Insomnia is one of the biggest frustrations that many people face night after night when trying to fall asleep. Many, if not most, of my clients often ask if there are any breathing techniques that can support sleep. The answer is a big resounding YES!
A former insomniac myself, I used these techniques to cure my own insomnia and have a healthier relationship with my mattress and pillow. I reluctantly admit to taking sleep medications for many years, until I began to fear their adverse side effects and went off of them nearly ten years ago. I can honestly say that it can be done- and doing so will be a much healthier choice if you are one of the nearly 9 million Americans relying on sleep medications to fall asleep.
Lack of sleep has a direct negative impact on your health, quality of life, safety, and job performance. Try these techniques and you will likely be off to dreamland.
Deep belly breathing is the first step in preparing for relaxation and sleep.
The way this is done: Bring your awareness to your belly and place your hands on your belly to feel the breath as it enters this area of the body. Imagine that you are slowly inflating a balloon into your belly. Just as slowly as you inhaled, slowly exhale as if you were gradually releasing the air from the balloon (i.e. your belly). Repeat several times, focusing on the inhalations and exhalations remaining consistently smooth, deep and even. When practiced properly, this technique relaxes the muscles of the body, balances the heart rate, provides a thorough exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide, calms the nervous system and relaxes the mind.
Since the exhalation is the part of the breath that releases carbon dioxide and relaxes us, exhaling twice as long as you inhale can promote a more deeply relaxed state. This can also be helpful during moments of extreme stress or pain.
The way this is done: While you are doing deep, even belly breathing, try to get a count for how long you comfortably take an inhalation and an exhalation. For example, you may count 4 seconds when you inhale and 4 seconds when you exhale. Now, instead of exhaling the same duration as your inhalation, exhale TWICE as long. So if your comfortable inhalation is 4 seconds, you will then exhale twice as long- or 8 seconds.
Another excellent way to fall asleep is actually an ancient eastern practice coming from yogic breathing techniques. It can be done while practicing deep, even belly breathing, or to maximize its potential, you can incorporate the 2:1 breathing above into this method.
The way this is done: While lying on your back, take 8 deep, belly breaths. Then turn onto your right side and double the amount- taking 16 deep, belly breaths. Then, turn onto your left side and take 32 deep belly breaths. Theoretically, you will fall asleep before you reach 32!
-Prepare the room by making it as quiet and dark as possible.
-Essential oils can be tremendously supportive. Lavender is one of the most soothing, relaxing scents. Rubbing lavender on the bottoms of your feet and the back of your neck is a great way to induce relaxation and sleep. It is very gentle on the skin and rarely, if ever, causes irritations. Purchase a pure, therapeutic grade essential oil.
-If a ‘to-do list’ comes into your mind as you lay down to fall asleep, create a mantra-like saying to stop yourself from getting drawn in. For example ‘Now is sleep time; plans are for tomorrow.’
-Avoid electronics before going to sleep. Books and magazines are far more sleep inducing then technology, which inhibits falling asleep. Seek calming, wind-down activities instead of those that cause stimulation.
*If you aren’t certain if you are breathing in the healthiest way and would like to be guided through some deep breathing and relaxations to support sleep, you can find my Deep Relaxation Series- Guided Breathing, Relaxations, and Visualizations on iTunes or directly through my website on the Products page. You will soon be off to healthier living and sleeping in no time!