It’s no secret that many of us struggle to unwind at night before we go to bed. Easing into a state of relaxation can be difficult — whether your mind is still racing from a busy day of work or you’re thinking about everything you have to check off your to-do list the next day, there are plenty of things that might keep us up at night.

Establishing good sleep habits and a healthy bedtime routine can be hugely beneficial in working towards better rest. One such step you may wish to incorporate into your nighttime routine is bedtime yoga — here, we’ll discuss how you can do that and what benefits practising yoga before bed can offer.

What is bedtime yoga?

Bedtime yoga is becoming increasingly popular as a nighttime relaxation technique, and for good reason. A 2012 survey found that over 55% of people who practised yoga reported improved sleep, and over 85% felt it reduced stress.

As part of your bedtime routine, yoga can put your mind and body at ease, allowing you to unwind and destress. Practising yoga is beneficial to your wellbeing in many other ways — it’s thought that yoga may help reduce inflammation, improve heart health, and even offer relief from migraines.

How long before bed should you do yoga?

Performing high-intensity exercise close to bedtime can interfere with your sleep schedule and sleep quality, but activities performed at low or moderate intensity (like yoga) more than an hour before bed are unlikely to be detrimental to your sleep. 

In fact, low or moderate intensity exercise more than an hour before bed may actually help you fall asleep faster. If you’re considering adding bedtime yoga to your nighttime routine, try to practise your poses more than an hour before you go to bed.

Which yoga poses are best for good sleep?

When practising bedtime yoga, it’s best to stick to gentle, low-intensity yoga poses, such as:

  • Wide-Knee Child’s Pose (Balasana)
  • Standing Half Forward Bend (Ardha Uttanasana) at the wall
  • Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana)
  • Legs Up The Wall Pose (Viparita Karani)
  • Reclining Bound Angle (Supta Baddha Konasana)
  • Lizard Pose (Utthan Pristhasana)
  • Locust Pose (Salabhasana)
  • Adept’s Pose (Siddhasana)
  • Corpse Pose (Savasana)

If you’re new to yoga and you’re not sure where to start or how to put together a good routine, consider practising along with a bedtime yoga routine on YouTube.

Following the correct breathing patterns is very important in yoga — guidance from an instructor can help you with this. Yoga with Adriene offers a relaxing 20-minute bedtime yoga routine that is very easy to follow, even if you’ve never done yoga before.

Benefits of practising yoga before bed

Practising yoga can be incredibly relaxing, both mentally and physically. Here are just some of the benefits of practising yoga before bed.

May help insomnia sufferers

Practising bedtime yoga may help those who suffer from insomnia to fall asleep quicker, sleep for longer, and fall back asleep after awakening in the middle of the night. A 2019 study showed that participants who practised yoga, tai chi, qi gong, and meditation experienced better sleep quality and a reduction in the severity of their insomnia symptoms.

If you’re interested in trying a new strategy to manage your insomnia symptoms, bedtime yoga may be worth considering.

Improves sleep quality

Research suggests that practising yoga can improve the quality of your sleep. John Hopkins Medicine sleep expert, Anastasia Rowland-Seymour M.D., said: “There is some suggestion that certain postures may be helpful. But the benefits are more due to its meditative properties.”

A 2013 study found that older adults practising yoga regularly had better overall sleep quality and less episodes of disturbed sleep, took less time to fall asleep, experienced less daytime dysfunction, and also felt more rested and energetic in the morning.

Promotes relaxation

Performing calming yoga poses may help your body and mind to relax, helping to lower your blood pressure and potentially reducing levels of cortisol (the stress hormone).

For those who feel they struggle to sleep due to stress, bedtime yoga may help mitigate symptoms.

Improves circulation

Slow, deep stretching and mindful breathing can improve circulation. Improved circulation can lower your blood pressure, help prevent blood clots, and strengthen your immune system. Good overall wellbeing results in better sleep.

Soothes sore muscles

Practising bedtime yoga can relieve muscle tension and joint pain. Many people experience aches and pains after a long day at work, especially those with active jobs and those who sit at a desk for prolonged periods of time.

If you’re in pain or you feel uncomfortable, it can be very difficult to fall asleep. Gentle yoga poses before bed can alleviate pain and tension, allowing you to relax and settle into a more comfortable sleep.

Yoga is incredibly beneficial to your mental and physical health. When practised alongside other good sleep habits — like limiting your blue light exposure before bed and avoiding caffeine late in the day — it can be a wonderful addition to your nighttime routine.