Many of us spend days hunched over a computer and evenings staring at screens – neither of which are conducive to a good night’s sleep. Can just 10 minutes of yoga a night help fix that? Exhausted writer Lisa Bowman investigates.
We all know that proper ‘sleep hygiene’ can help us get a good night’s kip but with long working hours and busy lives, it’s often hard to have the long night-time wind down our brains deserve. As a work-from-home freelancer, I’m often at my laptop late into the evening and I noticed I was waking up feeling stiff and unrested, despite getting a good amount of sleep.
To counteract this, I started doing short, relaxing yoga videos right before bed and began to notice how much better I slept and how different my body felt in the morning.
How does bedtime yoga improve sleep?
“A good yoga practice before bed can help relieve tension physically and mentally,” explains yoga and meditation teacher Aysha Bell.
“This also helps to reduce anxiety and stress that might have built up in the day, and can improve the quality of your sleep, and even your mood in the morning.”
Research shows that a regular yoga practice can have significant improvements on sleep quality in women, as well as reduce fatigue, anxiety and depression in patients with chronic insomnia. The physical yoga practice involves stretching, which studies have shown reduces levels of anxiety, exhaustion and bodily pain – all of which will help you sleep more soundly.
Of course, yoga isn’t just about the physical body – pranayama, aka the practice of breath regulation, is a huge part of it. Yogic breathing helps activate the parasympathetic nervous system, shifting your body from fight or flight mode to relaxation town.
Which yoga postures can be done before bed?
Legs up the wall
You don’t need to be a seasoned yogi to start doing yoga in the evening – legs up the wall is a really easy posture and one of my absolute favourites. No wall space? No problem – I prefer to do it with a block under my sacrum.
“Child’s pose and extended child’s pose are great to do before bed,” advises yoga teacher and sonic sound artist Natalie Farrell. “They’re beautiful heart openers, as well as offering the hips time to release soften and let go.
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“Gentle neck releases also work well – roll the head from side to side, then take the right ear to the right shoulder followed by the left ear to the left shoulder.
Trapped wind pose
“Apansana involves lying on your back and bringing your knees to your chest, which can help alleviate gas and constipation. I love to roll from side to side in this pose, stimulating energy into the spine and giving my lower back a massage.
“A gentle seated or supine twist will help remove toxins from the body.”
Yoga with Kassandra has several evening yoga videos on her YouTube channel, while Yoga with Adriene offers various bedtime yoga sequences, including this 10-minute one.
Which yoga postures should be avoided at night-time?
“Avoid practices like vinyasa or hot yoga before bed as these can be energising,” advises Bell.
“It’s also best not to do asanas like back bends, as these are too stimulating.”
Can you do night-time yoga in bed?
“I like the concept of bringing the poses to the bed as the softness of the mattress and pillows can offer beginners that warm and cosy feeling which is associated with bedtime and sleep,” says Farrell.
Doing yoga in bed may also be beneficial if you find yourself falling asleep on your mat, as I have done many times. (I can confirm that waking up in the early hours of the morning with a sore back is not the one.)
For inspiration, try Arianna Elizabeth’s 15-minute yoga in bed sequence or Jessica Richburg’s 15-minute relaxing yoga in bed, which also features soothing music.
Bell also recommends a simple savasana in bed: “Lying on your back, inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth, making the exhales slightly longer than the inhales.”
When should bedtime yoga be done?
“I would recommend doing yoga one hour before bed,” advises Farrell.
“However, five minutes before getting into bed can be beneficial too. Try one pose along with conscious breathing, slowing the pace of the breath down gently over the five minutes.”
Is 10 minutes of bedtime yoga enough?
There’s not a lot of specific research on bedtime yoga, but one very small study of seven women with mild sleep disorders found that just 10 minutes of low-intensity stretching right before bed improved REM sleep. (However, this was done in a clinical setting, and subjects were sent to sleep during the day for 90 minutes.)
“15 minutes is a good minimum practice for a pre-bedtime session,” recommends Bell.
“Anywhere from 15 to 60 minutes is ideal.”
I started this challenge doing 15-minute bedtime yoga videos, but found that was too much in the early days, so switched to 10 minutes, which seemed more manageable. Since finishing the challenge, I’ll sometimes just do a quick stretch while focusing on my breath, which still eases tension.
Obviously, the longer you practice, the more you’ll reap the benefits, but starting small is a great way to build a habit, so you don’t set yourself up to fail.
“Any new routine takes time to embed, and I always say small amounts are better,” says Farrell.
“Even five minutes a night can help you build a ritual that suits your body’s needs.”
Think of yoga before bed as like putting primer on your face before applying make-up – that small investment of time will have an impact lasting hours.
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