For people struggling with insomnia, practicing yoga may promote sounder sleep. A mind-body practice with roots in ayurveda (the traditional medicine of India), yoga combines physical postures, deep breathing, and meditation to help relax the body and mind. Some research shows that yoga may help reduce stress and manage certain health conditions (including high blood pressure and depression, in addition to sleep problems).
Yoga for Sleep
Because stress often contributes to sleep problems, it's thought that yoga may help foster healthier sleep by reducing stress levels. Although only a few studies have tested yoga's effects on sleep, the existing research suggests that yoga may offer some benefit in treatment of sleep troubles. Here's a look at several key study findings:
1) Yoga for Insomnia
In a 2004 preliminary study involving 20 people with chronic insomnia, researchers found that eight weeks of daily yoga practice led to significant improvements in several sleep-related factors (such as total sleep time and number of awakenings in the middle of the night).
2) Yoga for Sleep During Pregnancy
Yoga may help ease sleep problems among pregnant women, according to a 2010 study. For the study, 15 women in their second or third trimesters attended weekly mindfulness meditation and prenatal yoga classes for seven weeks. Study results showed that participants who took up yoga in their second trimester had significant improvement in sleep, but that those who began the yoga program in their third trimester had poorer sleep in spite of their meditation/yoga practice.
3) Yoga for Sleep in Older Populations
Yoga may promote sounder sleep among older adults, according to a 2010 study of 69 elderly residents of assisted-living facilities. Compared to a control group, study members who took part in three 70-minute yoga sessions each week for six months had significant improvements in sleep quality (as well as a decrease in depression and daytime dysfunction).
4) Yoga for Sleep in Cancer Patients
Sleep problems are common among people coping with cancer. In a 2004 study of 39 lymphoma patients, researchers found that those who participated in seven weekly yoga sessions had significantly less sleep disturbance (compared to those assigned to a waitlist). However, there was no difference between the two groups in terms of anxiety, depression, or fatigue.
Should You Use Yoga for Sleep Problems?
If you have trouble sleeping at least three nights a week for more than a month, talk to your doctor about how to treat your sleep problems. While yoga practice could help you find sounder sleep, you may need to use other therapies and make certain lifestyle changes in order to effectively alleviate your insomnia.
Learn more about natural solutions for healthy sleep.
Relying solely on yoga in treatment of any health condition is not recommended. It should also be noted that yoga is not likely to deliver any immediate health benefits, and that regular, long-term practice may be required.
Beddoe AE, Lee KA, Weiss SJ, Kennedy HP, Yang CP. "Effects of mindful yoga on sleep in pregnant women: a pilot study." Biol Res Nurs. 2010 11(4):363-70.
Chen KM, Chen MH, Lin MH, Fan JT, Lin HS, Li CH. "Effects of yoga on sleep quality and depression in elders in assisted living facilities." J Nurs Res. 2010 18(1):53-61.
Cohen L, Warneke C, Fouladi RT, Rodriguez MA, Chaoul-Reich A. "Psychological adjustment and sleep quality in a randomized trial of the effects of a Tibetan yoga intervention in patients with lymphoma." Cancer. 2004 15;100(10):2253-60.
Khalsa SB. "Treatment of chronic insomnia with yoga: a preliminary study with sleep-wake diaries." Appl Psychophysiol Biofeedback. 2004 29(4):269-78.
National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. "Yoga for Health: An Introduction". NCCAM Publication No. D412. May 2008.