As the number of postmenopausal women refusing to accept the health risks of hormone therapy increases, so does the exploration of natural alternatives like yoga and meditation. Insomnia is a common post-menopausal issue. It can reduce the quality of life and affects between up to 63 percent of post-menopausal women. Going to a hatha yoga class at least twice per week may reduce the occurrence of insomnia for post-menopausal women, according to a study published in the journal Menopause. If you’re having difficulty sleeping, you’ll be happy to know you may be able to alleviate your insomnia with yoga, according to a study from the Universidade Federal de São Paulo in Brazil.
Hatha Yoga, a moderate workout, is regarded as one of the most beneficial aspects of yoga practice. Sustained attention and associating with others at the same time requires the body to learn to manage arousal levels. This is why being regular in your yoga practice may help with reducing insomnia.
The Women in the study
The 44 healthy, postmenopausal women between the ages of 50 and 65 participated in this four-month study. Each woman was diagnosed with insomnia according to criteria from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The researchers split the women into three groups: a yoga group, a passive stretching group, and a control group.
The Yoga Class
The yoga group took two, one-hour yoga classes per week for four months. The classes started with asanas, followed by the strong and fast pranayama exercise bhastrika – bellows breath, and finished with a guided relaxation.
The Passive Stretching Sessions
The passive stretching group completed two, one-hour sessions per week with a physical therapist. This means the participants were relaxing while the PT manipulated their joints to stretch their muscles. Kind of like a medical Thai massage.
The results found yoga classes “yielded best results for reducing postmenopausal insomnia-related complaints.” After four months, the yoga group had major improvements in insomnia as well as major improvements in several mental health issues, including stress, worry, anxiety, and depression. Common vasomotor symptoms also improved, including hot flashes and irritability. The passive stretching group produced a lesser effect than yoga but showed a positive trend of scores between the yoga and control groups. The women were so satisfied with the results, 75 percent of the yoga group continued with yoga classes after the study.
How Does Yoga Reduce Insomnia?
How does yoga alleviate insomnia and other post-menopausal difficulties? The researchers say benefits are probably due to “alterations in the central, autonomic, and neuroendocrine nervous systems” that occur when you do yoga. That’s important because the immune system has no way of telling when you’re sleep-deprived and triggers fights against pathogens and tumor cells. By introducing free radicals into the bloodstream, yoga can “neutralize” harmful effects of free radicals and potentially enable healthier immune functioning.
10 Tips for Beating Insomnia
These tricks all may help you feel better and have more energy, but they will only help you if you actually implement them. This takes a little effort. And it’s so worth it. Because at the end of the day, all those hours of sleep and all those hours spent reading, watching TV, playing computer games, etc. are what gives your brain the most cognitive opportunities and the most opportunities for improvement.
- Do not eat or drink immediately before going to bed.
- Make your sleeping environment comfortable.
- Upgrade to a comfortable bed (see Zinus mattress reviews for shopping tips)
- Wake up and go to sleep at the same time every day.
- Stay away from screens.
- Reduce alcohol and stimulants like nicotine and caffeine.
- Limit or shorten naps.
- Exercise frequently.
- Limit your non-sleep activities in bed.
- Promote good sleep hygiene habits.