The term yoga nidra literally translates to “yogic sleep.” When I first learned this, my immediate thoughts were, “How the heck do you do yoga whilst you’re sleeping?” and in addition, “A workout while I’m sleeping? Sign me up!”
As it seems, that’s not quite what it’s. Yoga nidra is “a yoga session that’s posture-free and assists you with slowing down and releasing stress-related feelings you will have experienced throughout the day,” says yoga instructor Keriki Purkiss. Really, it’s yoga that helps you calm down by listening to guided imagery and specializing in your breath whilst you’re in savasana, or “corpse pose”—the lying-down position typically done at the tip of a standard yoga class.
“Yoga nidra is the practice of conscious sleep,” yoga nidra instructor Jana Roemer once told Well+Good. “Essentially, we’re determining easy methods to allow the body to go to sleep while keeping the mind awake.”
The advantages of yoga nidra
Although it may not appear like much, this practice has tons of science-backed perks. “When we go into yoga nidra, we downshift into an alpha brain wave state. Here, [levels of cortisol are reduced] and we go right into a state of healing,” explains Roemer. This could also be why research has shown that yoga nidra can result in reduced stress, enhanced cognitive processing, and even improved red blood cell counts and blood glucose levels.
But essentially the most well-known profit could also be improved sleep—in reality, studies have shown that yoga nidra may even be an efficient treatment for individuals with chronic insomnia.
“It allows the body and mind to calm down, reducing the production of stress hormones,” says Purkiss. “When stress levels decrease, it becomes easier to go to sleep and stay asleep. Regular practice of yoga nidra, especially before bedtime, establishes a soothing pre-sleep routine. A consistent bedtime ritual signals the body that it’s time to wind down.”
How yoga nidra differs from meditation
Lately, I’ve personally been experiencing a number of stress, and it’s been manifesting as challenges in my sleep cycle, mostly by way of trouble getting deep sleep. I just had a birthday and higher sleep hygiene has been on my radar (to carry onto my youthful glow and energy).
So when an editor from Well+Good reached out asking if I desired to try yoga nidra for per week and see what happened, I used to be intrigued, if a bit hesitant. The practice sounded quite a bit like meditation to me, and I’ve struggled mightily with meditation up to now. I all the time find yourself more stressed than relaxed because I can’t get my mind to decelerate, which just leaves me frustrated—not precisely the intended effect.
But Purkiss explained to me that yoga nidra is definitely a bit different from meditation—mostly because, traditionally, you’re lying down during yoga nidra. “Although not an element of ordinary practice, some individuals are in such a relaxed state they sometimes go to sleep,” she says. “Yoga nidra is a type of guided meditation that has you in a relaxed state or a state of consciousness between being awake and asleep.”
What happened after I tried it for myself
Armed with this information, I used to be able to check it out. I might try a yoga nidra session every night for per week before I went to bed to see if it helped me clear my mind and get deeper sleep. To start my journey, I went to YouTube and located there have been a ton of videos on there with various run times. I made a decision I might start with 10-minute sessions, and work my way as much as 30-minute sessions over the course of the week.
I’ve gotta let you know the reality: I used to be only ever capable of fully get through 10-minute sessions, but it surely wasn’t for lack of trying. Two times I attempted a 30-minute video, but I could only make it a couple of third of the way in which through before I needed to stop. I just couldn’t lay still long enough. I began to experience what I can only equate to restless leg syndrome, but in my whole body. At the start of the session, you’re instructed not to maneuver, and since I used to be trying so hard to not, that’s all I desired to do.
During the practice you’re told to scan your body and calm down different body parts from head to toe. And after I say head to toe, I mean all the way down to each individual finger. This drove my mind wild! As I used to be laying there, actively interested by relaxing the muscles without actually feeling them doing anything different, I just grew restless.
You are instructed not to maneuver, and since I used to be trying so hard to not, that is all I desired to do.
Maybe the issue was that I used to be in bed under all of my sheets, feeling too restricted, I assumed. I began to practice under a lighter blanket. That did help, a bit, but I still felt antsy by the tip. The better part was all the time the guide telling me to start out wiggling my fingers and toes—each since it finally gave me permission to maneuver and was a signal that the darn thing was over.
I also found that it was difficult for me to focus. There is part during most practices where you count down from 27 as you breathe deeply, but I lost count each time. My mind was actively interested by relaxing each body part but in addition wondering if I used to be actually feeling myself calm down. Was anything happening, or was I just laying there? Then, if I did move even a bit bit, I began to wonder if the yoga nidra would have the intended effect. This led me to attempt to focus much more on not moving, in turn making me much more restless. In the session I used, the guide would say that in the event you lost count to start out over from 27, which leads me to imagine it’s a typical occurrence, but it surely drove me nuts that not once was I capable of get past 19 or so.
All that said, despite my struggle, I did actually see a change in my sleep. I tracked my sleep with my Apple watch, and saw that the time I spent in my REM, core, and deep sleep all increased from previous weeks. I also did not have as much time spent awake: When I’ve tracked my sleep before, I might average quarter-hour of time awake and 53 minutes of REM. In the seven days of doing yoga nidra, my time awake averaged seven minutes, with 77 minutes of REM. A solid improvement. On just a few nights, I even slept through your complete night without having to rise up to go to the lavatory, which is large for me (though that might have been a hydration thing). I discovered these stats to be consistent even after I only got 4 or five hours of sleep. The sleep that I did get, even when it was minimal, was higher.
My takeaways concerning the practice
If you’re someone who’s seeking to improve sleep, and doesn’t get restless while meditating like I do, I’d suggest giving yoga nidra a shot. The advantages in your sleep quality are legit, and in the event you’re capable of stay still for longer than I can, they could even be more powerful.
Personally, although yoga nidra is a challenge, I plan to maintain trying to include it into my bedtime routine more often—and perhaps even work my way as much as more time. I do know me, and I won’t commit to each night. But the night after I finished doing it, I noticed a marked difference in the shortage of deep sleep I got. And as an evening owl with an early bird schedule, I want all the standard sleep I can get.
Well+Good articles reference scientific, reliable, recent, robust studies to back up the knowledge we share. You can trust us along your wellness journey.
- Kamei, T et al. “Decrease in serum cortisol during yoga exercise is correlated with alpha wave activation.” Perceptual and motor skills vol. 90,3 Pt 1 (2000): 1027-32. doi:10.2466/pms.2000.90.3.1027
- Anderson, Roberta et al. “Using Yoga Nidra to Improve Stress in Psychiatric Nurses in a Pilot Study.” Journal of different and complementary medicine (New York, N.Y.) vol. 23,6 (2017): 494-495. doi:10.1089/acm.2017.0046
- Datta, Karuna, et al. ‘Improved Sleep, Cognitive Processing and Enhanced Learning and Memory Task Accuracy with Yoga Nidra Practice in Novices’. bioRxiv, 28 Jan. 2023, https://doi.org10.1101/2023.01.27.23284927.
- Pandi-Perumal, Seithikurippu R et al. “The Origin and Clinical Relevance of Yoga Nidra.” Sleep and vigilance vol. 6,1 (2022): 61-84. doi:10.1007/s41782-022-00202-7
- Datta, Karuna et al. “Yoga nidra practice shows improvement in sleep in patients with chronic insomnia: A randomized controlled trial.” The National medical journal of India vol. 34,3 (2021): 143-150. doi:10.25259/NMJI_63_19