching your toes. Relax shoulders and keep your back straight. Stay in pose for 10 breaths.
5. Leg Raise
Slowly raise your legs and rest them against the wall. Use a pillow to support your lower back. Breathe into the pose for 10-breath cycles. If your legs are prone to swelling in the day, relax in this pose for 10 minutes.
6. Knee To Chest
Gently raise one knee at a time toward your chest. Relax completely here for 10 breaths.
Lie down with palm facing upward. Do a body scan - think about each body part and intentionally focus on relaxing it. Breathe deeply into this pose for as long as you like, or until you drift off.
What are some benefits of stretching before bed?
- Relaxes the muscles by releasing muscle tension from the workday.
- De-stresses you and takes the body out of the “fight-or -flight” stress response.
- Yoga poses with deep breathing and meditation help us to practice mindfulness instead of poor late-night habits such as snacking or mindless phone usage.
- 2:1 breathing naturally slows the heart rate, lowers blood pressure, and induces a deep state of relaxation, making it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep.
- Deep, diaphragmatic breathing rids the body of toxins stored in the tissues.