Every day, new side effects of the pandemic are enough to literally lose sleep over. Neurologists are treating patients with an increase in sleep disorders associated with Covid-19, which they’re terming “Covid-somnia”. Many health experts and practitioners are going beyond medical cures to innovate on native healing systems. Hilary Jackendoff, a Los Angeles-based yoga nidra and meditation teacher, has developed sleep yoga—a form of deep relaxation meditation—as a Covid-19 fight technique.
“In yoga nidra, we’re seeking to disengage entirely from the senses in the same way that we do during sleep,” she told Neurology Today, the official news source of the American Academy of Neurology that reaches over 36,000 health professionals. “That’s part of how it trains you to sleep more deeply, and reduces sleep-onset insomnia. It enables you to feel rested even if you haven’t slept.” Gradually sleep yoga also repairs sleep cycles and betters sleep quality.
Yoga nidra is different from other asanas. Done lying down, for one, the subject is guided through exercises for relaxation in person or online. Surrendering to the advice is important. Jackendoff suggests, “Pay attention without trying too hard.” This is not a complicated process. Like with other yoga procedures, first comes the body scan to make you aware of specific parts of your body one by one. Muscles relax. Breathing becomes deep. You slide into conscious somnolence.
Different teachers have developed their own techniques. Jackendoff takes you back through the day’s events, you listen to your heartbeat, reflect on your goals and needs, and create a statement of intent. Free recordings are available on YouTube. Staying awake during the meditation is the key to sleep yoga, best done between 2-3 pm. This is when our energy levels are slowed down by the natural circadian rhythms. The effects of the sleep yoga extend to the night, enabling you to slide into sleep faster and deeper.
Afternoon sessions allow exhausted insomniacs to rest their minds so that their efficiency at work goes up—half an hour of sleep yoga session equals two to four hours of deep sleep. A recent study of 95 participants found that listening to an 11-minute meditation every day for a month lowered stress, increased wellbeing, and improved sleep quality. Sleep yoga is not a replacement for actual sleep. Still it does counter sleeplessness and anxiety, especially Covid-somnia. The raveled sleeve of care being knit by this practice is a new development in the endless fight against the pandemic.