If it’s 3 p.m. and you can hardly keep your eyes open, that may mean you didn’t sleep well last night. A lot of us didn’t.
For some of us, it’s a side effect of a phenomenon that doctors are calling COVID-somnia—a range of sleep disturbances that include sleeping too little, sleeping too much, and having nightmares that keep us from sleeping at all. We’re either feeling too wound up to fall asleep, or our worries are waking us up in the wee hours.
Lack of sleep at night means we are more likely to feel sleepy during the day. You can try to power through—but that’s a recipe for foggy thinking and sloppy mistakes. A better option may be to just take a nap.
A few simple yoga poses can help you “switch off” long enough to drop off into a short, restorative rest. Almost 60 percent of people who practice yoga say it helps improve their sleep, according to a National Health Statistics Report. Yoga is associated with stress and anxiety reduction, which may explain why it smooths the way for better slumber.
If you’re day sleeping, being able to effectively settle down is important. Avoid power poses and vigorous sequences. Instead try asana techniques that allow you to hold still in positions (Yin), explore alignment (Iyengar), or focus on rest (Restorative). And don’t forget relaxing pranayama practices, too.
“Everyone could benefit from a restorative or gentle yoga practice,” says Bobbie Ellis, a New Jersey-based yoga instructor. She offers this short sequence to help you relax into rest.
A yoga sequence for napping
Sukhasana (Easy Pose) with Breath
Using breathing techniques in meditative poses has a calming effect on mind and body.
Sit on a chair, bolster, or cushion with the hips grounded. Lengthen the back and lift the heart so that you are sitting erect, but relaxed. Bring the chin parallel with the floor and let the shoulders relax down. Place your hands on your thighs or in your lap. Focus on the breath. Take an easy breath in through the nose as you count to four. Breathe out through the nose for six counts, placing more emphasis on the exhalation. Repeat adding two counts to the inhalation and exhalation. Focus on feeling the breath as you inhale and exhale.
Parsva Sukhasana (Seated Side Stretch)
This is a soothing pose that helps to relieve stress and anxiety.
From Sukhasana (Easy Pose), place your left hand on the floor beside your left hip with your elbow slightly bent. Breathe in slowly and deeply as you reach your right arm up overhead and to the left as you lean to the left side. Hold the breath for a count of 5; slowly exhale for a count of 10. Switch sides and repeat.
Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend)
This pose calms the mind and helps relieve stress.
Sit with your feet and legs straight out in front of you. Inhale as you stretch arms overhead. Hold for a breath or two. Exhale as you slowly bend forward from the hips to touch your shins or feet. Hold for a breath or two. Inhale as you slowly rise up, arms overhead. Repeat.
This relaxing pose can relieve tension in the body.
Lay a bolster (or two, one on top of the other) lengthwise on your mat. Position your right hip at the bottom of the bolster, twist to the right and lie face-down on the bolster, placing your arms on either side of it. Place your forehead down or lie on your left cheek. Inhale and exhale slowly, allowing your body to relax into the bolster. Hold the pose for three to five minutes. Repeat on the opposite side.
Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Supported bridge pose)
Promotes relaxation, calms the mind, and helps alleviate anxiety and mild depression.
Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor hip-width apart. Position your feet so your ankles are directly under your knees. Place your arms at your sides, reaching toward your heels. Press down into the soles of your feet to lift your hips off the floor. Slide a bolster or block under your pelvis. Release your body into the prop. Rest in this position for three to five minutes.
Promotes progressive relaxation
Lie down on your back using whatever props you need for support and comfort, or take a seated position with your feet flat on the floor. Start by noticing your breath as you inhale and exhale. Starting at your feet, tense your toes then relax. As you inhale and exhale naturally, continue the scan up the length of your body, flexing for 10 seconds and relaxing 30 seconds—from calf and shin, thighs, hips, torso, neck, arms, fingers. Include chin, checks, eyes, and forehead all the way to the top of your head. Then release and follow your breath until you fall asleep.