Proved: Yoga, meditation good for sleep, epilepsy

Meditation and yoga have long been said to contribute towards physical and mental well-being. Now researchers say yoga can be a cure for insomnia and other mental illnesses as well.

The National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) is trying to provide proof by studying the effects of yoga on epilepsy, the most common neurological disorder, and sleep. And the results have been encouraging.

In a study by the Department of Neurophysiology, yoga was shown to help restore the "deep sleep" state in middle-aged men. Also, it was seen to influence the "light sleep" state.

The researchers said the study was aimed to substantiate centuries-old claims. "Meditation techniques are claimed to enhance the quality of sleep. However, studies to substantiate the possible beneficial effect of yoga on sleep structure and quality are lacking," said Dr T R Raju, Head of Department of Neurophysiology.

The observations were based on the whole night study (polysomnographic studies) carried out in 65 healthy men in 20-31 and 31-55 year age group. All of them were practicing different yogic techniques — including Sudarshan Kriya Yoga and Vipassana.

The results were matched with people in the same age group who didn't do yoga.

The institute also got good results for epilepsy patients.

The aim of the study was to evaluate cardiovascular autonomic functions—heart rate and blood pressure—after eight weeks of yoga therapy.

"The study was important as autonomic dysfunction can be a cause of worry for the patients," said Dr Raju.

About 73 patients, who had seizures at least twice, were enrolled and subjected to various forms of yoga like pranayama, suryanamaskar and yogasana for about 30 to 35 minutes daily.

"These patients underwent cardiovascular autonomic function tests after two months. It was interesting to note that 68 per cent showed significant improvement in autonomic functions," said Raju.

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