Yoga Nidra for Sleep Benefits: A Science-Backed Solution for a Good Night’s Rest

Yoga Nidra For Sleep

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Yoga Nidra is an ancient practice involving lying down in a Savasana and being guided through meditative techniques, such as breath awareness, body scanning, and visualization. 

Sometimes referred to as ‘yogic sleep,’ the purpose of Yoga Nidra is to guide the mind in a Hypnagogic State that brings a complete sense of calm and stillness to mental, physical, and emotional systems.

The benefits of Yoga Nidra include improved sleep, reduced stress and anxiety, and increased feelings of calm and relaxation, which have been shown to contribute to overall health and well-being.

Some even claim it can replace sleep entirely. 

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Can Yoga Nidra Replace Sleep?

No, Yoga Nidra is not a replacement for sleep. While it can promote relaxation and improve sleep, it should not be used as a substitute for the restorative process of sleep.

Sleep is essential for physical and mental health, and it is during sleep that our bodies repair and rejuvenate themselves.

It is recommended to aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night for adults and to maintain a consistent sleep schedule.

Instead, Yoga Nidra and other forms of NSDR (Non-sleep Deep Rest) can be used as a complement to healthy sleep habits and should be treated like taking a nap

Yoga Nidra For Sleep: Image represents the necessity for sleep

How Does Yoga Nidra Improve Sleep?

Although the purpose of Yoga Nidra isn’t to leave the user fast asleep, the state of deep relaxation that you’ll find yourself in will be very conducive to getting a good night’s rest.

This is because Yoga Nidra helps the body and mind relax, reducing stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, which are known to disrupt sleep.

On top of that, in each session, you’ll be training your brain to power down through the different brain wave states through the meditation practice, meaning you’ll be able to reach them better when you do go to sleep.

Yoga Nidra also helps to calm the mind, reducing racing thoughts and mental chatter, which can make it difficult to fall asleep.

The guided visualization and intention-setting component of Yoga Nidra can help to shift the mind’s focus away from the stressors of daily life, promoting a sense of calm and relaxation.

This allows the mind to quiet and the body to relax, making it easier to fall into a deep sleep

Yoga Nidra for Sleep powers down the brain

The Science Behind Yoga Nidra and Sleep

When practicing Yoga Nidra, your instructor guides you through all four stages of brain wave – beta, alpha, theta and delta.

Eventually, you will arrive in a state that is somewhere between wakefulness and sleeping, where lucid thoughts blend with the dreaming mind, allowing us to make contact with the subconscious.

The guided meditative practices begins by examining the active mind that occurs with beta waves (14-40Hz) and takes us through into alpha waves (9-13Hz) that typically brings about feelings of relaxation and thoughtlessness.

Once you reach the theta wave state (4-7.5Hz), your thoughts begin to slow down to around 3-5 thoughts per second. 

You’ll recognize this state if you’ve ever been transfixed in a task and found that you’ve totally lost track of time. In this mindset, people are very prone to a free flow of ideas, and it’s typically seen as a very positive mental state.

The final brainwave state you’ll reach is the delta band (1-3Hz). Here the brainwaves are of the greatest amplitude and slowest frequency. 

This is the restorative state your body puts you into when you sleep, the stress hormone cortisol drops to its lowest levels and organs are allowed to regenerate.

When we suffer from insomnia or broken sleep, we are unlikely to achieve the healing benefits of theta and delta that appear during deep sleep. However, these states are available to us on demand with Yoga Nidra.

Yoga Nidra For Sleep Study

Yoga Nidra Sleep Studies

A study aimed to characterize the electric signals from the nervous system during Yoga Nidra measured the brain activity of 30 subjects through EEG, EMG, and EOG. 

The participants underwent five initial supervised Yoga Nidra sessions, and then continued the practice on their own whilst keeping a two weeks sleep diary.

The data was analyzed to determine the different brain waves active during Yoga Nidra.

The results showed that;

  • After two weeks of Yoga Nidra practice, all subjects were scored as awake throughout the session.
  • There was an increase in delta waves in the central area of the brain and a decrease in the prefrontal area during the various phases of yoga nidra.

The study also found that:

  • After two weeks of practice, sleep diary parameters such as sleep time duration, sleep efficiency, quality sleep, and total wake duration improved significantly.
  • The study concludes that Yoga Nidra practice in beginners is electrophysiologically an awake state with signs of slow waves locally, often referred to as local sleep.

 https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fneur.2022.910794/full

Yoga Nidra For Sleep Study

Chronic Insomnia

Another study with sleep published by Sleep Science and Practice observed the effects of Yoga Nidra on two insomnia patients. Both patients were older men with poor objective sleep quality.

After an initial assessment, they were given five supervised Yoga Nidra sessions and continued the practice for four weeks. 

The study found that Yoga Nidra can be an effective treatment for chronic insomnia, especially when combined with additional therapy for insomnia.

The participants experienced the following:

https://sleep.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s41606-017-0009-4

Yoga Nidra For Sleep Brain Waves

Sleep Apnea

A study focusing on the effects on Yoga Nidra combined with a traditional yoga practice found that when practiced over three months, the combined techniques can help with nasal breathing and exercises the muscles in the face and throat.

  • Studies found that yoga poses and movement can be beneficial for obstructive sleep apnea because of how it compliments CPAP (Continuous positive airway pressure) therapy.
  • CPAP therapy uses a gentle, constant stream of pressurized air to open airways and helps with breathing during sleep.
  • The study observed 37 patients with mild to severe OSA (Obstructive sleep apnoea) or who complained of snoring. Each patient was assigned a series of yoga poses to practice over three months to help with nasal breathing and to exercise the muscles in their faces and throats.
  • Yoga is an effective, rational, economical, and constructive addition to the treatment protocol for patients with sleep apnea.
  • Yoga combined with Yoga Nidra directly affects the oropharyngeal musculature, breathing patterns, nasal and respiratory pathologies.
  •  Additionally to this the combined practices helps to alleviate risk factors such as obesity, sedentary lifestyle, low blood pressure , anxiety, and allergies, among others, to provide symptomatic relief for patients.
  • It is a multi-pronged, non-surgical, non-medicinal, alternative, and innovative approach to an equally diverse medical predicament.
  • Standardizing protocols for yoga in the treatment of snoring and sleep apnea is essential.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6848556/

Griff Williams

MindEasy founder & meditation teacher

Griff Williams is an accredited meditation teacher and founder of MindEasy. He spent 12 years working as a London firefighter before changing paths to pursue building MindEasy. He received his diploma in meditation teaching from The British School of Meditation.