Every aspect of health is affected by sleep. Sleep is an important part of your everyday routine. You spend one-third of your time sleeping. Getting enough sleep at the right time is the key to better physical and mental health. When you sleep, your body has a chance to rest and restore the energy lost throughout the day.

How Much Sleep Do You Need Daily?

  • Infants - about 16 hours 

  • Toddlers and preschool children - about 12 hours 

  • Teenagers - about 9 to 10 hours

  • Adults -  about 7 to 8 hours

What is the Sleep-Wake Cycle?

The sleep-wake cycle is your 24-hour daily sleep pattern which has 16 hours of wakefulness and 8 hours of nighttime sleep. Melatonin (primary sleep hormone) and cortisol (primary stress hormone) are the two main hormones that help in regulating your sleep patterns. 

As a part of your daily sleep-wake cycle, cortisol spikes in the morning, which helps you wake up, feeling refreshed. As the day progresses, your levels of cortisol gradually decline, and melatonin levels increase which induces sleep.  

What is a Sleep Cycle?

A healthy sleep cycle which is of around 90-110 minutes is divided into 4 stages. Stages 1 and 2 are light sleep phases and it is in stage 3 that you enter into a deep sleep. In deep sleep, both your brain and body activity drop to their lowest. These 3 stages are called NREM (Non- rapid eye movement) sleep. 

The last 2 stages of NREM sleep is when you enter into a deep sleep. The 4th stage is called REM (rapid eye movement) sleep which occurs about an hour to an hour and a half after falling asleep.

Causes of Poor or Disturbed Sleep

Poor or disturbed sleep is a common health problem. Poor sleep leads to irritation, reduced concentration, a bad mood, and a lack of memory which causes depression, anxiety, and addiction. It may also lead to frequent headaches, stomach problems and lower productivity. 

Some of the reasons for poor/disturbed sleep are:

  • Inability to stick to a sleep schedule

  • Undue or unlimited indulgence in electronic gadgets before bedtime

  • Sleep apnea (a potentially serious sleep disorder in which there is an interruption of breathing during sleep)

  • Too much caffeine

  • Lack of exercise

  • Pain of any kind including body pain and headaches

  • Large dinner portions or eating excessive fried, salty foods for dinner

  • Depression/anxiety/stress

Getting enough good-quality sleep is essential for your overall health and immunity. Along with the right diet and a healthy lifestyle, practicing yoga regularly can also help you sleep better. 

Yoga for Good Sleep

Yoga, a mind and body practice, that originated in ancient India, encompasses a combination of different physical postures, breathing, and relaxation techniques along with a feeling of spirituality. It is highly recommended for people who have poor or disturbed sleep. 

3 Yoga Asanas (Postures or Exercises) to Get Good Sleep

1. Shavasana (Corpse Pose or Mrtasana or Yoga Nidra) is an ideal cure for your poor sleep. Shavasana is the pose of rest and relaxation which is often practiced at the end of a complete yoga session or routine. 

It is known as ‘Corpse Pose’ because the posture looks similar to that of a dead body or a corpse. 

  • It helps in releasing stress by relieving tension in the nerves, muscles, limbs, and other organs of the body. 

  • It is used in the therapy of hypertension (high blood pressure) and other cardiac issues as it is known to reduce stress and anxiety, the main factors contributing to hypertension.

  • It helps people with insomnia (a sleep disorder in which you find it difficult to fall or to stay asleep). Remember, when you continue to carry the burden of the day's work or of your emotions, you may keep your mind working and hence will resist the onset of sleep. Shavasana, practiced for 5 minutes before sleeping can bring your mind and body to a calm, neutral state that will help you sleep better.

How To Do:

  1. Lie on your back, with your arms 10 to 15 cm away from your body. Make sure that your palms are facing up and let your fingers curl a bit.

  2. Align your head, torso (central or core part of your body), and legs in a straight line, with a little gap between your legs. 

  3. Close your eyes and breathe in and out from your nose, slowly and gently. Feel your entire body relaxing and stress relieving from every part of your body. Bring awareness to your right foot, right knee, and so on until you have covered all parts of your body.

  4. Let go of all your thoughts, emotions, and feelings. Try to keep your mind relaxed without thinking too much. Continue this until you are completely in your subconscious state. 

  5. After about 15 to 20 minutes, roll on to your right side with your eyes still closed. Stay in this position for a minute. With the support of your right hand, lift your body up and come to a seated position.

