Effect of Sudarshan Kriya Yoga (SKY) on daytime and situational sleep propensity in novice practitioners: a prospective cohort study

J Complement Integr Med. 2020 Sep 3;18(3):585-592. doi: 10.1515/jcim-2020-0172.


Objectives: Hectic, late-night lifestyle has reduced 90 min sleep in 20% adults resulting in insomnia and excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS). We assess the scope of Sudarshan Kriya Yoga (SKY), a 4-component, breathing process in reducing EDS, generally and situationally.

Methods: This is a prospective, controlled study involving randomized subjects without any sleep-wake cycle anomalies and prior experience in SKY. Subjects (n=52) performed 30 min of SKY for 6 days/week for 8 weeks, while controls (n=53) performed sitting activity and Suryanamaskar for 4-weeks each. Epworth Sleepiness Scale (ESS) was used to measure EDS at 0, 4, and 8 weeks.

Results: SKY group showed significant ESS score improvements between 0-4 weeks and 4-8 weeks of 1.22 (p=0.0001) and 1.66 (p=0.001) respectively. Controls however failed to improve with score differences of 0.02 (p=0.892) and 0.02 (p=0.8212) respectively. SKY group showed significant ESS score improvement over controls at 4-weeks (difference=1.74; p=0.013) and 8-weeks (difference eight; p=0.0001). Improvement was most for obese people and those sitting in a halted car.

Conclusions: Improvement in subjects' nighttime sleep and daytime wakefulness in SKY practitioners can be attributed to polyvagal theory. Increased heart rate variability (HRV) alterations and sympathetic hyperarousal in chronic insomnia; and cholinergic and GABAergic dysregulation in anxiety disorders are countered by regulated vagal nerve stimulation post SKY. Our study establishes effectivity of SKY in reducing EDS (total and situational), provides a clinical correlation for prior polysomnographic evidence and paves way for larger trials directed towards SKY prescriptions for insomnia.

Keywords: Sudarshan Kriya Yoga; insomnia; pranayama; sleep disorders; yoga.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety Disorders
  • Humans
  • Prospective Studies
  • Respiration
  • Sleep
  • Yoga*