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Can Yoga Nidra Replace Sleep?
I’ve been a insomniac for as long as I can remember. As a kid, it was hard to fall asleep at night. As an adult, it’s even harder to get the recommended eight hours of sleep. And lately, my sleep deprivation has reached new levels.
A few years ago, I decided to try Yoga Nidra after reading about its benefits (including improved sleep).
I’m happy to report that Yoga Nidra has helped me sleep better than I have in years. In fact, it’s become my new favorite way to unwind at the end of the day.
Can Yoga Nidra replace sleep?
No, Yoga Nidra cannot replace sleep. Just like any type of meditation can not replace sleep.
When we compare Meditation vs Yoga Nidra it turns out that both practices can help improve sleep quality. But sleep and rest is essential for physical and mental health, and it is during sleep that our bodies repair and rejuvenate themselves.
It is recommended to aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night for adults and to maintain a consistent sleep schedule. However, Yoga Nidra and other forms of Non-sleep Deep Rest (NSDR) can be used as a complement to healthy sleep habits and should be treated like taking a nap (because naps do not count as sleep as well!)
A 30-minute session of Yoga Nidra could be equivalent to 2-4 hours of sleep, but it should not be used as a substitute for the restorative process of sleep. Trying to replace a whole night’s sleep with Yoga Nidra won’t work as the practice only takes you into 2 of the 4 sleep stages, and it does not give a complete sleep cycle.
It is important to consult a healthcare professional before trying to replace sleep with Yoga Nidra or any other NSDR Protocol.
How does Yoga Nidra compare to regular sleep?
During regular sleep, the body relaxes and enters a state where the mind is largely inactive. However, during yoga nidra, relaxation occurs not only in the body, but also in the mind and emotions. This is achieved by moving awareness through the body, releasing emotional tensions, and using rapid visualization to release mental tensions.
The hypnogogic state that is entered during yoga nidra is deeper and more restorative than regular sleep, and just 20-30 minutes of yoga nidra can be equivalent to four hours of sleep. But yoga nidra can not be used to replace lost sleep only to improve concentration and tiredness.
Yoga Nidra is said to be derived from the 8 limbs of Yoga Tree – the last limb one is called Samadhi which is all about complete union with the divine source.
2. How does Yoga Nidra compare to regular sleep: Benefits
Yoga Nidra is a type of guided meditation that takes the practitioner into a state of conscious sleep, progressively moving through the same brainwave states as sleep until disengaging from thoughts and self-identification. Although it cannot replace a full night’s sleep, Yoga Nidra provides immediate benefits such as
- reduced stress,
- improved cognitive function,
- and deep rest.
- increased synchronicity,
- spiritual growth,
- and enhanced creativity.
3. Brainwave states
Brainwave states can be divided into four categories: beta, alpha, theta, and delta. During yoga nidra our mind goes through all stages, then reaching a state between wakefulness and sleeping. Here lucid thoughts are mixed with dreaming – this is how we make contact with our subconscious.
Once we reach the theta wave state, our thoughts begin to slow down. The final brainwave state we reach is the delta band, which is the restorative state. However, not everyone reaches deep sleep, which can be a cause of having sleeping problems or insomnia.
4. Sleep Cycles and Duration
Yoga Nidra and regular sleep are not equivalent to each other. While Yoga Nidra is relaxing (it is a deep pressure calming activity) and energizing, it cannot replace the need for a solid eight hours of sleep. Yoga Nidra takes you into only 2 of the 4 sleep stages (NREM stage 1 and NREM stage 2), and it does not give a complete sleep cycle. One complete sleep cycle takes an average of 90 minutes, and most people require 4 to 6 cycles per night.
Thus, no sleep hack can replace the need for adequate rest. However, if you feel sluggish and groggy after taking a nap, consider doing a Yoga Nidra session instead, as it does not cause sleep inertia.
Nonetheless, Yoga Nidra cannot replace the necessary physical rest of a whole night’s sleep.
5. Sleep deprivation
While Yoga Nidra has many benefits, relying solely on it as a replacement for regular sleep can have potential risks. Sleep deprivation can have serious consequences on cognitive function, mood, and overall health. Lack of sleep can lead to
- impaired memory and concentration,
- decreased productivity,
- and increased risk of accidents
- mood disorders such as anxiety and depression,
- and negatively impact physical health by weakening the immune system
- increasing the risk of chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease.
6. Stress hormone cortisol
Cortisol is a stress hormone that can cause depression and anxiety when imbalanced. Yoga Nidra and regular sleep have been found to lower cortisol levels, reducing stress and promoting overall well-being. Yoga Nidra triggers the release of neurotransmitters like Gaba and Serotonin, which carry anti-anxiety and anti-depressant effects.
Studies have shown that Yoga Nidra can improve sleep quality and reduce cortisol levels in postmenopausal women and patients with chronic insomnia. But regular sleep is also important in regulating cortisol levels.
7. Hormone irregularities
Research has shown that practicing yoga nidra can have a positive impact on hormonal imbalances. Specifically, the yoga nidra group in a study showed reductions in prolactin, follicle-stimulating hormone, thyroid-stimulating hormone, and luteinizing hormone compared to a matched control group. While yoga nidra is not a substitute for sleep, it is widely believed that 45 minutes of yogic sleep feels like 3 hours of regular sleep due to the series of brain-wave changes experienced during the practice.
While yoga nidra can help activate the relaxation response and improve the functioning of the nervous and endocrine systems, further research is needed to fully understand the hormonal differences between yoga nidra and regular sleep.
