How to Promote Deep Sleep and Working Memory With Yoga Nidra

How to Promote Deep Sleep and Working Memory With Yoga Nidra

Looking for a new activity to help you relax, sleep, and think? Check out this study showing how yoga nidra practice can support sleep and cognitive performance.

Key Takeaways

  • Yoga Nidra is an accessible practice to support relaxation
  • Yoga Nidra practice in the morning supports night-time sleep and cognitive processing 

How Yoga Nidra Practice in Novices Supports Sleep and Cognitive Function

Yoga Nidra, also known as yogic sleep, is a pratyahara (withdrawal of senses) technique whose goal is to induce a state of complete physical, mental, and emotional relaxation that can be described as “sleeping consciously”—a sleep-like state in which you remain aware [1]. Yoga Nidra practice is used as a technique for stress management and sleep promotion and has been shown to support sleep in poor sleepers [2]. 

Good sleep is essential for cognitive performance [3]. Sleep loss and poor sleep quality affect alertness, attention, vigilance, processing speed, and emotional processing. Consequently, poor sleep impairs all the cognitive tasks that rely on these functions, including those with an emotional component, which can result in poorer stress resilience [4]. 

Therefore, by supporting sleep and stress management, Yoga Nidra may also support cognitive performance. Subjective improvements in cognition and night-time sleep following Yoga Nidra morning practice in novices have been reported [5–7]. However, its effect on objective parameters of cognition and sleep in healthy novices has not been documented. 

Therefore, a recent study aimed to assess the effect of Yoga Nidra practice on objective parameters of cognition and sleep of healthy Yoga Nidra novices.

Yoga Nidra was practiced in the morning for 20 minutes with three minutes of instructions before and after the practice. A pre-recorded Yoga Nidra audio session was used (available on YouTube). Yoga Nidra is done in a supine posture called Shavasana, or “corpse pose”: lying on the back with arms and legs kept at about 45° with the palms facing upwards. The practice consists of seven steps (brief outline of the practice and general instructions here): preparation, sankalpa (resolution), rotation of consciousness, breath awareness, feeling and sensation, visualization, and ending of practice. Initially, Yoga Nidra training was done in supervised sessions. The participants continued the practice on their own after training was completed. 

Participants kept a sleep diary starting from two weeks before the intervention and maintained it throughout the study. Sleep diary analysis showed that Yoga Nigra improved total sleep time, sleep quality, time to fall asleep, and time awake after sleep onset. Objective sleep parameters were assessed using polysomnography at baseline and after four weeks of practice. Data showed an objective improvement in nighttime sleep after Yoga Nidra practice in novices, namely in time awake after sleep onset (-20 min), sleep efficiency (+3.62%), and slow-wave sleep. 

How Yoga Nidra Supports Cognitive Performance

Cognitive performance was evaluated at baseline and after one and two weeks of practice using a cognitive testing battery that assessed the reaction time and accuracy of multiple aspects of cognitive function (sensory motor speed, spatial learning and memory, working memory, abstraction and concept information, spatial orientation, emotion identification, abstract reasoning, complex scanning and visual tracking, risk decision-making, and vigilant attention). After initiating Yoga Nidra practice, increased reaction times for all cognition tasks were seen, as well as increased accuracy for several tasks, indicating faster cognitive processing speed. 

These findings indicate that the relaxation induced by a Yoga Nidra morning practice may lead to a reduction in sympathetic activation and an increase in parasympathetic activation [8], resulting in a promotion of slow-wave sleep and sleep quality at night. This, in turn, may support cognition, as slow-wave sleep enhancement has been found to support alertness, attention, and executive function [9]. 

The relaxation induced by a Yoga Nidra morning practice reduces sympathetic activation and increases parasympathetic activation, resulting in improved slow-wave sleep and sleep quality at night.

This study shows that Yoga Nidra, a simple and easily implementable routine, may help to promote sleep and cognitive performance in healthy individuals, even in those who are just starting out in the practice.

You can also support sleep quality and cognition with Qualia Night, a dietary supplement designed to support nightly relaxation, healthy sleep, and help you wake up feeling refreshed and ready for a new day. Qualia Night provides 25 carefully selected ingredients, including Rasayana rejuvenators, herbal adaptogens, restorative nootropic ingredients, superfoods, and cellular antioxidants, combined to support healthy sleep quality. Qualia Night is a complete solution for sound, refreshing sleep, stress support, enhanced next-day performance, and long-term brain health.*

Learn more about Qualia supplements here. 

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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