Sleep hygiene & the Power of Yoga Nidra

On World Sleep Day, rate last night’s sleep out of 10. What is your answer and why?

In today’s fast-paced world, where we’re constantly bombarded with stimuli, juggling our many roles and responsibilities, it’s easy to underestimate the importance of quality sleep and rejuvenating naps. However I am here to evangelise that prioritising sleep hygiene and incorporating regular rest breaks into our routine can have profound benefits for our overall well-being. In fact, any of you who have been a class or retreat with me know, yoga nidra is queen! From improving cognitive function to enhancing mood and productivity, here’s why embracing the ultimate power nap, yoga nidra and sleep hygiene is essential for a healthier, more balanced life.

The Importance of Sleep Hygiene

Sleep hygiene refers to the habits and practices that promote quality sleep. It encompasses everything from creating a comfortable sleep environment to establishing a consistent bedtime routine. One fundamental aspect of sleep hygiene is minimising screen time in the bedroom. The blue light emitted by electronic devices can disrupt our body’s natural sleep-wake cycle, making it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep. By keeping screens out of the bedroom, we create a conducive environment for restful sleep. The same goes for Yoga Nidra practice. Taking time to make sure you will not be disturbed, getting comfy and cosy (popping on bedsocks, getting that eye mask) are all part of good Nidra Hygiene!

Wind Down Rituals

Allowing enough wind down time before bedtime is another key component of sleep hygiene. Rather than diving straight from the busyness of the day into bed, engaging in calming activities signal to our body and mind that it’s time to relax. Whether it’s reading a book, practising yoga (come to class, your body will love you for it), listening to soothing music or going all out and practising Yoga Nidra, incorporating a wind-down ritual into our evening supports a restful night’s sleep. If you are a busy parent, ending up tidying, getting things ready for the family for the next day, why not set a wind down alarm allowing an allocated period of time to get all that done before your wind down ritual?


An excellent wind down ritual is reading. In fact maybe you are reading this right now at the end of your busy day! A 2009 study at the University of Sussex saw that reading a book for only 6 minutes had a magical effect: slowing heart rates, less muscle tension, and reduced stress levels by up to 69%. Other helpful relaxing activities were listening to music 61% and going for a walk 41%. Playing video games / apps on our phones still lowered stress levels but to 21%, the lowest score.

When we read, our brain does not distinguish between the story and reality. Getting lost in a book is a good way to change our mental and emotional landscape, and shift out of our anxiety or the to do list. Dr. David Lewis, the neuroscientist who conducted the study, reported that reading, “is more than merely a distraction but an active engaging of the imagination as the words on the printed page stimulate your creativity and cause you to enter what is essentially an altered state of consciousness.”

Yoga Nidra

The key here is ‘altered state of consciousness’. Yoga nidra is a form of guided relaxation that enables us to slide comfortably and effortlessly into the altered states of consciousness that we experience in sleep. Maybe you know firsthand my yoga nidras from class or Insight Timer. Maybe yoga nidra is your wind down ritual you do each night. Or for you, it needs to be earlier in the day to avoid it affecting your sleep. More on that later. Meantime what is happening in nidra to facilitate this change in consciousness? There are a number of common features across nidra practice, here we will focus on one key player: rotation of awareness, where the listener is invited to take their awareness around their body from part to part.

Rotation of Awareness

Here are three reasons why rotation of awareness is so powerful in changing our mental state. One we are drawn into a ‘story’ where our attention focuses on the guided rotation, our busy mind is engaged and cannot keep bringing up outside anxious thoughts. I often talk about our minds like a puppy, always bringing us slippers, that is simply how it functions! In nidra, we keep our puppy mind occupied so our deeper mind and body can get on with what they do so well, relaxing or sleeping. Two, rotation of awareness focuses on our own body in the present moment. As we become aware of each part, our awareness shines into the previously unaware ‘dark and dusty cupboards’ of stored up tension, melting revealed tension away. Three, rotation of awareness is often repeated in nidra practice, deepening and intensifying its’ cumulative relaxing effect.

To Nidra or not to Nidra

Yoga nidra is amazing and valuable tool for pressing our reset button, enhancing alertness, mood, and boosting our energy. Recently in my Beginners Monday evening class, I led our group through our first nidra practice of the course. When I asked how everyone’s sleep had been that night after class, it was a mixed response! Some had the sweetest most refreshing sleep, however others woke regularly when usually they sleep all the way through! Everyone got to sleep and got back to sleep ok, given their usual sleep patterns. So what had happened? How come the same practice had vastly varying effects? This is the stirring up or enhancing quality of nidra.

Sleep Cycles

When we sleep, we go through an approximate pattern of 70-90 minutes for each sleep cycle. This means every 90 minutes, we wake up but then drift back to sleep, so come morning have no recall of having been awake in the night. This is part of our biology and there are various thoughts as to why we do this. One is survival. It is safer to cycle through our sleep time, four to five times a night, than go so deep we are completely unaware and vulnerable for prolonged time, in case of predators.

