There’s little else that compares to yoga nidra for sleep. Also known as “yogic sleep,” a guided yoga nidra practice can soothe your nervous system, relax your body, and calm your mind to help you effortlessly fall asleep with comfort and ease.
Believed to be as old as the practice of yoga itself, yoga nidra has been around for millenia. This significant meditation practice offers profound and far-reaching benefits for the body and mind, and lots of research has shown it to be an effective aid in deep relaxation and sleep.
Interested in other relaxing practices? Read: What Is Restorative Yoga? Here’s Your In-Depth Guide to This Soothing Practice
Yoga nidra is a simple and restorative meditation practice that stems from the yogic canon. This “yogic sleep” lulls practitioners into semi-conscious states that are deeply restful. Yoga nidra is often described in ancient yogic literature as being more refreshing than sleep itself.
Yoga nidra for sleep is practiced in a reclined position, lying down on your back with your eyes closed. Through systematic relaxation of your whole body, your nervous system can downregulate and surrender into a state of calm, deeply restorative rest.
While its benefits are vast and far-reaching, "yogic sleep" is actually extremely easy to practice. Most exercises are guided yoga nidra practices so all that you have to do is lay down, close your eyes, and follow the guidance of a gentle voice.
Curious about the history and philosophy of the yogic canon? Check out: What Are the Yamas and Niyamas? Here’s Your In-Depth Guide to This Yogic Code of Conduct
While "yogic sleep" practices offer beneficial results in many ways, yoga nidra is especially beneficial for inducing sleep and sleep-like states.
One study measured brain activity during a yoga nidra practice via PET scans and EEGs and found that the brain state of subjects was similar to that of deep sleep.
Need to find that state of relaxation now? Use this FREE guided Yoga Nidra for Deep Relaxation
The EEG measurements, which track brain activity, indicated that the subjects practicing yoga nidra were in a deeply relaxed state. But what’s especially interesting about these results is that the study also found participants to be in completely aware states while simultaneously profoundly relaxed.
Yoga nidra can be an effective and powerful tool for deep relaxation and sleep.
The PET scan images, which depict the amount of blood flow to particular brain regions, also showed that the participants were not in unconscious states during their "yogic sleep" practice, but in highly aware but deeply relaxed states of brain activity.
This study, along with a lot of other robust research, indicates that yoga nidra can be an effective and powerful tool for deep relaxation and sleep.
Learn about the physiological benefits of pranayama, too: What Is Pranayama? Here’s Your Guide to Yogic Breathing (Plus 7 Common Breathwork Practices)
There isn’t a whole lot to do or think about when you practice yoga nidra for sleep, but there are a few things that you'll likely want to do to prepare for your practice in order to create the most relaxing experience.
Find a place in your home that is secluded, dark, comfortable, warm, and relaxing. If you’re hoping to fall asleep directly after your yoga nidra practice, then hop into bed to prepare or relax on your couch.
Simply find a place that is soothing to both your body and your mind so you can surrender fully to the practice without interruptions or distractions.
Ideally during "yogic sleep," you want your body to be completely comfortable and relaxed so that you don’t crave movement. It’s best if you’re able to remain completely still throughout your practice without having to change positions, so really settle into a comfortable and easeful position laying flat on your back.
Use props however you’d like to get really comfortable. You may wish to place a pillow under your head to support your neck or under your knees to support your lower back. Perhaps you'd like to lay a blanket over your body or place an eye pillow over your eyes.
Do whatever you need to do and use whatever props you’d like to find the most comfortable position for your physical body to relax into.
Need help relaxing? Practice this Full Body Relaxation for Stress Relief
A sankalpa is a conscious intention and a traditional yoga nidra practice utilizes this concept. So take a moment before you begin your practice to think about what you would like to gain from it or what your heart desires in general.
Perhaps your intention is to cultivate hope or establish cosmic connection or simply to unwind and restore. Set your intention in your mind and let it stay present within your mind’s eye throughout your practice as the focal point of your meditation.
Slow and regulate the pace of your breath to find a calm and naturally relaxed rhythm. Let your breath flow smoothly and effortlessly as you draw your awareness toward the different focal points of your guided yoga nidra for sleep practice.
Learn more about breath with the in-depth course Pranayama: Control Your Breath to Calm Your Mind
Once you’re completely relaxed and prepared to begin your practice, turn on your guided yoga nidra for sleep meditation and slowly drift away into deep relaxation and simultaneous awareness to feel thoroughly renewed.
Craving more relaxation meditations? Practice this Mindful Sensory Awareness to Calm and Soothe
After your yoga nidra for sleep practice is completed, you’ll likely find yourself in a deeply relaxed state of awareness.
Linger in this place for as long as you’d like before allowing your body and mind to surrender into deep, restful sleep.
Join Leah Sugerman for a completely FREE guided Yoga Nidra for Deep, Restful Sleep