Here at Acacia TV, we believe in a balance between getting your heart pumping and your mind relaxed. But sometimes, despite your best efforts, sleep is still elusive.
Insomnia strikes. [Cue the ominous music…]
Even someone who seemingly does everything right—working out and doing yoga every day—can still have trouble getting the zzzzzs she needs. Take my fellow blogger for Acacia TV, Coach Alison. She’s an endurance athlete. But that ability to push herself can work against her.
“I intentionally push farther and longer than I know I should,” she says. Meaning, many nights, she only gets four hours of sleep. “I need to establish a better routine on closing the laptop followed closely by my eyelids.”
When she does slow down, she typically zonks right out. It’s the slowing down part that’s tough.
Her husband, Chris, on the other hand, has problems quieting his mind long enough to drift off.
“He is the worst sleeper I know,” Alison says. “He cannot shut down until total exhaustion sets in. Even then, he passes out for only a short time. After that, he’s back at square one and unable to relax enough to fall asleep.”
I challenged these two very different sleepers to try three different mind-body methods that I chose specifically for their ability to help unwind mentally, physically, and spiritually.
Read about the first two sleep-inducing tips these two willing guinea pigs tried here:
These two techniques allowed Alison to drift off to dreamland fairly easily while Chris not so much; he saw some improvement but found neither to be a miracle cure for sleeplessness. So finally I had the couple try out extended exhale breathing.
Here’s a video where I talk you through the exercise for yourself:
And for those of you who prefer to read the directions and then do it on your own, here’s how you do it:
- Lie in bed on your back, as comfy as possible.
- Begin by simply noticing your breathing. Stay with this until your thoughts start to quiet down, even a little.
- Take a breath in to a count of three.
- Exhale for a count of six. You will likely have to engage your diaphragm to get out those last drops of air, but you will be surprised how much more air was in there, just hanging out.
- Keep this up, inhaling for three and exhaling for six, for at least a minute, and as long as you need to start feeling those eyelids get heavy.
Why try this? Exhales help the body get rid of what it doesn’t need—so carbon dioxide, yes, but also stale emotions and thoughts. It’s just enough of a task for your mind to crowd out any stress-inducing thoughts, like all the things you forgot to do before you hit the hay.
And now, the results…
This was actually Alison’s least favorite exercise.
“Counting my inhalations and exhalations activated my perfectionism and agitated my over-thinking mind. I became hyper-focused on my breathing for 20-30 minutes after the exercise had ended. It took significantly longer for me to fall asleep and my sleep was not as restful.”
Not great results, BUT, she does have two other techniques in her back pocket now that do work for her.
For Chris, on the other hand, it was a winner.
“He LOVED this one!” Alison reports. “It occupied his brain just enough to really tune out everything else and relax. He was able to go right to sleep with this one and he stayed asleep for a few hours before waking up. It worked like a charm!”
It’s hope that no matter what your barriers to good sleep are, there is a solution out there for you—perhaps even one that costs nothing and you can do wherever and whenever.
How do you soothe yourself to sleep? Or, did you try this breathing technique and have questions or feedback to share? Come start a conversation with me on Twitter – I’d love to hear from you! And be sure to browse Acacia TV for more guided meditations.