In each cycle we drift from waking Beta to sleepy Alpha, light sleep of Theta to deep sleep and memory encoding Delta to REM sleep Beta and back. Different brain states stimulate the release of different neurotransmitters to keep our brain and mind healthy. Each sleep cycle is a entire wash, dry, sort though, pass on to textile recycling or tidy of the previous day’s experiences. It is essential in encoding more wisdom, building up our mental skillset.

Nidra’s Enhancing Effect

Back to the effect of nidra on my Monday Beginners class. Why some folks woke up and others slept more sweetly cannot be fully explained without proper testing. However from my experience, it is the enhancing effect of nidra. Nidra is a little like panning for gold. It can sift through and subtly change our inner landscape (the yogis use it to promote personal growth and self-realisation). Here my class experienced their subsequent sleep cycles differently, some with the waking part being enhanced, others the deep sleep or dream state enhanced. How am I going to react? Should I avoid practising nidra before bedtime? I hear you rightly ask! No one wants to disrupt their precious night’s sleep more than it is already disrupted by kids, pets, ha you know it!

When to do Yoga Nidra

When to practice yoga nidra is like asking when should I practice vinyasa flow yoga. Each of us knows the answer to the question at the moment of asking, as life is always in flux! I practice anytime I need it. With yoga nidra, if my sleep has been poor and disrupted, I hunker down the next day, get cosy and zzz – usually for around 45 minutes. During the night itself, if woken by kids, I use it to help me get back to sleep. If I have insomnia, I usually need something like reading or soothing music to help release any anxiety, so I am ready for either falling asleep or using nidra or an audiobook (I listen to the Bhagavad Gita by Jack Hawley a lot) to get back to sleep.

If yoga nidra makes you more wakey, practice should be before 5pm to minimise any sleep disruption. A well-timed yoga nidra can open up an oasis of calm, centring us amidst the hectic thrum, making it easier to tackle the tasks ahead with renewed vigour. A nidra journal can also help. After practice, jotting down any effects and keeping a note of times nidra does affect our sleep, we begin to develop the know how on when works for us to practice. Students on my upcoming Wildsong Nidra Immersion and Facilitator Training will do this as part of developing a regular Yoga Nidra practice.

Benefits of Nidra on Sleep

Developing a regular Yoga Nidra practice has so many benefits. Just as a good night’s sleep enables our mental laundry, waking refreshed, so too Yoga Nidra can help if we have a back log! As an older mum, I did Yoga Nidra daily whilst my sleep was broken with baby and toddler care; it literally shored up my waning energy levels so I could function much better. However we don’t need to have a baby to invest in Yoga Nidra practice. With a regular habit, because the body knows what is happening, our brain associates the practice cues and voice of the guide with relaxation, enabling us to slip more easily and quickly into an enriched restful state. When we mindfully relax, a lot more tension eases, restoring balance physically, mentally and emotionally.

The structure of Yoga Nidra guided relaxations allow us to experience deeply restful states within such a short period of time that they feel condensed. A 15 minute nidra can feel like a good 45 minute snooze! Given our busy schedules, this is like gold dust. Luckily, you can listen to any of my FREE nidras on Insight Timer anytime you need a power nap. Sign up and follow me here

What can I do now?

I don’t have time to do Nidra now, so what can I do? Drink water. Hydration plays a crucial role in supporting overall health and well-being, including mental alertness and sleep quality. Dehydration can lead to tiredness and or hyperactivity (!) and disrupt sleep, so it’s essential to stay hydrated throughout the day. Aim for 1.5 – 2 litres of room temperature or warm water/herbal teas daily, sipping a few mouthfuls often.

Additionally, taking regular breaks during the day can help prevent brain fry. If, like me, spending too long in front of your screen leads to cognitive overload, even migraine; time away from it is good! A change of scene grounds us in the present moment. Whether it’s a short walk, a few minutes of deep breathing, or a brief meditation session, incorporating screen breaks and mindful movement into our daily routine can help recharge our batteries and keep us feeling refreshed.


In a world that thrives on multitasking and sleep deprivation, prioritising sleep hygiene and embracing the power of yoga nidra, are revolutionary acts of self-care. By creating a conducive sleep environment, establishing calming bedtime rituals, topping up our rest with potent yoga nidra when we need or even devoting part of our regular yoga practice to it, we can unlock the transformative benefits of quality relaxation and sleep. So, let’s commit to making sleep a priority, one yoga nidra and bedtime ritual at a time, and reap the rewards of a healthier, more balanced life.

It’s my absolute joy to share the ultimate power nap, yoga nidra in my weekly classes, events and retreats. I am hosting an my first immersion into Wildsong Nidra on Sunday 2 June 10am – 6pm, with Facilitator training coming later in the year (dates incoming!) at Merchant City Yoga, Glasgow. Click Yoga Nidra to find out more and join my rest revolution