If you have trouble sleeping and feel like you’ve tried everything or are simply looking for a healthier way to catch some z’s, you’re not alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 70 million Americans suffer from chronic sleep problems.
Sara Szeglowski knows this all too well. She’s a stage 2B breast cancer survivor.
“After my cancer treatment, I had the worst insomnia of my life. I participated in a Roswell Park sleep study and learned a great deal that helped me. I also did a lot of research on my own and observed what worked,” says Szeglowski.
One thing that worked for her was yoga. It was so effective that she opened her own yoga studio and created a program called YogaLife that aims to help people address their individual needs and build habits around diet, movement and mind.
“. Yoga uses breath to regulate both physical and emotional responses. Yoga supports our ability to press pause in the moment through tools like breath practice and mindfulness and creates a new chemical blueprint over the long term, both of which support sleep. The more you practice yoga, the longer the effect lasts after class,” says Szeglowski.
Several studies show yoga can have positive effects on your sleep. A national survey found that more than 55% of people who did yoga said it helped them sleep better, and 85% said yoga helped reduce their stress. The Sleep Foundation recommends the practice to help with insomnia.
It is important to keep in mind that there are several different kinds of yoga, ranging in intensity. Szeglowski recommends doing a vigorous style of yoga like vinyasa, power, and hatha every day, but at least four hours or more before bed.
Keep in mind, if you’re new to the practice, any type of yoga will take a good amount of energy, which could keep you awake if you do it too close to bedtime.
“I’ve learned that better sleep is very dependent on established habits. I recommend everyone make a before bed ritual,” says Szeglowski. “What is important is creating the new chemical blueprint and practicing using the tools like breath, mindfulness, and awareness that will support your physical, mental, and emotional life, which comes from a daily practice.”
For yoga to help with sleep, Szeglowski recommends “listen to calming music, use lavender or frankincense essential oil and use a guided meditation. Most people who have trouble sleeping have trouble turning off their mind. If that’s you, a guided meditation will help focus your mind and without it, these postures can feel like mental torture!”
Easy yoga poses that will help with sleep
1. Child’s pose over a bolster for 5 minutes
2. Reclined back bend with a bolster under your head and back for five minutes
3. Reclined easy twist–2 minutes on each side
4. Legs up the wall for 5 minutes
5. Savasana with guided relaxation for 5 minutes