Pose for Repose

Restorative yoga and pranayama reduce insomnia causing stress.
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Restorative yoga and pranayama reduce insomnia causing stress.

Rumpled covers. Scrunched-up, itchy pillow. Brain buzzing a million miles a second. There's nothing fun about insomnia. While it's tempting to pop a sleeping pill, recent studies suggest that it's better to try yoga next time Mr. Sandman doesn't come through.

Prescription sleeping pills can be addictive, and over-the-counter pills can leave you drowsy the next day. They also don't address the underlying problem. "Yoga addresses the root of insomnia, which is usually linked to higher stress-hormone levels," says Sat Bir Khalsa, an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School.

A recent study conducted at Brigham and Women's Hospital gives credence to the claim. In it, Khalsa had chronic insomniacs do a Kundalini Yoga bedtime meditation, shabad kriya, which includes conscious breathing and mantra recitation. About 75 percent of the chronic insomniacs who practiced it for eight weeks improved their "sleep efficiency," the amount of time they slept divided by the time they spent in bed. In fact, any yoga technique that relaxes your mind will help you sleep better, says Roger Cole, Ph.D., a sleep researcher and yoga teacher in Del Mar, California. Cole recommends doing a few gentle asanas before bed and practicing breathing techniques that emphasize exhalation.