Yoga for a Healthy Night's Sleep

Yoga for a Healthy Night's Sleep
by Sara Zryl, M.A. Pre-Doctoral Psychology Intern

Let her sleep-For when she wakes- She will move mountains-― Napoléon Bonaparte

Feeling overtired? You can improve sleep patterns just by adding some Zen into your life. It is not uncommon, every so often, to feel run down, overtired, less motivated or fatigued. If this occurs on a day to day basis, you may experience difficulty sleeping throughout the night. Sleep health is a relatively new field of study that examines how we sleep and what factors impact sleep. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides sleep guidelines from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (2013). The amount of sleep recommended changes as we age; however, individual sleep needs vary.

Age/Recommended Amount of Sleep

  • Newborns: 16–18 hours a day
  • Preschool-aged children: 11–12 hours a day
  • School-aged children: At least 10 hours a day
  • Teens: 9–10 hours a day
  • Adults (including the elderly): 7–8 hours a day

One of the major contributors to a good night’s rest is exercise. People who work out regularly sleep better and longer, and feel less stressed than those who don’t engage in exercise. Yoga is a form of exercise used for health and relaxation that also reduces stress and promotes healthy sleep. It includes breath control, simple meditation and specific bodily postures. Amanda Platner M.A., a Pre-Doctoral Psychology Intern at JCFS Chicago states, “I have found yoga and exercise helpful to re-center me after a stressful day and to sleep better at night. I often recommend yoga or exercise to my clients as a way to relax, reduce stress and naturally increase energy.”

Yoga is called a practice because its repetition helps train the mind and body to behave and respond in a beneficial, healing way. Try these easy yoga poses at home. Check with your physician before beginning any new exercise routine.

1) Cat-Cow

To start, get on your hands and knees. Your knees, hips and wrists should be aligned; your elbows should be perpendicular to the floor. As you inhale, drop your head toward the floor and slowly round your spine toward the ceiling, mimicking the shape of a frightened cat. Hold that pose for one second. Next, exhale, lift your head and return to starting position. Now, inhale and lift your chest and tailbone to the ceiling as you curve your back down. Raise your head. Hold that pose for one second. Repeat these motions 5 to 10 times.

2) Seated Forward Bend

Start in a seated position and extend your legs in front of you. Sit tall. As you inhale, reach your arms overhead. Exhale as you fold forward and reach for your toes. Hold that position for 10 seconds. Return to start. Repeat.

3) Seated Twist

To start, sit in a cross-legged position. Exhale and place your right hand on your left knee. Place your left hand behind your tailbone. Twist your torso to the left, gently, as you look over your left shoulder. Hold that position for 10 seconds. Return to start, then repeat on the opposite side.

4)  Legs Up the Wall

Sit near a wall. Roll onto your back, push your buttocks as close to the wall as possible, and lift your legs up in the air, over your hips, and rest them straight against the wall. With arms by your sides, turn your palms up. Hold that position for 10 to 20 seconds.

Sleep Awareness Week, which was held March 2-8, 2015, is an annual public education and awareness campaign to promote the importance of healthy sleep.  Visit the Sleep Foundation for more information.

For additional information on Yoga, and Yoga classes within the Jewish community, visit Jewish Yoga Network or Yoga Chicago. Learn how exercise enhances a good night's rest at Sleep.org.

If you are concerned with your sleep patterns, daily exercise or want to learn about holistic options to live a healthy lifestyle, call Jewish Child & Family Services at 855.275.5237 or visit jcfs.org.

Photo courtesy: Flickr.com