The popularity for this technique has exploded since claims were made that it could put you to sleep in a minute or under. To get it to work that quickly can take regular practise over a couple of months, but once you have it down-pat it may just be the answer you’ve been looking for.
The idea is to breathe in through your nose deeply for a count of 4, hold your breath, counting to 7, then exhale through your mouth for a count of 8. Throughout, keep your tongue in the same position on the ridge of gum behind your upper front teeth. Repeat this cycle four times, and you should find yourself drifting to sleep.
In the first month of practising this technique, do not repeat the cycle more than four times. During this time you may feel slightly lightheaded, but this should pass. After a month you can increase the number of cycles you breathe – though hopefully you will be falling asleep so easily at this stage that this won’t be necessary…
This is a traditional Zen practice that can be adapted from simply helping you to relax to allowing you to drift into unconsciousness. To relax during the day perform this technique sitting upright with your head slightly forward, if falling asleep at night, perform lying flat on your back.
Start breathing deeply. This it doesn’t necessarily need to be big breaths or slow breaths, but instead natural breaths that fill the lungs and cause the abdomen to expand. Breathe so that your tummy, not your chest rises.
Once you are breathing naturally and deeply, close your eyes and start counting the number of times you exhale. So breathe in deeply, and exhale through your mouth and count ‘one’. Breathe in again and exhale and count ‘two’.
Count up to five exhaled breaths then start back at ‘one’ again. Continue with this cycle, and you know you have relaxed and have allowed your mind to wander when you realise you have counted up to nine, fourteen or eighteen…
Make yourself yawn
Yawning is that strange reflex we seem to ‘catch’ when we see someone else yawn, or even just talk or think about it. It is often associated with tiredness or boredom, though the real reason or cause of us yawning is still a bit of a mystery.
What yawning does seem to do is remind our brain that we are ready to fall asleep, so if you are really struggling to nod off, open your mouth wide, take a deep breath, and let your mind drift as you yawn.
Relax using herbs
When practising deep breathing techniques, many people find that inhaling relaxation herbs, such as lavender, chamomile or peppermint at the same time, helps them to drift to sleep that bit more easily.
These kinds of herbs help the muscles and brain to relax, making it easier for you to fall asleep. Not only that but studies suggest that these herbs help you to spend longer in the deep sleep phase of your sleep cycle, meaning that you feel more refreshed when you awaken.
Valerian is a herb with a long traditional use in promoting deep and restful sleep. It can be taken in tincture form, such as in A.Vogel’s licensed herbal remedy Dormeasan® Sleep Valarian-Hops oral drops, and used alongside breathing techniques could help you achieve that restorative sleep you have been longing for.
I would love to hear if you try any of these breathing techniques, or if you know of any other ones which you have tired, please let me know.