You're awake at 2:00am.
You're lying in bed. You just can't sleep.You toss and turn.
It's so frustrating.
You try to count sheep and relax your body.
But you just can't stop reviewing the minute details of useless crap. Like what your friend said to you earlier; was she being snarky or genuine? And what you're going to wear to the office party on Friday. And how you'll manage to finish all the items on your to-do list.
Why does this happen to you?
You try to squelch all these thoughts, but they just resurface or something else takes their place. You actually stress yourself out trying to sleep, and it seems to only get harder as the night wears on.
Wouldn't you love to coax your attention away from those repeating thoughts?
There's an easy way. No struggle. No drugs. And it's pretty cool.
Some little-known techniques we'll discuss today diminish stress and will put you to sleep.
How Long Should It Take You to Fall Asleep? The Answer Might Surprise You
According to the National Sleep Foundation, taking ten to twenty minutes to fall asleep after you climb into bed is normal. If you veer drastically to one side or the other of these numbers, you may have a problem.
If you fall asleep as soon as your head hits the pillow, it may be a sign that you aren't getting enough sleep and that you're sleep deprived.
So rather than touting unrealistic promises, we're using ancient techniques proven by experience. They teach us how to harness our minds, so we can get past the thinking that keeps us awake.
My teacher Sri O.P. Tiwari is one of India's foremost experts on yoga, specifically the use of yogic breathing exercises. At his well-known yoga institute in India, yogic breathing and postures are used to treat many health problems, including insomnia.
Enjoy the these little-known techniques that will diminish stress and put you to sleep in under ten minutes:
1. Hum like a bee
Inhale deeply through your nose. Exhale, and make a gentle humming sound. Think about the sound moving up through your soft palate (the back of your thought) into your brain.
Be careful not to strain or force your breath. As you exhale and hum, you're also naturally extending the exhalation, which causes a natural relaxation reflex.
Practice at least thirty times per night, concentrating on your humming sound.
That's right, you mimic the soft humming sound made by bees. This yogic breathing technique, called brahmari, works because you generate your own white noise. White noise tends to lull us to sleep--think fans, raindrops, or even air conditioning units. This practice is especially useful for drowning out disturbing sounds.
Hum like a bee, and before you know it, you'll lull yourself to dreamland.
2. Breathe through your belly
Lay on your back, and place the bottom edge of a book or small pillow on the bottom of your rib cage. Center the object so it won't fall off.
Alternatively, place your hand in this spot. As you inhale, lift the object toward the ceiling, and imagine that your belly is rising to the sky. As you exhale, imagine yourself gently lowering the object and releasing deeply into the folds of the earth. Exhale for as long as you can.
Practice at least twenty times per night. Notice the natural pause at the top of your inhale and at the bottom of your exhale. Explore these moments.
You'll learn to breathe efficiently and deeply using the diaphragm muscle which initiates deep, relaxed breathing.
Relaxed breath takes us out of the stressful sympathetic nervous system (think "fight or flight" ) and into the parasympathetic nervous system (think "rest and digest").
The touch of the book or hand on your belly soothes your nervous system, causing deep relaxation.
Your body and mind are soothed by this practice, and sleep will happily follow.
3. Extend your breath
Inhale through your nose for a count of four. Try to pause for a count of four, then exhale for a count of eight, also through your nose.
After you've exhaled completely, pause, then inhale again for a count of four. Repeat this exercise at least twenty times per night.
The pause and long exhalation cause a slowing down of your normal breathing cycle.
Did you know holding your breath makes you relaxed? When you breathe through your nose and hold your breath, you produce nitric oxide. Nitric oxide relaxes your nervous system and your blood vessels. It also improves the efficiency of the exchange of gases in the lungs. With this breathing exercise, you'll produce more nitric oxide so that you can relax and sleep deeply.
If at any time your mind wanders, gently coax it back to your breath. Resist the urge to judge or condemn yourself; simply return your attention to your breath like a butterfly settling on a flower.
The next time you find yourself reviewing your to-do list in bed or obsessing over what you'll wear tomorrow, try some thing different.
Rather than stressing because you can't sleep, shift your focus to your breathing. And follow the wisdom from thousands of years back.
These techniques are free, don't involve drugs, and can be done secretly.
You've nothing to lose but your stress and irritation.
So, which one will you try first?
Jessica Blanchard, yoga teacher, registered dietitian and Ayurvedic practitioner, helps busy people re-energize with super simple food, yoga and wellness strategies that work.
Get your free "7-Day Plan: Eat, Move and Live Better in 10 Minutes A Day" at her blog Stop Feeling Crappy here.