Can’t sleep? Here’s an antidote to tossing and turning…a routine of sleep-inducing moves that will help you drift off in no time.
You don’t even have to get out of bed to do them! And you can do them whether you wake in the middle of the night…or can’t conk out in the first place. In fact, you might even fall asleep (or fall back asleep) before you complete the whole routine.
“It works 80% to 90% of the time,” says Loren Fishman, MD, a physical and rehabilitative medicine specialist in New York City who developed the routine, which is inspired by yoga poses.
Part 1: Do Reclining Hand to Big Toe Pose
This yoga pose stretches the hamstrings, causing them to relax, and brings on a sense of floating to the legs that signals the entire central nervous system to relax.
What to do: While on your back, lengthen your body by stretching your heels away from your hips and the back of your head away from your shoulders. Symmetrically position your shoulder blades fairly close to the spine. Keep your spine straight.
Bending your right knee, lift your right thigh until it is perpendicular to your back. Keep your left leg firmly on the bed as you straighten your right knee, and grasp your right foot with both hands and pull it toward your forehead. Tighten your quadriceps (the muscles on the front of your thigh) to make your knee truly straight—a reflex will automatically relax your hamstrings.
Hold for 20 to 30 seconds, taking slow, deep breaths. Then lower your right leg, and repeat the move with your left leg. (If you can’t reach your foot with your hands, loop a belt or towel over your foot and hold on to that.)
Part 2: Breathe Slowly and Evenly
While still on your back with your legs back down on the bed, close your eyes and breathe normally until you feel settled. Then exhale and take a good normal breath, puffing out your chest.
Now here comes the tricky part. Retaining the puffed-out chest, exhale as much air as you can. Then inhale in three small equal segments with a pause of two to five seconds between segments. Don’t use your throat or mouth or tongue to stop inhaling in each of the three segments. Just halt the downward movement of your diaphragm. When you’ve completed the three segments and held your breath for five to 10 seconds, exhale and take a normal breath.
Repeat the process two more times, with a normal breath between each time.
Now do it in reverse—fill your lungs, puff out your chest and then exhale in three equal segments with two-to-five-second pauses between segments, retaining the puffed-out chest throughout the exercise.
Take a normal breath before repeating the entire exhalation exercise two more times.
Part 3: An Abbreviated Relaxation Response
Start with your toes. Let them relax…let the spaces between your toes breathe. Move up the relaxation to your calves, then your thighs, then all the way to your navel. Then relax your fingers as you did your toes. Starting at the tips of your fingers and thumbs…move up to your forearms…upper arms…shoulders and shoulder blades…neck and face.
Enjoy the peace…you may even feel tingling. Then focus on your navel moving up and down as you breathe.
Last, imagine total peace, or your favorite place and/or time in your life.
Good night…sleep tight…zzz…