Sleepless Nights? Practice These Yoga Poses for Better Sleep

Getting enough rest is essential for a happy, healthy life. But the majority of us have trouble getting enough sleep on a regular basis.

One study found that 70% of us aren’t getting enough sleep at least one night per month. And 11% of us aren’t getting enough sleep every single night. 

Lack of sleep can lead to physical and emotional issues including chronic fatigue, inability to concentrate, trouble remembering things, lack of coordination, depression, and anxiety. So getting enough sleep is crucial. 

How can you get more sleep when you’re not getting enough? We’ve all heard suggestions like a cup of herbal tea before bed, taking a hot bath, turning off screens, limiting afternoon caffeine, and taking sleep aids. If you’ve tried all these, and they’re not helping, there’s one more thing you should try – bedtime yoga!

Is doing yoga before bed good? The answer is “yes, doing yoga before bed can help you get a great night’s sleep! Read on to find out how…

Why Does Yoga Make You Sleep Better?

Practicing yoga is a great way to relieve stress and tension. Focusing on your breath while you hold yoga poses activates the parasympathetic nervous system, also known as the ‘rest and digest’ system. When the parasympathetic nervous system is activated, it lowers our heart rate, blood pressure, and the levels of the hormone cortisol (the hormone released when we’re under stress).

Practicing yoga at any time during the day is a great way to slow down and give our bodies a break from stress. Practicing yoga right before bed allows you to release the tension built up throughout the day and prepare your body and mind for sleep.

national survey conducted by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health found that 85% of people who practiced yoga felt it helped relieve their stress. The same survey found that 55% of people reported better sleep when they practiced yoga. 

Adding yoga to your daily routine, especially a slow practice right before bed, can help you get more, better quality sleep. 

Try These Yoga Poses Before Bed

You don’t have to add a long yoga practice to your day in order to get better sleep. In fact, doing a few simple poses before bed can go a long way toward a good night’s rest. 

Here are some great yoga poses for better sleep. Most of them can even be done in bed!

Cat/Cow Pose

Cat pose and cow pose are usually combined to create a slow, gentle flow that moves your whole spine. Practicing a gentle flow between these two poses activates the vagus nerve, which is responsible for regulating breathing, heart rate, muscle tension, and many other functions. Activating the vagus nerve helps the body relax, making this a great pose to practice right before bed. 

Start on your hands and knees.

As you inhale, drop your belly and raise your head, creating a U shape with your spine. Hold here for a moment while holding your breath. This is cow pose.

As you exhale, drop the head and round the spine upwards. This is cat pose — like a cat arching it’s back. Pause here for a moment while holding your breath.

Alternate between the two poses on your inhale and exhale. Repeat for 15-20 breaths. 

Wide-Legged Child’s Pose

During a Vinyasa flow class, child’s pose is where we pause for a moment of rest. It’s a gentle pose that opens the hips, the back, and the arms, creating space throughout the body. And it’s easy to maintain, which allows you to focus on breathing.

Start on your hands and knees with a flat back. Bring your knees apart and move your feet together. Press your bottom back to your heels.

On an exhale, let your torso fall between your knees and stretch your arms out in front of you. Rest your forehead on the ground or a pillow. 

On your inhales, think about breathing in restful energy, and on your exhale, imagine all the tension of the day flowing out of your body. Hold this position for 20-25 breaths. 

Legs Up The Wall

Our feet and legs absorb a lot of the stress of our day. This is especially true for those of us who work on our feet all day long. By the end of the day, our feet and legs are as exhausted as we are and there’s an accumulation of blood in our lower body from being upright all day. 

This legs up the wall pose (viparita karani) allows the tension to drain from your feet and your legs, and it helps re-balance the blood flow in the body.

Sit down facing the wall. Scoot your bottom as close to the wall as you can get, propping your legs up on the wall. Lie down on your back, then stretch your legs out up the wall. Your back should be fully supported by the floor and your legs should be fully supported by the wall.

If you can, hold the legs-up-the-wall pose for 15-20 breaths. Some people feel a bit dizzy in this pose. If you do, slowly lower your legs and lie on your back for a few breaths before trying to get up. 

Supine Spinal Twist

Do you know how you wring out a wet washcloth to get out the excess water? That’s a great analogy for what spinal twists do for our bodies. They wring the excess tension out. For this reason, spinal twists are great for getting all that tension out right before bed.

There are many poses that create a spinal twist, which can be done sitting up or lying down. For a particularly restful pose, try a supine spinal twist. This pose can even be done while lying in bed.

Start by lying on your back. Lift your knees to your chest. On an exhale, lower your knees to one side, keeping your knees bent. Stretch your arms out to a T shape and turn your head away from the direction of your knees. 

To make this pose even more comfortable and restful, put a pillow between your knees. 

Hold this pose for 20-15 breaths. On an inhale, lift your knees back to your chest, and on an exhale, lower them to the other side. 

Reclined Butterfly Pose

There’s a saying in yoga circles that “our issues live in our tissues.” This speaks to the widely held belief that negative energy gets stored in different parts of our bodies. Holding restorative yoga poses allows our muscles to release their tension, which effectively allows us to release the ‘issues’ in our tissues. 

Many of us hold a lot of tension and negative energy in the hips, so hip-opening poses like reclined butterfly pose allow us to release tension and negative energy. Reclined butterfly pose is a perfect before-bed pose because it allows us to get rid of negative energy and tension so we can sleep more soundly. 

Start by lying on your back. Bend your knees, keeping them flat on the bed, and bring the soles of your feet together. Your legs will create a diamond shape.

To make this pose even more comfortable and restful, put a pillow under each knee to make the stretch on the hips a little easier. 

Hold this shape for 20-25 breaths focusing on releasing blocked energy in the hips.

Supported Half Frog Pose

Another great hip opener to do in bed in supported half frog pose. This pose releases tension and negative energy in the hips. It also provides a slight twist for the spine, which allows us to release tension and negative energy held in the back.

Start by lying on your stomach. Stretch one leg out to the side and bend it to a 90-degree angle. Your other leg stays straight on the bed. Your head can rest on a pillow, looking in the direction of the bent leg. 

Hold this pose for 20-25 breaths, focusing on moving energy throughout the body, away from places where it’s stuck.

Then straighten the bent leg. Repeat the pose on the opposite leg, again holding for 20-25 breaths. 

To make this pose even more comfortable and restful, place a pillow under the belly and another pillow under the bent knee. Allow your body to sink into and be supported by the pillows. 

Forward Folds

Forward folds move our entire spines, which helps activate our parasympathetic nervous system — the system that helps our bodies to rest. So doing forward folds right before bed helps us to calm down. 

Forward folds also create a lot of space in the back. Throughout the day our spines compress from constantly standing and sitting. So, creating space in our backs right before bed helps us to be more comfortable while we sleep, leading to better quality sleep.

Start sitting up. Stretch your legs out straight in front of you, with your toes pointed to the ceiling. On an inhale, straighten your back. On an exhale, fold forward over your legs, reaching for your toes. 

Hold this pose for 15-20 breaths.

Using Yoga to Sleep Better

Try these yoga poses to help you sleep better, either as a full sequence before you go to bed or by choosing 2-3 poses and doing those before bed each night. Practicing yoga right before bed, or even in bed, is a great way to signal the body to slow down. It’s also a great way to calm the mind so that it doesn’t race as we’re trying to go to sleep (which is probably one of the many reasons why yoga makes you sleep better).

To learn more about how yoga can relieve stress and help you sleep, check out our yoga blog.