Yoga Benefits

Overcome Sleep Apnea with These 5 Simple Yet Effective Yoga Poses

November 30, 2022

Do you struggle to get to sleep at night or find yourself waking up multiple times? If so, incorporating certain yoga poses into your evening routine could help you wind down and improve the quality of your forty winks. Yoga for sleep apnea is a great way to combat sleep-related issues, and there are many yoga asanas that are specifically aimed at helping those with sleep apnea.

Better sleep is just one of the many benefits of yoga, yet one of the most common reasons people start the practice. But how does yoga improve sleep quality, and what are the best asanas for this purpose? When it comes to yoga for sleep apnea, deep breathing exercises and calming poses can help regulate breathing patterns, reducing the symptoms of sleep apnea and promoting better sleep.

Read on to discover the fascinating connection between yoga and sleep, and how incorporating yoga poses into your routine can help you achieve better sleep. I’ll also share the top yoga poses that help alleviates sleeping problems, which you can put together into a short sequence tonight!

How Does Yoga Improve Your Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. It is characterized by temporary pauses in breathing during sleep, which can last anywhere from a few seconds to minutes and occur repeatedly throughout the night. The most noticeable symptoms of sleep apnea include loud snoring, waking up frequently during the night gasping for air, excessive daytime sleepiness, difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, and sudden awakenings with a choking or gasping sensation.

For those struggling with sleep apnea, incorporating yoga into their daily routine may help alleviate symptoms and improve the quality of their sleep. Yoga is well known for relaxing the body and calming the mind, two vital components to getting a good night’s sleep. Studies have found that yoga, specifically yoga for sleep apnea, can also help manage sleep-related problems like insomnia and improve breathing regulation.

The reason for this is partly due to the mindfulness aspect of yoga. A separate study found mindfulness practices like yoga and meditation can help to improve sleep disturbances, particularly among older adults. In addition, the physical exercise aspect and breathing awareness and regulation in yoga play an essential role in improving sleep quality, particularly for individuals with sleep apnea.

Still, certain yoga styles may be better than others when it comes to improving sleep quality.  

yoga for sleep apnea

In general, slower styles like Yin, Restorative, or a Slow Hatha flow are excellent at calming the nervous system and stimulating the “rest and digest” response. These are more calming than dynamic yoga styles such as Vinyasa and Ashtanga.

What’s more, did you know that the best time to practice yoga depends on the style? For example, you may assume that it’s best to do yoga in the evening if you want a restful night’s sleep. 

However, doing a fast-paced power flow just before bed is not advisable as it will likely energise you more than relax you. Instead, it’s best to do your “yang” yoga practice in the morning and then end the day with a gentler, slower flow. 

Top 5 Yoga Poses For Better Sleep

As you may know, different asana groups have different benefits. For example, backbends are known to be energising, so you should limit these when practising before bed. Likewise, inversions, arm balances, and core work tend to be more invigorating than relaxing, so it’s best to add these to your morning practice.

However, for those who suffer from sleep apnea, yoga can offer a gentler and more natural way to manage their condition. Practicing certain yoga poses for sleep apnea can help to improve the symptoms and improve overall sleep quality. In fact, studies have shown that practicing yoga for sleep apnea on a regular basis can be an effective complement to other sleep apnea treatments.

So, which yoga poses are best for bringing you into a restful, “ready-to-sleep” state?

Generally, forward folds and most seated and reclined postures are the most pacifying. 
Here is a short pre-bedtime yoga sequence you can try:

1. Child’s Pose

child's yoga pose for sleep apnea
Child’s Pose, Card 15 from the YIN Deck

When you’re in a Vinyasa or Hatha class, many yoga teachers will tell you that Child’s Pose is your resting pose and the asana to go to if it all gets too much. This is because this gentle posture evokes a sense of calm, security, and stability. 

