Yoga for Sleep Deprivation

After her baby is born, Erica Rodefer Winters experienced a serious lack of sleep. Here, she describes ways that her yoga practice has helped her deal with this transition.

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I read the books. I decorated the nursery and washed all the baby laundry. I got advice from friends with kids. I did everything I knew to do to get ready. And yet nothing could truly prepare me for the way my world be turned up side down the second the midwife placed my baby girl in my arms for the first time.


Running errands is suddenly a lot harder. (Why do they have to make infant car seats so heavy and bulky anyway?) I have a shockingly difficult time just keeping up with life’s necessities—cooking, laundry, and personal hygiene—now that I have to spend so much time nursing, changing diapers, bathing, and bouncing my little one. I expected to be tired and have a period of adjustment. But I never expected losing a few hours of sleep at night would take such a drastic toll on my ability to function. Of course, this has also taken a toll on my asana practice, too—it’s pretty much non-existent right now.

Of course, that doesn’t mean I’m not practicing in other ways, though. Here are a few ways yoga has helped me cope with sleep deprivation and my transition into parenthood.

Just Be in the Moment. I’ve never felt more present and in the moment than I do when I’m cuddling with my baby. I pay attention to each shallow breath, the feel of her soft skin, and listen intently to every little gurgle that leaves her lips. This is meditation at its finest.

Yoga Nidra. Sleep when the baby sleeps. This is the most common advice people give to new mothers. I have to admit, I didn’t take this advice for a few weeks. The results were detrimental. One of the main reasons I practice yoga is self-care. When I gave myself permission to take a nap during the day (and I’ve had to schedule it in at 2 pm every single day), I felt better physically and mentally.

Take a Breather. When I’m not being productive and accomplishing what I want to I have a tendency to beat myself up about it. My yoga practice has helped me understand that sometimes it’s OK to slow down, step back, and rest. During my maternity leave, it was my yoga practice that helped me to be OK with taking a break, enjoy my family, and rest when I need to.