Written by Staša Mišić
Bad sleep can have various negative impacts on your physical and mental well-being. Several factors can contribute to bad sleep or poor sleep quality. These factors can vary from person to person, but here are some common causes of bad sleep:
- Stress and anxiety
- Poor sleep hygiene – irregular sleep schedules, consuming caffeine or heavy meals close to bedtime, and using electronic devices before sleep.
- Environmental factors – noise, light, an uncomfortable mattress or pillow, and an unsuitable sleep environment.
- Medical conditions
- Substance use – alcohol, nicotine, certain drugs, caffeine, and stimulant use.
- Shift work and jet lag – irregular work schedules, especially those involving night shifts.
- Age – older adults might experience more fragmented sleep and wake up more frequently during the night.
- Screen time – the blue light emitted by screens on electronic devices can suppress the production of melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate sleep.
- Inconsistent sleep patterns – staying up very late on weekends and then trying to return to a regular schedule during the week.
- Digestive issues – eating heavy or spicy foods before bed.
- Lack of physical activity – a sedentary lifestyle can negatively impact sleep. Regular exercise can help promote better sleep, but intense exercise close to bedtime can have the opposite effect.
- Excessive napping
Yoga can help improve sleep in several ways by addressing both physical and mental factors that can contribute to sleep difficulties. Benefits of yoga that can improve sleep:
- Stress reduction
- Quiets the mind, reduces racing thoughts, and creates a sense of calm, making it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep.
- Physical relaxation – can translate into a more relaxed state of mind conducive to sleep.
- Stimulates parasympathetic nervous system
- Improves circulation – which can have a calming effect on the body and mind.
- Enhances respiratory function – proper breathing can reduce anxiety and promote relaxation, leading to better sleep.
- Hormonal balance – which is often elevated in those with chronic stress.
- Body awareness – can help you notice physical tensions or discomfort that might be interfering with your sleep.
- Promotes overall health – when your body is healthier overall, it’s better equipped to handle stress and support better sleep.
It’s important to note that while yoga can be a valuable tool for improving sleep, individual results may vary. For better results, a consistent yoga routine is crucial, especially if done in the evening, as it can signal to your body that it’s time to wind down and prepare for sleep.
It’s also not a quick fix; consistent practice over time is more likely to yield positive effects. If you have chronic sleep issues or other underlying health concerns, it’s a good idea to consult a healthcare professional for guidance.
Here are some yoga poses and practices that can help you achieve better sleep:
- Janu Sirsasana
- Pranayama (breathing exercises) – deep breathing exercises or alternate nostril breathing can help calm the mind and prepare the body for sleep.