ARTICLE 3 minutes

October 6, 2023

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6 Exercises to Help You Fall Asleep With Ease

Do you have trouble sleeping? Rachel Fleischman offers up six simple ways for you to fall asleep—and sleep more soundly through the night.

By Rachel Fleischman

Sleep anxiety is like a finger trap, the more we fight it the more we get stuck. I often advise my patients to be gentle with themselves, and accept that when sleeplessness happensand it does—at least you are resting your body and sometimes, that is enough. 

Here are six techniques for anyone who struggles with sleep anxiety. These exercises offer a soothing way to prepare for rest and gently introduce an effective way of letting go of the day’s concerns. 

1.  The Pillow Breath: A simple deep breathing exercise

  • Lie down in bed or any flat surface with your knees bent and heels down. 
  • Place a small pillow on your abdomen. You can also do this without a pillow, simply by putting a hand on your belly and a hand on your chest.
  • With each inhale, you want that pillow to move upward. That is the sign of a full abdominal breath.
  • On the exhale, you want the pillow to move downward. Feel that exhale really lengthen for full delicious effect. 
  • Try this six to eight times and you may feel yourself getting sleepy.

As you become more comfortable with this type of breathing, which is known as diaphragmatic breathing, you can support your parasympathetic nervous system even more by holding the breath for a count of four and then very slowly exhaling with an exaggerated breath like you are blowing out candles.

2.  Gratitude and Grace: A simple gratitude exercise to stop overthinking

  • As you are cozying up for the night, you may notice yourself overthinking.  It’s very common with sleep anxiety. 
  • See if you can move into a state of gratitude by saying “Thank you.” The gratitude can be directed at anything—your comfortable bed, a great meal you had that day. Simply returning to a state of thankfulness helps us unwind and ease into sleep. Practice this each night until it becomes a natural habit. 

The ritual will help you unwind, and is extremely effective in supporting mental health. 

3.  Shower it off: A simple act to cool and cleanse your body

A shower before bed is helpful for so many reasons. It cools your body temperature, sending the signals to the brain that you are ready for sleep. This information is sent to a small and important bunch of cells in the brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus, which helps manage our sleep-wake cycle.

But make that shower intentional; take your time, and just focus on each present moment. Slipping into bed immediately after the shower can have a very soothing effect; the body feels cool, clean, and very cleansed of the day. That cleanse, the true physicality of it, makes a huge difference.

4.  Sphinx stretch into child’s pose

A sphinx stretch opens the heart, lengthens the spine, massages the organs, and brings the entire body into deep relaxation. Child’s pose lets the nervous system cool down and rest, and it feels amazing. 

  • Place a soft mat or towel underneath yourself.
  • Lie on your stomach, legs extended, and place your elbows under your shoulders, arms bent softly and palms connecting with the floor. 
  • Gently and slowly lift up your chin, open the jaw, inhale, and exhale slowly with the mouth open and a soft jaw. 
  • Do this three times, very evenly and slowly with presence. 
  • After your third sphinx, let the entire body surrender into child’s pose. 

5.   4-7-8 breathing technique: Another very effective breathing exercise

  • Inhale for a count of four, hold for a count of seven and exhale for a count of eight.  
  • Breathe in for a count of four, hold for a count of four, exhale for a count of four, hold for a count of four. 

6.  Lovingkindness Meditation: A lovely and simple meditation to let go of the day and enter a state of happiness

Going to sleep doing a lovingkindness meditation can deeply shift our focus and energy. List today’s blessings before sleeping, with a conscious inhale and exhale (letting go) and smile with a hand on your heart. You may use these words—and please do change them to make them work perfectly for you. You might even feel a sense of these words being given to you by a higher power, or your higher self. 

     May I be safe and protected and free from inner and outer harm. 
     May I be happy and content. 
     May I be healthy and whole to whatever degree possible. 
     May I experience ease of well-being.

Bonus Tips and Tricks

  • Should you awaken for any reason, please do not look at the clock. This only fans the flames of worry, pointing out how little time you have before you must get up. Just don’t do it.
  • Eliminate caffeine within eight hours before sleep. Remember that caffeine has a six-hour half-life.
  • Eliminate alcohol within at least three hours before sleep.
  • Set up timers to remind yourself when it’s time to wind down.