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Yoga and sleep apnea: plus 3 exercises to help you sleep

Published on September 26, 2022

4 minutes

Yoga is an ancient practice whose objective is to bring harmony between the body and the mind1. Yoga has since become a popular form of exercise around the world, with more and more people waking up to do the sun salutation each day. 

Does practicing yoga help you sleep better?

Many adults experience sleep disturbances, especially in older age groups. Recent research demonstrates that yoga may not just be beneficial for improving core strength, flexibility, and stress levels; but that daily yoga can actually improve your sleep quality2. The results showed that yoga can help you to fall asleep faster, sleep for longer durations, and return to sleep more quickly in case you wake up in the middle of the night. 

About sleep apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea is when muscles in the upper airway collapse and block your air passage, forcing you to awaken in order to take a breath. It may happen a few to hundreds of times per night (depending on the severity of your condition), and often without you remembering. It’s extremely disruptive to your sleep.

Yoga breathing can help sleep apnea by strengthening upper airway muscles

Although not a direct treatment for sleep apnea, Yoga breathing exercises help strengthen, tone and open the upper airway muscles which can help reduce the symptoms of sleep apnea. 

When questioned, people who practice yoga responded that they felt better rested and more energetic than people who didn’t practice yoga3. This is also true for older people who have insomnia—those who are 60 and older experience better sleep quality, sleep for longer, and feel better during the day when they perform regular yoga.

Yoga as a form of exercise can reduce the severity of sleep apnea

Regular exercise can have tremendous benefits on your health and well-being. 

A recent study showed involving 1104 men and women enrolled in the Wisconsin Sleep Cohort Study demonstrated how 7 h of exercise per week compared to 0 h of exercise per week was associated with a significant reduction of Apnea / Hypopnea (AHI) episodes - 5.3 vs. 2.84.

Yoga helps alleviate stress so you can sleep more peacefully

Did you know exercise helps reduce stress? And a main reason for lack of sleep is stress. If you fall into this bucket, try adding a new yoga exercise routine from the comfort of your bed with yoga. Yoga can also significantly reduce stress and calm the mind which can lead to better overall quality of life. 

According to the Harvard Health Blog, a national survey found more than 55% of people who practice yoga found a better night’s rest leading to less stress.

3 yoga exercises to help your sleep apnea

If you want to work yoga into your bedtime routine, it’s important to do the right kind. Some types of yoga can be energizing (like hot yoga and vigorous vinyasa flow), which won’t help you relax. Here are three poses that are ideal for preparing your body for sleep and to help curb sleep apnea symptoms.

  • Legs Up the Wall: Lie on the ground on your back and put the back of your legs up a wall (keep your legs straight), so your body is in an L-shaped pose. Relax into the position, hold it for at least 30 seconds and focus on your breathing.
  • Lying Butterfly: Lie on the ground on your back. Press the bottoms of your feet against each other and let your knees fall out to the sides. You can put a pillow under your knees if this feels too strenuous.
  • Corpse Pose: Lie on the ground on your back with legs straight, arms by sides, and palms facing up. Breathe slowly, focusing on your breathing while you inhale and exhale.

For more information on sleep apnea and getting a better night’s sleep check out our blogs Your Sleep Hygiene: Better Sleep With the Right Habits and Risks Of Untreated Sleep Apnea.


“Yoga: Its Origin, History and Development.” Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, 23 Apr. 2015, Its Origin History and Development.

Bankar, Mangesh A et al. “Impact of long term Yoga practice on sleep quality and quality of life in the elderly.” Journal of Ayurveda and integrative medicine vol. 4,1 (2013): 28-32. doi:10.4103/0975-9476.109548