Insomnia is an extended inability to fall asleep or stay asleep. Being unable to sleep is caused by anxiety or chronic pain and is an issue of excessive psychological arousal rather than an inability to sleep. This distinction lends itself well to the application of yoga as treatment for insomnia.
Rather than viewing insomnia as a critical problem that must be cured, insomniacs can view their inability to sleep as an excess of staying awake. By changing the perspective from an inability to do something (sleep) to knowledge of what they are good at (staying awake), insomniacs can reimagine their relationship with sleep and wakefulness. Yoga becomes another tool that is used while awake that prompts rest and relaxation rather than stress about a perceived inability to sleep.
Yoga is practiced while awake and if done regularly, can help patients facilitate the transition from wakefulness to sleep.
How to treat insomnia with yoga:
- Instruct students to write down a list of reasons why they stay awake excessively
- Describe several pranayama techniques that they can use in the hours and minutes leading up to bedtime.
- Have them consider insomnia as excessive wakefulness rather than inadequate sleep.
- Rather than dwelling on the inability to sleep, have them reframe their thoughts as extra time to be awake. Extra time to practice yoga?
People who are plagued with insomnia struggle to fall asleep for a variety of reasons. Paired with the external reason comes the additional stress of being unable to sleep. The more they fret about being unable to sleep, the greater degree the condition is exacerbated.
Like all therapeutic applications of yoga, the use of the practice for insomnia puts treatment in the hands of the student. The student decides when and how much yoga to incorporate and can also note which parts of the practice promote sleep.