It’s not called beauty sleep for nothing, dozing off is essential to restoring and repairing your skin (as we’ve discussed here). If you’ve ever laid in bed, staring at the wall, trying to will yourself to fall asleep, you know how tough it can be. Counting sheep isn’t so easy when you’re mind is racing with a too-long to-do list. If you’ve ever felt stressed out or anxious, you’ve probably heard you should take a deep breath to calm down…and it’s with reason. Guru Jagat, Kundalini yoga instructor (whose devotees include Kate Hudson and Shiva Rose) and founder of the RA MA Institute for Applied Yogic Science and Technology, has a simple breathing technique that helps you relax and fall asleep quickly.
- Hold one finger against your right nostril
- Take a deep breath through the left nostril, focusing on the sound of the breath
- Repeat for three minutes
How does it work?
“This breathing practice helps promote the secretion of the pineal gland which produces melatonin,” says Guru Jagat. Melatonin regulates our daily and seasonal circadian rhythms and it’s the chemical in charge of our sleep cycles and the quality of our sleep. Any sort of light can work against the stimulation of melatonin,” says Guru Jagat (which is why you may have heard you should avoid screen time before bed and to have a very dark room). Channelizing the breath through the left nostril activates the Ida nerve ending in the left nostril, which relates to calmness and relaxation. The right nostril supports the sympathetic nervous system and heating functions in the body and the left supports the parasympathetic nervous system or cooling functions. “Breathing through the left nostril allows the body to shut down,” says Guru Jagat. This type of isolated breath is also linked to the nervous system, a 2010 study even found that this slower breathing style allows the parasympathetic system (which is responsible for your ability to chill out) to override your sympathetic system (which controls your automatic stress response). “When you channelize the breath and allow for it’s elongation, you better allow for the body to balance,” says Guru Jagat.
The 4-7-8 Breath
Another technique to try? Renowned physician and holistic health author, Dr. Andrew Weil, has become notably known for the relaxation breathing exercise known as the 4-7-8 breath which helps you to calm down, whether from stress or to help you doze off. To try the technique, sit up in bed with your back straight, and press the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth right behind your front teeth. Maintaining that position, close your mouth and inhale through your nose for four counts, hold that breath for seven counts, and then exhale through your mouth around your tongue for eight counts. Repeat this pattern until you have completed four full breaths.
Below, we’ve found a few other ways to also help you fall asleep:
- Nix the Nightcap– Alcohol might make you feel drowsy but it actually interferes with rejuvenating REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, says board-certified sleep medicine doctor and neurologist W. Christopher Winter. If you’re going to imbibe, try to keep drinks earlier in the night, (all the more reason to indulge in a brunch mimosa rather than a nightcap).
- Shut Down Screen Time– As mentioned above, limit your uses of devices to a half hour to hour before. “Any sort of light can work against the stimulation of melatonin,” says Guru Jagat.
- Take a Moment to Meditate- “Even a couple of minutes a day can help dump out emotional and mental toxins that keep people up at night,” says Jagat.
- Sniff a Scent – Studies have shown that lavender can help decrease heart rate and blood pressure, potentially putting you in a more relaxed state. In one study, researchers monitored the brain waves of subjects at night and found that those who took a whiff of lavender before bed had deeper sleep and felt more rested in the morning. Go for a 2-in-1 punch with a sleeping mask which contains notes of lavender in the Eco Your Skin Lavender Bedside Mask.
- Utilize Sound Therapy- Gong meditations have been around for thousands of years as a way of healing. “A gentle background gong sound is very calming for the nervous system,” says Guru Jagat. It’s not just a bunch of woowoo either, scientists have found that sound at the right soundwave can help you relax. “Studies show that high vibration frequencies like planetary sounds or crystal bowls can help put you into a theta state in 90 seconds,” says Guru Jagat who listens to a gong before going to bed. Try listening to this track as you lay in bed.