There are a few things more frustrating than not being able to sleep, especially if you struggle with insomnia and haven't had a good night's sleep for a while.
Insomnia is a vicious self-perpetuating cycle - it can be very difficult to stop because the more exhausted and stressed you are, the more difficult it is to calm your nervous system and relax.
When you can't sleep, people might tell you to go on a run or do a very strenuous workout to make your body super tired, but often that might be counter-productive - if you're already stressed, a strenuous exercise will increase the stress hormones in your body and make it even more difficult to relax.
And that's when restorative practices come handy. Here are a few of my favourite restorative yoga poses that are good to do before going to bed together with some deep, slow breathing. These restorative yoga poses can help beat stress-related insomnia as well as insomnia during your period.
One of my favourite ways to nurture my body and mind is to spend as much time in these restorative poses as possible and just focus on my breath and on releasing any tension in my body-mind.
1. These poses can be really good for alleviating period pain as well just before or during your period! Bring your hands on your belly in the supine poses (the ones where you're lying on your back).
2. Use a lavender eye bag on your eyes in the supine poses and a sandbag/oat bag on your tummy if these are available to you.
3. Extended exhales activate the vagus nerve and trigger your relaxation response so take deep breaths in and slow, full breaths out when doing these restorative yoga poses.
1. Corpse Pose - Savasana
The pose where you just lie on the floor at the end of a yoga class. Your legs long, feet about hip-width apart, arms by your sides, palms facing up, face facing the ceiling and eyes closed if that feels good. Stay here for 20-30 slow breaths.
Benefits? This pose allows energy to flow freely in your body, your spine is long so it's easy to breathe without any strain and it's the perfect pose to let go of any effort in your body, mind and breath. It's very rooting because your whole body is supported by the ground underneath. Just try to allow yourself to let go of any tension in your body and give yourself the permission to let go of the day as well as the fear of not being able to sleep.
Want to make it more nurturing? Fold a blanket over your tummy to create a feeling of security or put a pillow under your knees to protect your lower back.
2. Legs up the wall - Viparita Karani
Lie on the floor or on your bed and bring your seat-bones as close to the wall/bed-frame as possible and then lift your legs up straight, allow them to be supported by the wall. Keep a micro-bend in your knees and bend your knees more if at any point you start to feel pins and needles in your feet. Stay here for 20-30 slow breaths.
Benefits? You get the benefits of an inversion (calmer mind, lower blood pressure, increased circulation, change of perspective) without any straining and your upper body is completely supported by the floor or bed.
Want to make it more nurturing? Fold a blanket over your tummy or under the natural curve in the back of your neck.
These restorative yoga poses can help beat stress-related insomnia as well as insomnia during your period.
3. Reclined pigeon - Supta Kapotanasana
Start in the same way as you would in the previous pose. But this time bring your hips a bit further from the wall/bed-frame, bend your knees and bring your feet flat on the wall. Keep your right foot on the wall and cross your left ankle over the right knee. Form a 90 degree angled with your left leg and you can help with your left hand by pushing the knee gently away from you. Stay here for 20-30 breaths and repeat on the other side.
Benefits? You get the benefits of an inversion and a hip-opener. Hips can be an area where you might be storing some physical and emotion stress so by opening them and breathing consciously can help you release this stress. Your lower back is also supported in this pose to create a feeling of security.
Want to make it more nurturing? Don't use your hand to push your knee away from you and instead just allow your arms to rest by your side or on your tummy. You can also fold a blanket over your tummy.
4. Child's pose/Supported child's pose - Balasana
Come down to your all fours on the floor/mat or your bed. Bring your big toes together and knees wide apart. Then sit your seat bones back on your heels and allow your upper body to rest between your thighs and rest your head on the floor/mat or your bed.
Benefits? Child's pose is a very nurturing pose because you're turning inward. It creates a sense of security and is a great way to let go of any tension in your body. It's an excellent pose to deepen your breath and focus on grounding effects of folding forward.
Want to make it more nurturing? Place a pillow or two vertically under your upper body and head and just hug the pillow. You can also place a sandbag or oat bag on your lumbar spine/lower back.
Remember that you're not dealing with your insomnia alone and there's nothing wrong with you if you can't sleep. Be kind towards yourself and know that this too shall pass.