A professional sleep coach describes how to let your body know that it’s time for rest.
When your body notices a potential threat (real or imaginary), it activates a stress response to help you survive. To make survival possible, other functions get put to the side until the perceived threat is gone. These include digesting food and sleeping. In today’s world the stress response, for many people, is triggered constantly.
Completing the stress cycle means sending a signal to your mind, body, and soul that you are once again safe. It’s not enough to tell yourself, “Everything is okay now.” You need to speak your body’s language.
This 10-minute routine helps you communicate with your body, telling it that the time of stress is over so that you can fall asleep peacefully in minutes.
Dim the lights, put on your PJs, turn off any possible distractions, and let’s get cozy.
Gratitude Journal (Two Minutes)
Start by journaling for two minutes about five things that you’re grateful for and why. Thoughts of gratitude and appreciation can help your brain create endorphins, I teach my clients to shift their mindset at night to transform their sleep struggles into lessons. For example, if you are struggling with insomnia, you can be grateful to have the money you use to buy the calming tea you drink at night or for the emotional awareness that sleepless nights have brought into your life. the happy hormones, and help release negative thoughts before bed.
Start with general areas in your life and move to more specific ones. You can use phrases like “I am grateful for my family because they are very supportive” or “I am grateful for my bed because it is cozy and comfortable.”
Be honest and don’t try to force your thoughts. If you are not grateful for your family at this moment, that’s okay; the goal of this exercise is to bring a sense of appreciation, not to feel guilty because you haven’t called your mom this month. Shame or guilt will lead to disturbing thoughts at night—the opposite of what you are trying to achieve.
I teach my clients to shift their mindset at night to transform their sleep struggles into lessons. For example, if you are struggling with insomnia, you can be grateful to have the money you use to buy the calming tea you drink at night or for the emotional awareness that sleepless nights have brought into your life.
The Perfect Sleep Trio (Five Minutes)
Putting your legs up a wall, breathing consciously, and stimulating the nerve endings in your hands is the trio I recommend to get my clients to fall asleep within minutes. These grounding exercises are simple to use anywhere and any time to give your body the message that it can release stress, relax, and prepare for sleep.
1. Legs Up The Wall
Lie down on the ground with your toes and shins facing a wall. Walk your legs up, scooting your hips closer to the wall as you go. (Alternately, elevate your legs on your bed, a couch, or a stack of pillows). Breathe. Relax into this pose. Make sure you feel comfort-able enough to stay in this position for five minutes (or stay longer if it feels comfortable). If you prefer, you can lie on your bed if the floor is not comfortable or accessible for you.
This posture can help to release physical tension from the back and shoulder muscles, the areas where we accumulate stress. The inversion can also help to improve blood circulation, reset the nervous system, and calm your mind before bed.
2. Extended Exhales
While laying with your legs up the wall, notice your breath. Consciously let your exhales be longer than your inhales to activate the part of your nervous system that turns on rest and digest mode—where deep sleep happens.
Count how long it takes you to inhale naturally and try to add a few counts to your exhale. For example, if you inhale in four counts, try to exhale for six.
Your mind might start to wander. That’s normal. Imagine that you’re inhaling from the top of your feet all the way up to your head and exhaling slowly through the back of your body to make it easier to stay present.
3. Calming Hand Gestures (Mudras)
Mudras are powerful, simple to use, and portable. Mudras can be very effective for supporting a good night’s sleep, thanks to the hundreds of nerve endings in the hands that connect your heart, brain, and body.
Adi Mudra is one of the most calming gestures I know and is very easy to use: Make a gentle fist (not too tight) with your thumbs tucked inside. Relax, breathe, and enjoy the benefits your healing hands have to offer.
Precaution: As this gesture can lower blood pressure, people with low blood pressure should carefully monitor the effects.
Yoga Nidra (Three Minutes)
Yoga nidra is the yogic sleep gem everyone should know about. This is the tool that helped me to start sleeping again after struggling for years with insomnia, anxiety, and depression. I still use it on a regular basis to fall asleep in minutes.
Yoga nidra is a guided deep relaxation that supports your inner ability to heal by setting the right conditions for your body and mind to do so. Research shows that this practice can help with both sleep issues and anxiety by calming the racing mind, reducing stress in the moment, and creating the right conditions to fall asleep.
I recommend trying different yoga nidra recordings during the day to find one you like. Lots of people find that they fall asleep in the middle of a yoga nidra session. That’s okay. Just let it run in the background and enjoy your sleep. If you wake up in the middle of the night, simply play it again and drift back to sleep.