Snoozing During Savasana?

Confession: I’ve fallen asleep in yoga class. After an exhausting physical practice, and the mental clarity I
get from purposefully focusing my thoughts, it’s sometimes difficult to stay awake for savasana.
Although it’s embarrassing to be caught snoozing in yoga class, I love knowing that my yoga practice is
part of my active lifestyle that supports me to have better quality sleep. In my work at the Temple
University Collaborative on Community Inclusion, I have talked with many people who have problems
with sleep related to their mental health. This led me to wonder: can yoga affect our sleep, and if so,
how does this support our mental health?

Vera et al. (2009) compared stress hormones and sleep quality in people with 3+ years of yoga
experience to people who didn’t do yoga. The yoga practitioners reported better quality sleep, and
their stress hormones (cortisol) suggested that their bodies were handling stress more effectively.
However, the people in this study were in good health. Because people with depression often have
problems with sleeping, I looked for research on sleep, yoga, and depression.

Devi and Singh (2016) looked at yoga, depression, and sleep quality in a group of men who were
recovering from substance use problems. They had 33 men practice 70 minutes of yoga every day for a
month, including meditation, asana (physical poses), and pranayama (breathing exercises). Devi and
Singh compared them to 33 men from the same addiction treatment centers. While both groups said
they had a decrease in experiences related to depression and had improved sleep, the yoga group had a
much larger change at the end of the month. Men who did yoga also said that they increased their self-
esteem.

The links between what happens in our minds and our bodies are complicated. It’s hard to know
whether better sleep comes from the mindfulness practices of yoga, the physical activity, both, or
something else. Nonetheless, it seems that snoring in savasana might not be such a bad thing!

Mental Health Spotlight provided by Katie Pizziketti in collaboration with the Temple University Collaborative on Community Inclusion of Individuals with Psychiatric Disabilities. 

The Temple University Collaborative receives funding from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR grant number #90RT5021-02-00). NIDILRR is a Center within the Administration for Community Living (ACL), Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). This article does not necessarily represent the policy of NIDILRR, ACL, HHS, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government.