Updated: Jan 28, 2021
I fell in love with yoga nidra during a period of insomnia. I would wake up at 5am and not be able to get back to sleep. I had nightmares and felt very anxious lying in my bed, catastrophizing. I felt vulnerable, fearful and wide awake.
One night I tried listening to a CD of Yoga Nidra of Rod Stryker that a friend had given me. Following his voice not only distracted me but the practice had a strong effect on my mental and physical calm so that I was able to drop off to sleep without effort.
What I found reassuring about practicing yoga nidra when I had insomnia, was that I knew that even if I didn’t fall asleep, the yoga nidra would help me get some rest and recovery. It was better than lying awake. This comforting thought probably contributed to me being able to sleep too: when the pressure is off, it is easier to let go.
I practiced during the day too and gradually I began to be able to switch into this state of nidra at night, without the need of the audio. It was almost as if I had re-wired my mind and body to be able to relax and fall asleep when I needed it.
Why Yoga Nidra for Sleep?
One of the reasons that yoga nidra is so effective for insomnia is that it works on the level of your mind and your body at the same time. When you listen to a practice of yoga nidra, it’s like you are shedding the layers of mental and physical awareness until you drop into a completely calm state.
iRest Institute conducted a randomised controlled study of three occupational sleep interventions in 2016 and found that that people with sleep problems who practice iRest Yoga Nidra experience more time asleep than those using other methods (see the study findings here). Yoga Nidra teacher, Nirlipta Tuli, offers an online course on yoga nidra for sleep having cured his own insomnia with the practice too.
I recommend Yoga Nidra for people who suffer anxiety-related insomnia at night because it really takes the stress out of sleeping. If you have a stressful or negative relationship with sleep, it can become increasingly hard to overcome sleeping problems, yoga nidra stops the problem escalating.
The important thing is to find ways to stay calm and connected with your ability to sleep well, even during periods of acute insomnia.
How to practice Yoga Nidra for better Sleep?
Depending on your situation you can practice yoga nidra to help you sleep at different times of day:
1. In the evening as you go to bed, to fall asleep more quickly
2. In the middle of the night, to fall back to sleep or to simply rest and recover
3. During the day to recover from sleep deprivation
In the first two situations, I would suggest practicing specific yoga nidra for sleep, which guides slowly fades out at the end, leaving you to continue your sleep, rather than bringing you back awake again.
You might be concerned about using your phone at night to access yoga nidra. I recommend either using an iPod or mp3 player or downloading the audio and using your phone on flight mode at night. Make sure you get set up before you go to sleep to avoid unnecessary frustration at night.
I listened to one recording so much that, after a while, just repeating the first few sentences of the practice put my body and mind into a relaxed state, and I learned to fall back to sleep without the audio. You should be aiming to learn how to relax and fall asleep again with yoga nidra, rather than becoming reliant on yoga nidra to fall asleep.
Just be careful not to spend too much time in yoga nidra during the day if you want to sleep at night, as it can reduce your need for nocturnal sleep!
Five yoga nidra audio recordings to help you fall asleep
I often get asked which are the best yoga nidra practices for sleep, so I have selected my favourite yoga nidra for sleep practices here to share with you.
I hope that it helps you get the rest that you need and let me know which of these recordings you enjoy the most.
Richard Miller is the founder of iRest and a leading light in yoga nidra teaching around the world. I particularly enjoy his reassuring voice and well-paced teachings of yoga nidra. I feel that the spaces in is teachings allow time for us to drop deeper into the practice. I feel so at peaceful and at ease listening to this meditation and I’m sure you will too!
Nirlipta Tuli, founder and co-partner of Sitaram Partnership and Yoga Nidra Network in the UK, offers a free 35-minute practice to help you fall asleep. Nirlipta is a yoga nidra teacher, hypnotherapist and former insomniac. I have attended workshops and retreats with Uma Dilsmore-Tuli and Nirlipta Tuli and can highly recommend their authentic and heartfelt teachings of Yoga Nidra. If you want to learn more about Yoga Nidra for Sleep, Total Yoga Nidra also offer a course “Sleep Well with Total Yoga Nidra” for £49 with 8 hours of online learning.
Jennifer Piercy from Canada has created Sacred Sleep Yoga and is passionate about helping people reconnect with their fundamental and natural need for rest and sleep through yoga. She insists that “tired-ness is a natural part of life” that should be nourished not ignored.
Jennifer’s sleep meditations receive plenty of positive reviews: “I could not possibly listen to this without fully asleep! Everything about the audio works perfectly! Timing, voice, content - Jennifer has done a wonderful job! thank you!”
Meditations from Jennifer Piercy are also available on Insight Timer.
Robin Carnes is a certified iRest yoga nidra instructor, Certified Yoga Therapist and pioneer in the field of mind/body healing. Robin has helped thousands of people to sleep better with her yoga nidra practices.
“As a former insomniac, I’ve searched for years for recordings to help me get to sleep, or get back to sleep. I’ve created these 7 tracks to soothe, relax, and restore anyone who finds themselves in need of sleep’s powerful healing qualities” – Robin Cairnes
Astrid van Wesenbeeck is a Certified iRest teacher based in Belgium with a passion for teaching meditation inner healing, health and rediscovering one's true self. This recording, designed to be listened to in the middle of the night, was shared by iRest as their weekly free iRest recordings to: "This half-hour meditation addresses a range of afflictions from night terrors to insomnia". Let Astrid's voice comfort you and support you in the middle of the night so that you can move through the layers of wakefulness into deeply restoring sleep.
I'd love to hear from you!
Do you use yoga nidra to fall asleep?
What are your favourite recordings?
Who are your favourite yoga nidra teachers?
Did you enjoy the ones I have recommended?
Feel free to leave your comments below and email me with any questions: email@example.com.
About the author - Dot Zacharias
Dot Zacharias is a teacher of iRest yoga nidra in Brussels and online and Integrative Adult Sleep Coach.