Recent Study Concludes Yoga Helps Insomniacs

by Martin Reed Patient Advocate

If you have been dealing with sleepless nights, put away the sleeping aids and give yoga a chance to work its magic.

A new study, conducted at Harvard Medical School, has brought good news to those who have trouble sleeping. The study indicates that yoga can help those who suffer from chronic insomnia [1].

Almost everyone knows that yoga is an ancient practice. It is believed to date back as far as the sixth and fifth century BC. Having originated in ancient India, it was introduced to the Western world in the late 19th and early 20th century.

Yoga became a popular form of exercise in the 1980s. Since then, the popularity of yoga has risen constantly among those looking to improve their physical and mental health.

The benefits of yoga continue to be researched and discovered. Past research has already shown the yoga is effective in improving sleep for cancer survivors [2], post-menopausal women
[3], and those suffering from osteoarthritis
[4]. This recent study performed at Harvard Medical School was unique as it addressed whether yoga benefited those who suffered from insomnia. The participants in the study comprised of individuals who suffered from either primary or secondary insomnia. Primary insomnia is insomnia that has developed on its own without contributing factors such as a sleep disorder or health problem. Secondary insomnia is insomnia that has developed as a symptom of another condition such as chronic pain conditions, sleep disorders, and depression.

The study was to determine how practicing yoga on a daily basis affected the sleep of insomniacs. Participants were given basic yoga training and performed it daily for eight weeks. Sleep diaries were kept two weeks prior to the study and for the duration of the study. Records were kept of sleep time, the number of nocturnal awakenings, how long it took to fall back asleep, as well as other details such as sleep quality.
At the conclusion of the study, the information in the sleep diaries was analyzed.

Improvements were found in several areas of sleep including how long it took participants to fall asleep, total sleep time, total wake time, wake time after sleep occurred, and sleep efficiency. While there has not been much research conducted on yoga's effects strictly on insomniacs, this study concluded that yoga did improve sleep for this group.

With an estimated 15 percent of the population suffering from insomnia, this is welcome news. Yoga is easy to learn, there is essentially no cost to do it, and it can be done in the privacy of your own home. Yoga not only calms the mind, it soothes the body and prepares it for slumber. To reap this ancient practice's full sleep benefits, it should be done in the evening within the hour or so leading up to bedtime. A 15-20 minute yoga routine that is filled with slow, gentle, basic postures is ideal.

Martin is the creator of Insomnia Land's free online sleep training course for insomnia. Over 2,500 insomniacs have completed his course and 98% of graduates say they would recommend it to a friend.


[1] Khalsa, S. B. "Treatment of chronic insomnia with yoga: a preliminary study with sleep-wake diaries",
Applied Psychophysiology And Biofeedback, 2004, vol. 29, issue 4, p 269. Web. 31 March 2015.

[2] Mustian, K. M. et al. "Multicenter, randomized controlled trial of yoga for sleep quality among cancer survivors",
Journal Of Clinical Oncology: Official Journal Of The American Society Of Clinical Oncology, 2013, vol. 31, issue 26, p 3233. Web. 31 March 2015.

[3] Ghasemi, G. A. et al. "Effects of Hata Yoga on Knee Osteoarthritis", International Journal of Preventive Medicine, 4(Suppl 1), S133-S138. Web. 31 March 2015.

[4] Afonso, R. F. et al. "Yoga decreases insomnia in postmenopausal women: a randomized clinical trial",
Menopause. 2012 Feb;19(2):186-93. Web. 31 March 2015.

Martin Reed
Meet Our Writer
Martin Reed

Martin is the creator of Insomnia Coach, an eight-week course that combines online sleep education with individual sleep coaching. His course helps clients improve their sleep so they can enjoy a better life with more energy and start each day feeling happy, healthy, rested, and refreshed. Martin also runs a free sleep training course that has helped over 5,000 insomniacs. He holds a master’s degree in health and wellness education and studied clinical sleep health at the University of Delaware.