Do you have sleepless nights?
Can your mind never rest?
Do you wish you could sleep peacefully, like a baby?
Don’t worry; Yoga is the way to go
What is insomnia?
If your answer to the above header questions was yes, then, you are probably suffering from insomnia. It is a sleep disorder when you face difficulty either falling or staying asleep and in some cases, even wake up early in the morning.
While it is most common in young and middle-aged adults and is likely to develop more in women than in men, in some cases, even children can face this issue. It can develop during pregnancy too (especially in the first and third semesters). However, it is usually a temporary phase and does not create complications during pregnancy.
Types of Insomnia
Based on the cause of this condition, it is of two types- primary and secondary.
The primary condition is when your sleep problems aren’t linked to or not caused by any other health issues. The secondary condition is when sleep problems arise because of certain health issues, such as mental health conditions.
Based on its duration, it can be classified into two types- Acute (short period) and Chronic (long term). Acute insomnia lasts from 1 night to a few weeks and chronic insomnia happens for 3 nights-3 months or more.
Generic causes of insomnia can be caused by physical and psychological factors and in some cases due to medical condition as well, some of which are listed below:-
- High-stress levels
- Psychological disorders- bipolar disorder, anxiety, overthinking, psychotic, depression or distress related to a life event
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Changes in work schedule
- Consumption of alcohol, tobacco, etc.
- Facing jet lag, job shift changes, high altitudes, environmental noise, extreme heat or cold
- Medical conditions – chronic pain like back, asthma, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, hyperthyroidism, arthritis, stroke, obesity
- Hormones- hormone shifts during menstruation, menopause
The basic symptoms of insomnia (which can be experienced, single or multiple) are
- Waking too early in the morning
- Poor quality and/quantity of sleep
- Trouble falling or staying asleep
The above symptoms of insomnia can lead to other symptoms, including:
- Mood changes
- Depression, anxiety, stress
- Difficulty concentrating and coordinating on tasks during the day
- In children, the symptoms include stress, medication, psychiatric disorders, irritability, disciplinary and attention issues, memory issues
While insomnia itself can be a symptom of an underlying medical condition, these signs and symptoms can even lead to the development of this condition.
Yoga Asanas for Insomnia
Practicing deep breathing exercises and meditation can help improve your quality of sleep. We highly recommend yoga as it is one of the easy to perform solutions to help cure insomnia. It will help lower your stress levels, calm the mind and relieve the tension in the body as it is an effective sleep stimulating remedy.
Sukhasana (Easy Pose)
One of the easiest asanas, it helps relax the mind and body, thus contributing to sound sleep. The pose will be complete only when the outer edges of the feet touch the floor and inner arches settle just below the opposite shin. There should be a considerable gap between the feet and pelvis and a triangle will be formed by inner thighs and crossed shins.
Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose)
This is one of the rejuvenating poses which calms the body and alleviates stress along with strengthening the spine and shoulders. For those, who are unable to touch their heels with the buttocks, an easy variation could be to bend the legs at a distance from the buttocks which is convenient for you to lift the body. Also, remember to exhale while raising the body and release the pose gently.
Head to knee forward bend (Janusirsasana)
It is one of the best stretching techniques for the back and the legs. You can initially stretch out legs wide apart as far as comfortable and then with practice, increase the gap. While bending forward, if you are unable to wrap the hands around the sole, you can rest them on the ankles. The pose is working when the back is not arched, and you feel a stretch in your calves. You don’t have to bend in one go, you can bend step by step with each exhale.
Paschimottanasana (Seated forward bend)
This asana helps relax the mind, reduces fatigue and anxiety. The pose will be complete only when your hands will be bent and touching the floor, your back, shoulders, and hamstrings feel a stretch and back is straight. For those who can’t wrap hands around the feet, can rest their hands on their ankles or hold their ankles. Also, reach forward step by step while exhaling.
Uttasana (Standing forward bend)
This is one of the most effective poses as it helps calm our body and muscles and can help provide relief from insomnia. An easy variation of the pose could be to hold the ankles, if you can’t touch the ground, or go for half bend pose (where you rest your hands on the knees). The pose will work only when the body is perpendicular to the floor and back is straight.
In addition to the above poses, you can also perform ‘Supta Baddha Konasana’ (reclining bound angle), ‘Balasana’ (Child pose), ‘Ardha matsyendrasana’ (Half Fish pose),’ Viparita Karani’ (Legs up the wall pose), Supta matsyendrasana (Supine spinal twist), Shavasana (Corpse pose) and Ananda balasana (Happy baby).
We would not recommend taking any medicine/supplement as it might have side effects in the long run. Many cases of insomnia can be effectively cured by bringing about lifestyle changes and following sleep hygiene tips (identifying sleep disruptive behavior and altering them) as enlisted below:-
- Plan an exercise routine and stick to it (it might take time but will be worth the efforts)
- Avoid caffeinated beverages near bedtime and opt for warm milk, green tea. intake of a healthy diet rich in magnesium and melatonin–nuts and seeds like walnuts, almonds, pistachio, fruits like kiwi, bananas, pineapple, berries, grains like corn, green leafy vegetables, is essential as they help relax muscles and induce sleep
- Minimize spending time on the bed when not required, like when watching TV, surfing or talking on the phone