Some nights, getting your mind and body to calm enough to fall asleep seems like an impossible feat. It seems like almost no one is getting enough sleep these days, and endless levels of social and physical stimulation from your phone can make sleep even more elusive. But if you’re a yoga-doer, you know that certain poses (and not just savasana) can relax you almost off to dreamland. These yoga poses for better sleep can help even people unfamiliar with the yogic practice.
If you’re having trouble falling or staying asleep, it might mean that your parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) needs to relax. Often referred to as the “rest and digest” part of your nervous system, the PNS makes sure your body gets the signals it needs to do what we don’t have to think about consciously to do (like moving our internal smooth muscles through the digestive processes). But when we’re overstimulated or chronically stressed, the PNS can have trouble doing its thing — and we can’t sleep. Enter yoga.
Even if you’ve never practiced yoga, there are many beginner yoga poses that can help release physical tension, help the PNS restore usual functionality, and sync up your breathing with your body to allow greater relaxation. Even with many different movements, your sequence can be as quick as 15 minutes long, but feel free to make it longer. And performing these poses an hour before bed can mark the beginning of an essential ritual for optimal sleep health: a nighttime relaxation routine to enhance your sleep quality. Here are 13 yoga poses to try an hour before bed for better sleep.
To sink into your practice, start with your breath. Find a comfortable position — you can be sitting or lying down. However you’d like — and place one hand on your belly and the other on your rib cage. Breathe as you normally would, and try to focus on the feeling of your belly and rib cage expanding with your inhales and dropping with your exhales. If touching your hand to your chest feels good, you can transfer your hand from your rib cage to your chest to feel that rising and falling, too. Focus on the rising and falling sensations, and hold the position for 15-20 breaths (or longer, if you’d like!).
Shift so that you are kneeling on your mat, bringing your big toes together behind you and widening your knees as much as feels good. Exhale and slowly bring your torso toward the ground, between your thighs. Think of it as inviting, rather than demanding, your torso to drop. Lengthen your tailbone away from your upper body as you bring your hands along your torso to stretch above your head (palms up on the ground), letting your shoulders fall to the ground to stretch through your upper back. Stay here for 15 breaths (or more!).