8. Immune system
Research suggests that both Yoga Nidra and regular sleep can positively affect the immune system. A 2019 study found that practicing Yoga Nidra for 12 weeks increased levels of anti-inflammatory cytokines, which can enhance immune function. Similarly, regular sleep has been shown to increase the production of cytokines and other immune system cells, improving overall immune function.
However, the quality of sleep may be more important than the quantity. A 2015 study found that poor sleep quality was associated with decreased immune function. Additionally, chronic sleep deprivation can lead to a dysregulation of the immune system, increasing the risk of infection and inflammation.
How much sleep is equal to Yoga Nidra?
While some people claim that one hour of Yoga Nidra is equivalent to 4 hours of sleep, there is little scientific evidence to support this. Yoga Nidra can take you into NREM stage 1 and 2 sleep states, but there is little evidence that it reaches the Delta (stage 3 and 4) brainwave state, which is essential for physical repair and memory consolidation. Therefore, it’s unlikely that a Nidra practice can replace a whole night’s sleep.
However, a 30-minute session of Yoga Nidra can be equivalent to 2-4 hours of sleep in terms of relaxation and stress reduction. yoga Nidra can also improve the quality of sleep when practiced regularly.
Yoga Nidra vs sleep
Yoga Nidra and sleep are two different states of consciousness that have their own unique benefits. While sleep is necessary for the body to rest and rejuvenate, Yoga Nidra is a state of conscious relaxation that allows the mind and body to deeply relax and heal.
Both practices have benefits for the body and mind, but they serve different purposes and should not be used as substitutes for each other. The recommended amount of sleep for adults is 7-9 hours per night, while Yoga Nidra can be practiced for shorter periods of time to promote relaxation and reduce stress.
Key differences between sleep and Yoga Nidra
While both sleep and Yoga Nidra can provide rest and relaxation, they differ in their purpose and approach.
|Purpose||To provide essential rest and restoration||To induce a state of deep relaxation and meditation|
|Consciousness||State of unconsciousness||State of consciousness with awareness and relaxation|
|Duration||Typically 6-9 hours per night||Typically 30-45 minutes per session|
|Brain waves||Different stages of brain waves during the night||Theta brain waves are induced throughout the practice|
|Physical body||Body is inactive and resting||Body is relaxed and at ease|
|Benefits||Physical and mental restoration and rejuvenation||Reduced stress, improved relaxation, and mindfulness|
How can Yoga Nidra help with insomnia?
Studies have shown that practicing Yoga Nidra for three to four weeks
- can help fight insomnia by helping you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.
- increases heart rate variability
- shifts the nervous system towards parasympathetic dominance, also known as the rest and digest mode,
- which can help reduce anxiety and stress levels.
- slows the brain waves, inducing a sleep-like state by sending signals to your body and mind that you are ready to sleep.
During a Yoga Nidra practice, specific techniques can be used to promote relaxation and better sleep, such as deep breathing, body scanning, and visualization.
Is Yoga Nidra like deep sleep?
No, Yoga Nidra is not like deep sleep. While both are relaxing and calming, Yoga Nidra is a guided meditation that induces a state of consciousness between waking and sleeping. It is not a replacement for sleep, but a complementary practice that can improve sleep quality and provide deep rest and healing for the body, mind, and soul. In contrast to deep sleep, Yoga Nidra allows you to be fully aware and in control of the practice.
What are the brainwave states associated with Yoga Nidra?
Yoga Nidra is a guided meditative practice that takes you through four different brainwave states.
- The first state is beta, which is characterized by an active mind with a frequency of 14-40Hz.
- The second state is alpha, which brings about feelings of relaxation and thoughtlessness with a frequency of 9-13Hz.
- The third state is theta, where your thoughts slow down to around 3-5 thoughts per second, and you are prone to a free flow of ideas. This state is typically seen as a positive mental state.
- The fourth and final state is delta, where the brainwaves are of the greatest amplitude and slowest frequency. This is the restorative state your body enters during sleep, and it allows for healing and regeneration of organs.
Yoga Nidra can help you achieve the healing benefits of theta and delta states, which are often disrupted by stress, anxiety, and insomnia.
Is Yoga Nidra equal to 4 hours of sleep?
No, Yoga Nidra cannot be considered equal to 4 hours of sleep. While Yoga Nidra is known to help relieve tiredness and give you more energy, it only takes you into two out of the four stages of sleep, NREM stage 1 and NREM stage 2.
Humans need multiple full sleep cycles during a night’s sleep for adequate rest, and one complete sleep cycle takes an average of 90 minutes. Therefore, while Yoga Nidra offers a way to replenish your energy, it cannot replace the need for a solid eight hours of sleep.
How does Yoga Nidra help people get enough sleep?
Yoga nidra helps people get enough sleep by
- calming the mind,
- reducing stress hormones,
- and training the brain to power down through meditation practice.
- shifts the mind’s focus away from daily stressors
- and promote a sense of calm and relaxation.
- It can also be used as a natural sleep aid when practiced at bedtime.
Is Yoga Nidra better than a nap?
While Yoga Nidra and napping both offer relaxation and rejuvenation, they have different benefits and drawbacks. Yoga Nidra does not replace all the sleep stages as a whole night’s rest does, but it can improve sleep quality and reduce stress.
On the other hand, power napping can help with energy levels but may cause sleep inertia. It is recommended to aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night and to use Yoga Nidra and napping as complements to healthy sleep habits. A 30-minute Yoga Nidra session can be a good substitute for an afternoon nap. It is also my own experience!