It’s 3am and I’m wide awake!!
Does this sound familiar? It’s 3am and you are wide awake!
At Inside Out we often hear that you get off to sleep OK, only to wake up again in the middle of the night, and then the mind gets involved and before you know it you’re re-running the previous day, stressing about the day ahead and feeling anxious because you’re not asleep.
Well you’re not alone and the good news is there are things you can do to help yourself.
For some people it helps to actually get up and make a soothing drink, do some relaxation or read, to break the anxiety of laying awake worrying about not sleeping. Personally I don’t like to get out of my warm bed so I do some relaxation laid in bed – I focus on (either by saying it silently in my head, visualising or just being aware) each individual body part, from my toes right up to the crown of my head and I consciously ask that part of my body to relax and release any tension.
You can enhance this by relaxing each part as you exhale and maybe visualising warm light (or cool if you prefer) easing into the muscles and the bones. When you’ve gone through the body focus on your breath. Let your hands rest on your tummy and feel it gently rise as you inhale and gently fall as you exhale. I’m often asleep before I get to my knees!
Sometimes though, the mind will just not switch off. On these occasions I use a version of my favourite pranayama (breathing practice) – nadi shodhana (alternate nostril breathing). Those of you who come to our classes will be familiar with this technique of alternating which nostril you are breathing in and out of (I bet you’d have never have guessed that from the name of the breath!!). This helps to balance the left and right hemispheres of the brain. Now for a little bit of science – not much I promise and this is fascinating, honest.
Take a moment to become aware of how you are breathing. If you close one nostril off and then the other, you will probably find that one nostril will be dominant. If you try in a couple of hours time you’ll most likely find that the dominant nostril has switched.
The nostrils are connected to the left and right hemispheres of the brain, so the left, logical brain is linked with the right nostril whilst the left nostril is governed by the right brain, generally more associated with creativity and is the side we need to be on to be fully relaxed. So, it follows that if we are trying to get to sleep we need the left nostril to be dominant. You can help that by sleeping on your right hand side which naturally opens the left nostril more (there is wisdom in the old adage of getting out of bed on the wrong side – as to be fully awake you need to roll onto your left side first, to connect with the logical brain and then get up!). We can also move our awareness into the right brain, when we are laid awake in bed, by using the following technique:
Lay on your back and take a couple of gentle breaths using the abdomen as mentioned above. Now take your awareness to the left nostril and imagine that you are breathing in through the left nostril only, now take your awareness to the right nostril and imagine you are breathing out through the right nostril only. Inhale again through the left nostril, exhale through the right, repeating a few times more, always in left, out right.
You might find it useful to visualise the breath as light to help you focus on the individual nostrils. NB. only do this when laid in bed and you want to sleep!
I know it sounds odd, but give it a go, honestly it works!
Until next time, sleep well and take care Ix