I Started Doing 5 Minutes of Yoga Before Bed Every Night, and Now I Fall Asleep in a Third of the Time It Used To Take

Photo: Getty Images/Tirachard
Falling and staying asleep is one of my daily (er, nightly) struggles. I have my bedtime routine down to a science, and I follow all of the typical advice: I turn off my devices at least an hour or two before bed, I use a blue light blocker on all of my screens, I avoid caffeine, I get consistent exercise.

Still, even on the nights when I'm able to fall asleep pretty quickly, I wake up countless times, and toss and turn for what seems like forever before finally falling back asleep. Either my mind starts racing with ideas of things I want to do the next day, or my body aches, making it too hard to relax.

Unsurprisingly, I’m always keen to try anything that promises to improve my sleep quality. So when my editor asked if I’d want to try doing five minutes of yoga before bed every night for two weeks to see what would happen, I was immediately game.

Research has shown yoga to improve sleep quality in people 65 years and older, and help people with chronic insomnia to sleep better. That's likely because it can ease stress and calm your nervous system. On top of that, yoga lovers keep telling me that it's calming for the body and mind, and since I seem to suffer from tension in both, I figured it might be a promising antidote to my sleep troubles.

How I created a bedtime yoga routine

Although I enjoy most types of exercise, my primary wheelhouse is cardio such as running, cycling, and rowing. I also do strength training in different forms and some stretching, yet my fitness routine doesn’t usually include yoga. To make sure I’d actually stick with this plan, I knew I’d have to keep any routine short. I decided I’d do seven of the relaxing yoga poses in this Well+Good piece on yoga for sleep (cutting out a few that bother my hips):

  1. Child’s pose
  2. Sphinx pose
  3. Pigeon pose
  4. Legs up the wall pose
  5. Cat-cow
  6. Supine twist
  7. Bridge pose

Just before getting into bed every night, I went through them all on the rug next to my bed with all of the lights off except for my illuminated wax melt machine and a nightlight. I held each for about 30 seconds, except for cat-cow, which I did for a full minute because I like how it feels and also because it seems like two poses in one. Instead of using a timer, I just counted my slow breaths. (The jarring sound of my alarm going off every 30 seconds didn't seem like the most soothing lullaby.) Though, if one pose was feeling particularly good, I’d linger a bit, and I will fully admit that pigeon pose probably got the short end of the stick most nights.

How bedtime yoga ended up affecting my sleep

The first night of my new yoga flow, I had even more trouble than usual falling asleep. Not exactly what I was hoping for. I think that I’m such a creature of habit, that introducing a new element into my bedtime routine—particularly one that involves moving my body—kind of woke me up a bit from my drowsiness before bed.

Still, I’d committed to at least two weeks, so I decided to stick with it.

By the third night, I had my yoga routine down. And the opposite happened: My Oura ring showed that my “sleep latency,” or the time it took me to fall asleep, was only 11 minutes. Normally, that number is much closer to 30 or 35 minutes.

This trend continued, and my time to fall asleep is now averaging about 10 minutes per night. I have to admit, it’s quite shocking to me. I truly didn’t think that such a simple set of yoga poses could actually have much of an impact on my sleep quality.

Unfortunately, I still wake up just as often during the night. But maybe the benefits I’ve seen in terms of how long it takes to fall asleep will eventually translate to helping me stay asleep?

I guess I’ll find out. Because while I might not become a regular at my local yoga studio anytime soon, I’m planning to keep up my new bedtime yoga routine. Five minutes of yoga to get to sleep 20 minutes faster? Worth it.

Looking for a bedtime flow? Try this 30-minute session designed to help you sleep:

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