Meditation and Yoga

From work to home and everywhere in between, more people find themselves spread thin and stressing about how they’re going to get everything done. No wonder more people than ever find themselves lying with eyes wide open at night. No matter the cause, sleeplessness can wreak havoc on your mind and body. But, two age-old practices—meditation and yoga—have been shown to improve your ability to get the sleep you need.

The Importance of Sleep

As a necessary biological function, sleep keeps most of your organs and systems running at peak efficiency. Without it, you’re looking at problems in most of the major areas of your body. Sleep helps you:

  • Think Clearly: Your brain prunes and strengthens connections while you sleep so you can think clearly and make quick decisions. It also rids itself of any waste.
  • Fight Infection: Your sleep-wake cycle helps regulate your immune system by reducing the number of cells that cause inflammation and fighting off infection.
  • Eat Smart: Hunger hormones increase when you’re tired while satiety hormones decrease, which means you’ll be hungrier. Plus, the brain craves high-fat sugary foods and receives greater rewards for eating them when you haven’t gotten enough sleep.
  • Stay Healthy: Those who get less than the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep are more likely to develop conditions and diseases like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke.

5 Ways Meditation and Yoga Can Help

Meditation and yoga are natural ways to get rest you need and improve your physical and mental health.

  • Reduces Fatigue

A regular yoga practice can help reduce fatigue and leave you feeling energized. A study conducted at Ohio State University found that cancer patients who practiced daily yoga reported lower fatigue. Cancer treatments can leave many people feeling exhausted yet yoga helped keep energy levels up. The amount of time spent doing yoga made a difference. The longer the participants practiced yoga the less fatigued they felt.

  • Reduces Inflammation

The same study noted that yoga also reduced the amount of inflammation in the body. Inflammation causes aches, pains, and swelling brought on by illness, injury, stress, or age.  Like yoga, meditation can reduce inflammation by reducing the amount of inflammation-causing proteins in the blood.

  • Manages Stress

Mindfulness meditation teaches thought awareness but helps you learn to let negative thoughts pass through your mind without focusing on them. This ability to let the past and future exist without dwelling on them reduces stress. Some forms of yoga can also be used to manage stress. Yoga that helps calm the mind and body while focusing on deep breathing brings stress levels down much in the same way meditation does.

  • Improves Mood

Meditation actually changes the structure of the brain. A consistent meditative practice shrinks the amygdala, the emotional center of the brain, while thickening the prefrontal area that’s responsible for reasoning and decision-making. Essentially, meditation can give you better emotional awareness, which helps reduce anxiety and depression.

  • Reduces Pain Perception

Scientists have found that when the mind learns to focus on the present it reduces the anticipation of pain. Anticipating less pain reduces the perception of pain. Even those who suffer from chronic conditions like arthritis found that their pain perception went down.

Finding Time

Not sure you have time for one more thing in your schedule? Meditation and yoga can be performed as part of your bedtime routine. Some poses and practices can be done while lying in bed. Be sure you have a soft but supportive mattress so you can focus on deep breathing and proper form.

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Ellie Porter
Editor and outreach coordinator for Sleephelp.Org.

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