This technique is something Harley Sears, a consulting hypnotist, teaches his clients when they are looking for ways to get to sleep. All it takes is three steps. First, breathe in deeply through your nose for four seconds. Then hold your breath for seven seconds. Then exhale through your mouth for eight seconds. Repeat this process four times. Why does it work? “This exercise allows the lungs to become fully charged with air, allowing more oxygen to be circulated throughout the body, which promotes a state of relaxation,” says Sears. For maximum benefit, practice this technique twice a day.
Try sleep restriction therapy
Restrict sleep to get more sleep? It’s all about setting a sleep cycle. Sleep restriction therapy is actually a behavioral treatment for insomnia that limits your time in bed to the actual time of sleeping. Less time in bed can result in mild sleep deprivation at first, but it can also help promote an earlier sleep onset. “This earlier sleep onset should decrease the insomnia and then give the patient confidence in his ability to regain natural sleep,” says Damon Raskin, MD, who specializes in sleep medicine and is affiliated with Concierge Choice Physicians. How does it work? The patient keeps a sleep journal for one to two weeks and records the average time slept plus 30 minutes. For the next two weeks, the patient limits his time in bed to that average sleep time, using a fixed bedtime and wake time. If all goes well and the patient feels good, the schedule stays in place. If the patient feels tired during the day, he should add 15 minutes to the time in bed, with 15 minutes added each week until the patient feels well rested after a night’s sleep. “Research has shown sleep restriction therapy is an effective tool for insomnia, but again, it can take several weeks to see positive results, and during that time, it requires strict dedication to amount of time spent in bed. So you might feel sleepy when you start out, but it should lead to a more efficient sleep period,” says Dr. Raskin.
Drink a warm mug of spiced milk
“Drink spiced milk before sleeping,” says Ajmera. We’ve certainly heard about drinking warm milk before bed but spiced milk, when made with nutmeg, a natural sedative, just may help you get a sweeter and sounder sleep. Dr. Ajmera recommends drinking it three hours after your last meal, and says that those who suffer from lactose intolerance often find they can digest spiced milk. Here’s how to make her recipe: Place 2 cups of organic cow’s milk in a pot over medium heat. Add 4 to 6 crushed saffron threads, 4 to 6 crushed green cardamon pods, 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, a pinch of ginger, and a pinch of nutmeg to the milk. When the milk starts to boil, reduce the heat slightly and stir periodically so the milk doesn’t boil over. Stir in 2 to 4 teaspoons of organic sugar, if you want it sweeter and let it cool slightly before drinking.
Do a body scan
The words “body scan” may conjure up images of an airport security check, but this is something different—and an effective way to promote sleep, according to Tiffany Cruikshank, founder of Yoga Medicine and author of Meditate Your Weight. “The parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for our ability to relax and fall asleep,” she says. “Body scanning is a simple technique that utilizes this by bringing awareness to the body one point at a time, to bring the body back to a more coherent and relaxed state. Close your eyes and turn your attention to the natural movement of your breath. Feel yourself relax there for a moment. Then begin by noticing the sensations at the top of the head, the face, scalp, and then the neck. Then, bring your attention to the right shoulder, arm, and then hand and repeat on the left side. Next notice your upper chest, abdomen, upper back, and mid- and low-back in that order. Lastly notice the right hip, leg, and foot; then repeat on the left side. End with your awareness in both feet and then on the body as a whole.” Try not to favor any specific area or start judging specific body parts you don’t like. In 10 to 20 minutes, you should be ready for a peaceful slumber.
Cuddle up with a weighted blanket
Swaddling babies is as old as time. Wrapping a baby snug in a blanket mimics the security and comfort of the womb, and helps babies fall asleep. A similar principle can apply for adults. We all know a snuggly blanket and a calming bedroom are sleep-inducing, but according to studies, a weighted blanket may help those who suffer from more than the occasional sleepless night. When certain points on the body are stimulated by touch, this type of deep-touch therapy promotes sleep by causing the brain to release serotonin, which regulates sleep.