Electrophysiological Evidence of Local Sleep During Yoga Nidra Practice

Front Neurol. 2022 Jul 12:13:910794. doi: 10.3389/fneur.2022.910794. eCollection 2022.


Background and objectives: Yoga nidra is a technique sages use to self-induce sleep. Classically, sleep is characterized by three cardinal electrophysiological features, namely, electroencephalography (EEG), electromyography (EMG), and electrooculography (EOG). As the literature on electrophysiological characterization of Yoga nidra is lacking, it is not known whether it is a sleep or awake state. The objective of the study was to electrophysiologically characterize yoga nidra practice.

Materials and methods: Thirty subjects underwent five initial supervised yoga nidra sessions and then continued practice on their own. The subjects completed their sleep diaries for 2 weeks before and during the intervention. The electrophysiological characterization was done after 2 weeks of yoga nidra practice using 19 EEG channels polysomnography for pre-yoga nidra, yoga nidra practice and post-yoga nidra. Polysomnographic data were scored for sleep-wake stages as per standard criteria. Power spectral density (PSD) was calculated from various frequency bands in different time bins. EEG data were grouped by areas, namely, central, frontal, prefrontal, parietal, temporal, and occipital in time bins. Sleep diary parameters were also compared for pre-post-yoga nidra training.

Results: After 2 weeks of yoga nidra practice, awake was scored throughout the session (n = 26). PSD results (mean difference in dB between different time bins; P value) showed significant changes. When compared to pre-yoga nidra, there was an increase in delta power in the central area (1.953; P = 0.033) and a decrease in the prefrontal area (2.713; P = 0.041) during yoga nidra. Sleep diary showed improvement in sleep duration (P = 0.0001), efficiency (P = 0.0005), quality (P = 0.0005), and total wake duration (P = 0.00005) after 2 weeks of practice.

Interpretations and conclusions: Yoga nidra practice in novices is electrophysiologically an awake state with signs of slow waves locally, often referred to as local sleep.

Clinical trial: Clinical Trial Registry of India, http://www.ctri.nic.in/Clinicaltrials/pmaindet2.php? trialid = 6253, 2013/05/003682.

Keywords: delta power; electrophysiological characterization; local sleep; sleep quality; yoga nidra.