Few things are worse than finishing up a long and exhausting day, leaving you only wanting to sleep, and then finding yourself lying in bed, staring at the ceiling, unable to fall asleep. Believe us, we’ve been there. To help any of our Lotus Health patients, struggling to fall asleep, here are four techniques that could help you get to sleep in under two minutes. Scroll to the end for a shareable infographic!
First established by renowned sprint coach, Lloyd “Bud” Winter, then later adopted as part of the U.S. Navy Pre-Flight School pilot training routine, the Military Method has been proven as a full-proof solution to falling asleep, even amidst the sound of gunfire.
How it works:
- Starting from the top, relax all the muscles of your face (mouth included).
- Begin releasing the tension from your shoulder, moving down to relaxing your hands, resting them naturally at your side.
- With a deep breath, let all the muscles in your legs relax.
- Focus on steady, deep breaths, releasing any tension in your chest.
- Now that your body is relaxed, it’s time for your mind. Continue your steady breathing and allow your mind to drift and wander, allow your mind to take you to a relaxing scene or even drifting off to sleep.
The trick here is: DON’T OVERTHINK IT! Focus on relaxing, your breathing, and releasing tension. Once your body is relaxed, the mind will follow.
2. Imagery Distraction/Visualization Technique
Established after a 2002 study conducted by University of Oxford, the Image Distraction technique has been proven to bring quick sleep even to those with sleep disorders. This technique focuses on mental relaxation rather than a body-centric exercise.
How it works:
- Position yourself comfortably.
- With your eyes closed, imagine a relaxing scene (falling asleep, gentle waves, etc.)
- If any concerning/distracting thoughts or worries enter your mind, allow the relaxing scene to take over and silence those thoughts.
- With your mind at ease, your body should also relax, allowing you to drift off to sleep.
It may take some practice to learn how to dismiss your distracting thoughts, but this will prove to be a powerful tool in improving your sleep routine.
3. 4-7-8 Technique
The 4-7-8 technique was inspired by an ancient yogic technique (pranayama) and was formally developed by Dr. Andrew Weil. In its ancient practice, this technique was used to take control of one’s breath, thus allowing it to effectively relieve stress and tension that prevent sleep.
**If you have any respiratory condition, consult with your doctor before trying out this technique.**
How it works:
- Position yourself in a comfortable position. Beginners may want to start by sitting up with their back straight.
- Place your tongue on the ridged area directly behind your front teeth and hold it through the entire technique – this includes during inhaling and exhaling.
- Breathe in through your nose, and create a strong exhale through your mouth, almost like a heavy sigh. Start by breathing in through your nose for 4 seconds, hold the breath for 7 seconds, then release your breath for 8 seconds.
- Repeat for 4 breath cycles.
The important part of this technique is to focus on releasing tension in your body with each breath, so once the exercise is complete, your body will be ready to lay down and drift off to sleep.
4. Progressive Muscle Relaxation
You may think that stress is just all in your head, but the truth is your body is just as affected by stress as your mind! As you experience stress throughout the day, that tension you feel emotionally translates into physical stress and tension that stores up in your body, and could be the reason you’re struggling to fall asleep. Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) relieves tension in your body and muscles via contraction and relaxation in each of your muscle groups..
How it works:
- Position yourself comfortably
- Begin tensing your first muscle group while inhaling for 5-10 seconds. This tensing should not be extreme enough to cause strain or cramping, but enough to feel the muscles tighten/flex.
- Exhale for 5-10 seconds while allowing your tensed muscles to completely release/relax
- Allow yourself to rest for 10-20 seconds before moving on to the next muscle group.
Muscle Groups & Methods:
- Forehead: Wrinkle your forehead into a deep frown, flexing each muscle.
- Eyes/Bridge of Nose: Close your eyes as tight as possible, like a very deep blink.
- Cheeks/Jaw: Smile as wide as you can, allowing your cheeks to flex and jaw to stretch.
- Mouth: Press your lips together tightly, as if your mouth is puckering from something sour.
- Front of Neck: Press the back of your head forward towards your chest or the floor. Allow your chin to touch your chest if possible.
- Back of Neck: Pull your head back towards the floor, chair, or mattress and rest it there as far back as possible.
- Shoulders: Shrug your shoulders towards your ears, tightening your muscles at the top.
- Biceps/Upper Arms: Make fists with your hands while bending your arms and the elbows, flexing your biceps.
- Wrists/Forearms: Exent your forearms while pulling your hands at the wrist.
- Hands: Either extend your hands as much as possible or clench them into fists.
- Chest: Hold a deep breath for 4-10 seconds, allowing your chest to tighten.
- Back: Arch your back as much as possible, away from the back of the chair, floor, or mattress.
- Stomach: Pull in your stomach and flex.
- Hips/Buttocks: Clench your glute muscles together tightly.
- Thighs: Flex your quad/thigh muscles.
- Lower Legs: Point your toes back towards your face, flexing your feet and ankles. Then switch to pointing your toes as far forward/away from you as possible.
We hope these methods can help you unwind, relax, relieve some tension, and, most of all, get some sleep! Try one, two, three, or all four of the techniques and let us know which ones worked for you. If you still have concerns about your sleep, book an appointment with Dr. Chan to get personalized guidance to best suit your needs.
The Lotus Health Team
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