Since before Christmas, I’ve successfully used two sleep hacks together to fall asleep fast despite having bouts of racing thoughts, worries, fears and deadlines that spring forward the moment I need to savor some ZZZs.
Add unexpected tragedy, loss, and adrenal depletion to the mix and, like me, you’ve had your eyes peeled open until you heard mourning doves – despite being in weary need of rest. Grief, like a hungry baby, has a way of keeping you up. Grief often leads to anxiety, guilt and mind chatter – something that would be remedied by sleep! Can you relate to this unfair catch-22?
Furthermore, that rush of adrenaline you get out of frustration when you can’t sleep is like intravenous espresso. During our java-fueled, adrenal-rushed days we may not realize that we actually need adrenaline to fall asleep. When you’re depleted, you’re actually more likely to lay wide awake completely wired, and the modern lifestyle seems deliberately designed for this vicious cycle. Melatonin is an artificial sleep aid that can make things worse because it deprives your pineal gland of its birthright to create melatonin – causing a big fat dependency. It’s best reserved for jet lag only.
Speaking of lag, I don’t have to tell you what a lack of sleep can do to your body – it’s the biggest hindrance for obsessive scientists. Not to cause any more anxiety, but are you in bed before 11 p.m. so that your hormones have a chance to get cleaned out and restored from your liver? Did you know that one extra hour of sleep is as effective for weight loss as one hour at the gym? Did you know that one night of lost sleep can remove your ability to regulate your emotions the next day? And that emotional dysregulation is classified as a mental health disorder?? Don’t worry, I won’t let them toss you in the padded room even though it might sound like a lovely place to take a nap. If I can get to sleep during the most difficult time of my life, I know that you can too.
There’s a Way to Trick Your Mind Into Sleep
Two ways, in fact…and they work great together in as little as one minute – just 3o seconds for some.
The first one is gaining slow, but viral steam on the Internet having become a run-away hit thanks to Dr. Andrew Weil bringing an old breathing-by-numbers trick to a greater audience. The technique actually originates from an antiquated, but classic book called Relax Your Way to Health. While the technique knocks a lot of people out just fine – I need the second trick (below) to seal the deal.
Breathe Like This… The 4-7-8 Technique
Draw in a deep breath through your nose that takes four seconds…
Hold that breath for seven seconds…
Exhale slowly through your mouth for eight seconds…
That’s it! Repeat immediately.
It instantly whooshes you into a state of relaxation. Blood pressure drops…thoughts relax. Happy dreamin.’
An author who carried Weil’s “4-7-8 breath technique” to yet a bigger audience, says she rarely remembers getting through the second round. That means before 38 seconds went by – she was out.
She says it forces your heart rate to slow down – that heart rate has no choice because of the breaths, and that people with anxiety are chronically under-breathing. It is supposed to bring more oxygen to your blood and remedy your central nervous system – it definitely feels that way.
You can even do this during the day if you feel anxiety coming on. It has helped this Nervous Nellie and it didn’t put me to sleep during daytime hours – it might even help with the ability to focus.
I don’t know if this is true, but the combination of numbers is said to have a chemical effect. It does feel immediately drug-like to me. You may only want to try this twice in a row and then take a break before trying again so that you do not become too dizzy. Don’t be afraid to practice – you are now back in the driver seat of your night life!
Here is a video demonstration from Dr. Weil himself – he says results come from doing it over time. That’s how it worked for me – persistence and practice.
I do it two to three times and then I start the next trick (because I have had some monster insomnia during the last six months – all remedied by these sleep hacks.)
Pin this to remember!
The 2nd Trick For Fast Sleep – The Gratitude Alphabet
You can do this alone or after the breathing trick.
Go through the alphabet starting at the beginning and for each letter come up with something you’re grateful for starting with that letter.
Like this: Autumn, BF, my Cat, Dogs, Eggs from the chickens, my Friends, Gilmore Girls…
And so on…anything you’re grateful for. Things that you would normally put on a gratitude list.
My theory is that your mind abandons the junk chatter and starts searching. Before you know it, you slip into unconsciousness. After all, it’s hard not to be relaxed when you are in a state of gratitude.
You don’t have to use things you’re grateful for. Do you like sports? Use the alphabet and go through teams, sporting goods or athletes. Like movies? Go through titles of a certain genre. Music? You name it. Gratitude works best for me and encourages a great rest. You can also do three words with the same letter at the same time: Girl’s night out, Gilmore Girls, Grandma…
If I do the Gratitude Alphabet by itself I never get past the letter N before sleeping. Lately I’ve been using the 4-7-8 trick first and I rarely get past the letter E before I slip away. There are times that are really difficult and I just start the alphabet over again with new words. I need to thank my friend Patti for this trick – and a high school teacher for sharing his preferred method of using different sports.
The key to successfully working the sleep tricks is – committing to persistence. Truly, I know how hard it is when you’re pushed awake with a rush of scary thoughts or a new burst of adrenaline. Continue to gently get back to the breath and gratitude alphabet. Repeat every night and multiple times per night – your mind and feelings will have to follow. They’ll be trained in no time. Tell the bothersome thoughts and to-do list that they don’t have to worry; a newly rested You will be able to give them your full attention in the morning – along with those dreams you’ve placed on the shelf. The ones you have during the day!
Did this technique work for you – what is your favorite sleep hack? Sound off below and don’t forget to share!
About the Author
Heather Callaghan is an independent researcher, writer, speaker and food freedom activist. She is the Editor and co-founder of NaturalBlaze as well as a certified Self-Referencing IITM Practitioner. She has written over 1,200 articles and wants readers to empower themselves to take back their health!
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Moreover, views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of Awareness Junkie or its staff.