How to Sleep Better After an Accident or Injury
Stretching and Breathing Exercises to Prevent Pain-Related Insomnia
Work, stress, family, and injuries are just a few of the reasons why millions of Americans aren’t getting enough sleep. Unfortunately, lack of sleep causes more than just discomfort. Numerous studies show that inadequate sleep causes or increases the risk of serious health problems like diabetes, obesity, stroke, depression, and memory lapses, just to name a few.
Thankfully, there are some healthy options including exercise, meditation, and the 6 minute yoga routine below based on the program Dana Santas created for many of the professional athletes she trains. Although this routine helps many professional athletes get better rest and perform better on game day, Dana designed this routine so that it’s effective and accessible for almost all people.
The Six Minute Yoga Routine for Better Sleep
This routine starts with two stretches that can be done in the comfort of your bedroom to relieve tension that builds during the day. These postures particularly stretch and realign the lower back and hip flexors, which will reduce or eliminate the stiffness, aches and pains that frequently disrupt sleep.
Deep Squat (Functional Squat)
Stand with your feet hip-distance apart and arms extended in front of the body, at shoulder level. Then exhale as you sit back into a deep squat while maintaining weight in your heels. Avoid allowing your knees and/or toes to turn out. If you have difficulty squatting all the way down without lifting your heels or feeling unsteady, hold onto something secure, like your bed frame, for support; then gently lower yourself down.
Then, while in a deep squat, take three long deep breaths and focus on relaxing your lower back with each exhalation. If you experience discomfort in your ankles, knees or shins, Dana suggests that you try widening your stance and making sure you’re dropping back into your hips and on your heals as opposed to pushing forward into your knees.
Warrior One with Side Bend
Stretches calves, hip flexors and side waist muscles
In some yoga traditions, this stretch is called Warrior One. Start from standing with feet together, step your right foot back, placing your heel down with your toes angled slightly out. Bend your left knee so that it’s above your left ankle, which will protect your knee. If you’re less flexible, take a shorter step back with your right leg. Keep your back leg straight.
An alternative posture is to kneel on your right knee, and step forward with the left foot with the left knee still above left ankle. This position may look easier, but it will give you just as a good of a stretch.
Then Place your left hand on your left hip. If balance is a challenge, place your left hand on your bed or other support, instead of your hip.
Inhale as you reach your right arm up and over your head to the left and slightly back, stretching your right side and front of your hip. Exhale to hold the posture. Take three deep breaths through the nose. Then return your arm to your side and step back to natural standing. Repeat on the opposite side, then get into bed.
Final Yoga Stretches in Bed for Sleep
The next stretch includes a gentle twist of your body, which will increase blood flow to your abdomen, which houses what is called the “rest and digest” aspect of our autonomic nervous system. The increased blood flow to this area will lower your heart rate and blood pressure and reduce your body’s production of stress hormones.
Lying Bent-Knee Twist
Stretches the hip, groin and low-back muscles; increases blood flow in the pelvis and abdomen; increases mid-back mobility; opens chest
Lie on your back and place a pillow under your head, if desired. Hug your left knee toward your chest and take three deep breaths. Then, gently twist your body to the right with the help of your right hand placed on the outside of your left knee. You can also stretch your left arm out to the side and look toward your left hand.
To deepen your twist, you can apply some downward pressure on the left leg. Take three deep breaths through the nose. Inhale as you place your right hand on the outside of your left thigh and reach your left arm to the left. Exhale fully as you gently twist from your mid-back to bring your left knee across your body to the right. Then unwind and repeat on the other side.
Deep breathing while Counting Backwards Meditation
Deep breathing, also called deep diaphragmatic breathing, increases oxygen and decreases stress hormones. And because the diaphragm (the primary muscle responsible for breathing) attaches to the ribcage, low back and runs through the hip flexors, deep breathing promotes healthy ribcage, back and pelvis flexibility and position.
Breathing deeply while counting backwards is also a proven, yet simple way to focus and relax the mind, which is especially helpful after a long day of tending to work and family. Not surprisingly, a restless or worried mind is a common cause of inadequate sleep.
How to count your way down to blissful sleep
Lie down on your back with your head on a pillow and another tucked under your knees. Or if you prefer to lie on your side and place a pillow between your legs. Close your eyes.
Exhale, and then inhale through your nose while allowing the abdomen to rise and the ribcage to expand, including the lower ribcage. Be mindful of whether you are only breathing into your upper chest. It may take you a few minutes to adjust to what’s called belly breathing.
Then exhale again, and when you think you’ve fully exhaled, contract your abdomen to see if you can push out any remaining air. Typically, we take shallow breaths during the day, sometimes through the mouth, both of which can increase stress hormones and heart rate.
The Breathing Pattern with Counting: Try to deepen and lengthen your inhales and exhales to a count of 5 for each inhale and each exhale. You may notice a short pause at the end of each breath, especially at the end of your exhale. A 6 count may be more comfortable for you, so you could try that too.
Once you’ve established this rhythm of exhaling to a count of 5 or 6 and inhaling to a count of 5 or 6, begin counting your breaths backward from 20 to 1. You can count each inhale and exhale, or you can count just the exhales. Try to notice the sensation of your breathing so that you’re aware of whether you’re breathing in our out. Some people notice their breath more distinctly in the abdomen, some in the chest, and some notice their breath most as it comes in and out through the nose.
Practicing this routine will improve the quality of your sleep. However, some people need more than one count back from 20 to fall asleep. If you need more than one count of 20, you can start at 20 again and repeat the cycle as many times as necessary. Or you can also start at a higher number like 200. Also, letting go of trying to control your breathing may help.
For more information on meditation, visit dhamma.org. That organization offers free meditation courses throughout the United States.
Get a Free Consultation from a West Virginia Personal Injury Attorney
If you have been injured in an accident or because of negligence or because you aren’t sleeping well after by an auto accident or work accident, we invite you to call us toll free for a free consultation at 1-877-943-9378.
At West Law Firm, we wish you much sleep, happiness and health.
Brooks West is a West Virginia personal injury lawyer who helps people who have been injured by negligence or wrongful conduct. He is the President and founder of West Law Firm and has been an attorney since 2005. Brooks is a Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum member and has been awarded the AV Preeminent Rating from Martindale-Hubbell.