Sleep expert Olivia Arezzolo explains the science behind yoga for better sleep.
Yoga bonds girls and guys all around the world in a collective ‘om’. It helps us feel more relax and connects us to our inner zen.
But, did you know that it’s also a weapon for sleep?
That’s right! Your favourite exercise style is a remedy for sleepless nights, restless sleep and anxiety, and the proof is in the pudding. Introducing your new go-to strategy to sleep better, as guided by your resident sleep expert.
Like what you see? Sign up to our bodyandsoul.com.au newsletter for more stories like this.
What does the research say?
First up, a recent clinical trial found 3 months of yoga, enabled individuals to sleep for an hour longer. Those individuals also, understandably, felt more rested upon waking.
This study compared those individuals against those receiving an Ayurvedic formula – which interestingly presented no change. The experiment also analysed those against a wait list – who, as you may suspect, also had no change.
Along similar lines, another academic study noted yoga can promote deeper sleep, as in, more time spent in slow wave and REM sleep. So you’re across it, this type of sleep is critical for growth hormone production, which is key to repair of bodily tissues after everyday wear and tear.
This research also noted an increase heart rate variability (HRV), a key indicator of relaxation and restoration during sleep. In perspective, both an increase in deep sleep, and higher HRV, result in you feeling more rested and rejuvenated when you wake in the morning.
When to do it, and for how long?
Ideally, you want to practice yoga for at least an hour once a week for minimal results, more if you want greater improvements.
Especially in lockdown while we are all WFH, from a professional standpoint, I would encourage at least 3 times a week. It won’t only help your sleep, but mood and anxiety too, so it’s worth it.
When to do it boils down to when it suits you best. If a morning practice works, do that. Evening, do that. Lunchtime? Do that. Fit it into your schedule when it’s most appropriate and you’ll sustain the practice – which is key to seeing results.
What style is best?
Any style that encourages deep breathing, mindfulness, and mind body connection, so, all of them. Akin to the above, find the style that suits you – be it an upbeat ashtanga, a nourishing yin or something in between, like hatha or vinyasa.
By trying them all, you get to find what suits you best, which is again what you’ll maintain long term.
Second to that, by trying different styles you can support a few of your local yoga teachers in their online classes, who are currently facing restrictions in operating their business. So not only will you sleep better, they will too.