  6. Take a few deep breaths and bring the awareness back to your environment. You may rub your palms to create some heat; keep your warm hands on both your eyes and gently open your eyes. 

  7. In case you are practicing Shavasana on your bed, before bedtime, you can turn onto the right side and try falling asleep.

2. Padmasana (Lotus Pose) to help you sleep better. Padmasana is a cross-legged sitting meditation pose that is widely practiced across the world. It is known as the posture of perfection and stability which derives its name from the Sanskrit word “Padma”, which means Lotus. 

It soothes and calms the mind and sets the perfect tone for meditation, pranayama (breathing exercises), and other yoga routines.

  • The lotus position connects your mind, body, and spirit (soul), which stabilizes your body and your breathing pattern.

  • It increases the blood flow to your abdomen, thus improving digestion and preventing constipation or loose motions.

  • Since this asana requires you to sit with twisted legs one over the other, it stretches your knee and ankle joints, relieving body pain and improving your flexibility.

  • Padmasana is known to fight insomnia. Know that your breathing patterns also have an effect on your sleep quality. Slow deep breathing techniques have been used for ages to help people sleep better. 

In Padmasana, slow and controlled breaths help you to relax your mind and body, thus preparing you for a good night’s sleep.

How To Do:

1. Begin by sitting on a yoga mat with your legs crossed and feet tucked under your legs.

2. Use your hands to bring your right foot on top of your left calf (the back portion of your lower leg) with the sole of the foot facing upwards.

3. Adjust your right foot so that it is as high as possible on your left thigh. You can use your hands to fit/adjust your foot into position. 

4. Keep your left knee bent so that the left shin (the front part of your leg between your knee and ankle) rests comfortably on the floor in a cross-legged position.

5. Lift your head towards the ceiling and sit upright to keep your spine long. Your hands can rest on your thighs with the palms turned up or down.

6. Take at least 10 deep breaths here.

7. Release and set yourself up with the right foot on the bottom and the left foot on top. One side will probably feel easier, but try to do both sides whenever you sit in the pose for more than a few breaths.

Padmasana should preferably be done in the morning, on an empty stomach. If you wish to do this at bedtime for better sleep, make sure you give a gap of at least 2 hours after dinner and do not practice this exercise in a hurry. 

It is recommended to sit in a lotus pose and try to meditate at least for five minutes a day to relax well. This will enhance your sleep quality at night and will help you start with a great morning every day.

3. Baddha Konasana (Butterfly Pose or the Cobbler’s Pose) can help you fall asleep as soon as you hit the bed. Baddha Konasana helps the spine and waist come in line with your natural sleeping posture. It helps relieve pain around the waist and allows your body to relax well. 

In the final butterfly pose, your legs move up and down like the wings of a flying butterfly, and hence the name, butterfly pose.

  • The butterfly pose improves sitting balance and posture.

  • It calms the body and mind, helps relieve stress, headaches, and fatigue.

  • It strengthens your calf muscles, thighs, hip muscles and also reduces fat from the thigh area.

  • A variation of the butterfly pose, known as reclined butterfly pose is recommended to fall asleep faster and deeper. It helps you unwind after hours of fatigue, putting you to blissful sleep.

How To Do:

1. Sit straight on the floor or on your bed. 

2. Fold your legs close to your body so that the soles of both your feet face and touch each other. 

3. Allow your knees to drop to the sides. 

4. Hold the thumb of your foot and ensure that the foot soles remain touched to each other and always pressed to the ground. 

5. Once you are comfortable in the pose, ensure that your torso is stretched straight and your neck and shoulders are relaxed. 

6. Now breathe in and out normally. Hold this for 1 minute; repeat 5 times with a 30 seconds break after every minute.

How To Do Reclined Butterfly Pose:

1. Lie on your back so that your knees and feet are pointing up to the ceiling.

2. Carefully fold the knees towards either side with the soles of your feet touching. Allow your knees to drop softly into the bed.

3. Rest your hands, either on your belly or heart, with your shoulders relaxed. 

4. Take deep slow breaths into the belly and do this for 3 to 5 minutes before you sleep.

These are just 3 simple yoga asanas that can help you sleep better. In case you experience poor or disturbed sleep or insomnia for a prolonged time, consult your physician. 

Disclaimer: This article is written by the Practitioner for informational and educational purposes only. The content presented on this page should not be considered as a substitute for medical expertise. Please "DO NOT SELF-MEDICATE" and seek professional help regarding any health conditions or concerns. Practo will not be responsible for any act or omission arising from the interpretation of the content present on this page.