As a forward fold, it relaxes the spine, nourishes the back muscles, and soothes the nervous system. Then, as the forehead touches the ground, it also helps to calm a busy or anxious mind. 

You can do the Child’s pose with the knees together or wide apart. The former adds gentle pressure to the abdominal muscles, stimulating digestion. So, this pose will be super helpful if you eat dinner late at night. The latter variation gently opens and stretches the hips, relieving tension in that area, such as pre-menstrual cramps.

2. Seated Forward Bend

Seated Forward Fold yoga pose for sleep apnea
Caterpillar Pose (Seated Forward Bend), Card 14 from the YIN Deck

Seated Forward Bend, also known as Paschimottasana, is another super calming forward fold that helps your body and mind relax. It’s particularly good at easing any accumulated lower back, neck, or shoulder pain from your day’s activities.

This pose doesn’t just relieve physical tension, though. Energetically, it works to reduce feelings of stress and anxious thoughts that may keep you awake at night because of the sleep apnea. 

There are many variations, including using a strap to create an active stretch or resting your head on a block for a passive one. If doing this to prepare for bed, I recommend the latter as it is extra calming for the nervous system.

3. Legs Up The Wall

Legs Up the wall yoga pose for sleep apnea
Legs Up the Wall, Card 30 from the YIN Deck

If you only do one yoga pose before bed, make it this one! Legs up the wall may look like a simple posture, but it is one of the most beneficial and underrated. It’s particularly delightful if you spend a lot of your day on your feet, as it reverses the blood flow from the legs, soothing swollen and tired feet and ankles.

As the blood moves down the legs, it passes the hips and replenishes the abdominal organs. Eventually, it sends a fresh flow of blood and oxygen to the brain, quieting the mind and relieving any headaches or mental tension.

4. Reclined Spinal Twist

supine spinal twist yoga pose for sleep apnea
Supine Spinal Twist, Card 51 from the YIN Deck

Sometimes, our busy lives mean we eat late and attempt to sleep on a full stomach. Unfortunately, this not only makes getting to sleep difficult and uncomfortable, but it can also cause bloating and stomach pain.

Twists are well known for improving the digestion process. This reclined easy twist gently stimulates peristalsis, wave-like muscle contractions that move food through the digestive tract. The reclined position is also calming for the mind and nervous system, making it one of the best yoga poses for sleep apnea.

5. Reclined Bound Angle Pose (or Butterfly)

Reclining butterfly yoga pose for sleep apnea
Reclined Bound Angle Pose (or Butterfly), Card 35 from the YIN Deck

The multi-beneficial yoga posture always feels fantastic at the end of any yoga practice. It stretches the hip and groin area, opens the heart, and improves general blood circulation. 

Known as a restorative backbend, it calms the mind and nervous system, relieving symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression. The supported version practiced in Yin Yoga is extra restful. This variation involves laying over a bolster, allowing your muscles to relax and your body to melt toward the ground. 

Once you have tried these five postures, follow this 30-minute yoga flow for better sleep, with a full explanation of how the sequence was created.

Final Thoughts On Yoga For Sleep Apnea

As mentioned earlier, Yin is one of the best yoga styles for improving sleep quality and treating sleep disturbances, especially for those with sleep apnea. In Yin Yoga, you move very slowly and perform mainly seated or reclined poses, which can be beneficial for those with sleep apnea. As you hold these replenishing postures for some time, you focus on breathing deeply, which creates a grounding, soothing energy. 

So, if you’re looking to improve your sleep and experience more rest and relaxation, especially if you have sleep apnea, check out the brand-new Yin Deck. The deck features 60 Yin postures with beautiful images and supportive cues, designed to be beneficial for those with sleep apnea. It is designed for all levels, so whether you’re a beginner or a pro, you can create endless sequences of yoga for sleep apnea that will help you experience the best sleep of your life!

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Beginner: no or little experience in yoga
Intermediate: a few years of experience in yoga
Teacher: you teach yoga or you are in YTT