If you struggle to get good sleep, implementing a bedtime yoga routine into your pre-bed ritual may help you sleep better. Restorative yoga poses, specifically, may help you fall — and stay — asleep for a full night’s rest. In fact, a 2020 review of 19 studies found that the majority of women with insomnia who practiced yoga reported improved sleep quality.
Unfortunately, millions of Amerians are struggling to get good sleep. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 70 million Americans struggle with chronic sleep problems.
Besides insomnia, yoga has been studied to improve other sleep ailments: A 2018 study among obese men who practiced yoga for three months reported both weight loss and improved sleep quality. Additionally, a 2019 study found that yoga decreased symptoms of sleep apnea.
So, how does yoga help improve sleep?
Research has found that the mental benefits of mindfulness increase melatonin levels, which promotes deep sleep and fewer sleep disturbances, as well as the physical benefits of getting your body moving which can improve overall sleep, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Additionally, deep breathing while practicing yoga helps relax your body by activating the parasympathetic nervous system, which slows down the heart rate and prompts your body to rest.
We’ve created a list of seven of the best yoga poses that will help you fall — and stay — asleep, according to Harvard Medical School, Johns Hopkins Medicine, and the National Sleep Foundation. Practice these bedtime yoga poses right before bed, breathing deeply and holding each pose for 1 to 2 minutes.
Wide-Knee Child’s Pose: To do this pose, kneel on the floor and bring your big toes together. Open your hips and move your knees to the edge of your yoga mat, sinking your torso into your thighs and resting your hands along your legs (pointing to the back) or press them above your head with your palms down on the mat. You can keep your forehead on the ground and breathe in and out through your nose.
Standing Forward Bend: Start in a standing position, bending forward and folding your torso into your legs. Your arms can rest on your elbows, shins, or on the floor.
Standing Half-Forward Bend Using a Wall: If you need more support for your forward bend, this modified pose is for you. Standing a foot away from the wall, keep your legs hip-width apart and press your hands on the wall as you bend forward. Keep your ears in line with your arms, feeling the stretch at the back of your legs.
Reclined Butterfly: Start by lying on your back, pressing the soles of your feet together and creating the “butterfly” pose by letting your knees fall to the sides. Place your hands at your sides or above your head.
Legs Up the Wall: To get into this pose, start by lying parallel to a wall. From there, swing your legs up the wall, allowing the backs of your legs (i.e. your hamstrings and calves) to rest directly on the wall. Try to keep your feet relaxed (not flexed) and place your arms at your sides with your palms up.
Legs on a Chair Pose: If you’re unable to get your legs up the wall due to injury or another medical condition, this pose is a great alternative. Place a chair at the end of your yoga mat, grab a folded blanket, and place it on top of the chair. Lie on your back and scoot yourself up to the chair. The goal is to get your calves to rest on the blanket on the chair, creating a 90-degree angle. You can keep your arms relaxed at your sides with your palms facing up.
Corpse Pose: Also known as Savasana, this is the ultimate relaxation pose that is often done at the end of a yoga class. To do it, simply lie flat on your back, stretching your legs away from your tailbone and relaxing your hips as you relax your arms at your side. Focus on relaxing your lower back and keeping your shoulders away from your ears.
If you’re looking for additional restorative yoga poses to try, download Talia Sutra’s app, where you’ll find the following workouts:
Yoga Nidra — Yogic Sleep Guided Relaxation in Savasana
Yoga Nidra — Deep Relaxation
Bedtime Restorative Practice for Better Sleep
Additionally, sign up for Christina Mattison’s app, where she offers a number of restful yoga poses in her app, including:
Yoga for Headaches
Restorative Yoga for Neck and Shoulders
Restorative Yoga for Sore Muscles
About the author
Emily Shiffer is a former digital web producer for Men's Health and Prevention magazines, and she is currently a freelance writer specializing in health, nutrition, weight loss, and fitness. Her work has been published in digital and print formats for Women’s Health, Runner’s World, SELF, Health and more. She is based in Pennsylvania and loves all things antiques, music, and American history.