And if you've taken a hot bath, turned off all of your mobile devices at a decent hour, and sprayed your pillow with lavender essential oil, ensuring a good night's sleep comes down to the critical seconds after your head hits the pillow. And for all of us, this seems to be the moment that our minds kick into high gear, regardless of how to nap those aforementioned habits are. Did you get around to responding to the email? You have to go food shopping tomorrow, ugh. Ye, good—the montage of the most embarrassing moments is running on time.
Why is it that even when we are tired, we somehow find ourselves looking at the ceiling? Ashley Neese, a breathwork expert, says it has everything to do with how we breathe. Breath has the ability to decrease tension, cortisol levels, and elicit our bodies' innate relaxing reaction, according to research—but it's much more difficult to enjoy these advantages when we're not doing it correctly.
"Many people are unaware that they breathe from their mouth rather than their nose for the bulk of the day," says Neese. "Breathing through the nose is the most efficient way of breathing for most people. It has been shown to enhance circulation, fear, respiratory fitness, cognitive control, and emotional intelligence."
Additionally, teaching yourself to relax more effectively every night has the additional advantage of turning your brain's attention away from your to-do list and onto your breath, assisting you in entering a meditative state. "I'm a major proponent of slower, deeper breathing at night because it's a quick way to relieve anxiety and stress," Neese says. "This form of breathing prepares you for a more restful night's sleep."
It's worth playing with your own deep breathing exercises to see what works best for you, but if you're not sure where to go, Neese recommends two simple strategies.
1. Put one hand on your stomach.
2. Inhale and exhale from your nose.
3. Become mindful of the normal rising and fall of the belly when you inhale.
4. After a few minutes, start lengthening your exhale by one or two counts more than your inhale.
5. Continue until you are able to retire to your bed.
COUNT YOUR BREATHS IN EXERCISE 2
1. Start by breathing in and out of your nose for a few minutes.
2. Take a minute or two to establish a steady breathing rhythm.
3. Count of exhalation from one to five. Count back down to one until you reach five.
4. Count out loud on each exhale. Don't go past five o'clock, and if you get stuck, go back to one o'clock.
5. Keep on until you fall asleep.