Adding a few yoga poses and mindful breathing before going to bed can help you sleep better, longer, and improve your overall quality of sleep.
Over the years, our evening routines have changed. We used to leave work, eat dinner, and unwind with a good book. However, recently we’ve found ourselves scrolling through social media, replying to emails, watching dramatic dramas, or even gaming late into the night.
Although entertaining, all these habits and activities have the opposite effect on our sleep quality. Instead, we should allow at least a 30-minute digital detox before bed. This is where yoga comes in. It’s beneficial to use this time for some gentle restorative yoga to wind down and get ready for sleep.
How to Relieve Stress Before Bed
Relieving stress before bed can be as simple as setting down all your digital devices, practicing restorative yoga, and then slipping into the sheets. However, with most things in life, it might not be that simple.
Even if you go through the motions and do everything right, you might still be stressed before bed. This is because your mind might be wandering to that email you have to send, that important meeting tomorrow, or how your wife is angry at you.
All these things trigger your stress response, triggering your sympathetic nervous system. This preps your body to physically make a swift decision, increasing your blood pressure, tensing your muscles, and dilating your pupils. Kind of the opposite of what you want for sleep.
Luckily, we can use your nervous system to our advantage when trying to wind down and get some quality shut-eye.
This is done by bringing mindfulness and intention to your bedtime routine. Practicing breathing techniques as you’re doing yoga poses and grounding yourself in the moment helps to trigger and activate your parasympathetic nervous system – the “rest and digest response”.
Benefits of Yoga before Bed
The benefits of yoga before bed can vary depending on person to person. However, in general, a study showed that mind-body practices like yoga can help with symptoms of insomnia, leading to a better quality of life.
The benefits of yoga before bed are listed below:
- Fall asleep quicker
- Sleep longer
- Better ability to go back to sleep after waking up
- Improves sleep quality
- Improves quality of life
- Promotes relaxation
5-Minute Bedtime Yoga Routine for Better Sleep
3 Yoga Poses to Help You Sleep
Here are the three yoga poses to do before bed in the video but with more in-depth instructions and pictures. Feel free to use any tools such as blocks to make the poses easier for your skill level.
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This is one of two of the more active poses. It’s a great stretch and pose for your hip flexors that are often quite tight from a day’s of work and sitting. To make it a restorative pose, focus on the sensation and slowly melt forward into it, letting your hips slowly stretch. Breathe, relax, and focus on the present moment.
If you’re not that flexible and need blocks to help keep you upright, then don’t be afraid to grab them. This isn’t a test of strength or balance. We’re here to relax and sleep better.
Start on all fours with shoulders over wrists and hips over knees. (Toes can be tucked or untucked.)
- Position knees and ankles parallel to each other, hip-width apart.
- Step your right foot up between your hands, bending your right knee to 90 degrees with the knee above the ankle.
- Let hips sink slightly forward.
- Press down through the right foot to shift weight into your right hip.
- Position torso directly over hips.
- Lightly squeeze inner thighs toward each other.
- Lightly engage your core as you sink into the position.
- Repeat on the other side.
Here’s another slightly active pose. The half split is a great pose for stretching one of the biggest muscles in your body, the hamstrings. Stretching naturally has a relaxing effect as long as we keep it light and relaxed. That’s why, once again, just sink into the pose but don’t PUSH into the pose.
Breathe, relax, and let your hamstring slowly stretch to a comfortable level.
- Start in a low lunge with your left knee above your ankle and your right knee and foot resting on the floor, toes untucked.
- Place hands on hips to ensure hips are level.
- Hinge forward to rest your fingertips on the floor on either side of your heel. Inch left foot forward 4 to 6in (10–15cm), then shift hips back.
- Flex the toes of your left foot toward your shin, and press your left thigh toward the floor until you feel a stretch through your left hamstrings.
- Relax your neck.
- Hold the posture, inhaling as you lengthen the spine, and exhaling as you deepen the stretch in the hamstrings.
- Repeat on the other side.
Note. If you cannot flatten your back with your hands on the floor, rest your hands on blocks placed on either side of your front shin.
This is one of my favorite poses for total relaxation and spinal decompression. Child’s pose just feels right and amazing. It’s a full-body stretch that lengthens your spines and helps you unwind, relax, and feel good. You can stay in this pose for as long as you want. Just remember to take deep intentional breaths.
- Start on all fours with shoulders over hands and hips over knees. Widen knees slightly wider than hip-width apart, and touch big toes together.
- Shift your hips back toward heels as far as you comfortably can. Keep your torso as long as possible.
- Keeping hips pushed back, walk your arms forward on the floor to stretch your back, and place hands shoulder-width apart.
- Lightly squeeze arms and shoulders toward one another, and firmly press hands into the floor.
- Tighten lower abs, and draw ribs in.
- Hold the posture, inhaling to expand your chest and fill lungs, and exhaling to tighten abs and draw ribs in.
Note. You can make this pose more passive and restorative by relaxing your elbows down to the ground.
That just about wraps it all up. Remember these poses are only as effective as your intention. Focus on the present moment and just melt into each pose, focusing on relaxation and destressing. Hope this helped you sleep better, longer, and with fewer interruptions. Cheers to a good night’s sleep.
About the author, Dean Pohlman, Founder & CEO of Man Flow Yoga, Author of Yoga Fitness for Men, Expert on Yoga Fitness for Men.
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