Are you tired of feeling tired? You’re not alone. Getting to sleep can be difficult for many of us, but if you can’t sleep or are suffering from sleep deprivation, Kaizen – a Japanese term that focuses on making positive changes for your wellbeing – could help with this one simple breathing exercise…
There are numerous things which are preventing us from getting a good night’s sleep, from feeling like we always need to be switched on for work to increasingly worrying about our mental health and obsessing over sleep tech.
There’s plenty of advice out there about how to get a good night of sleep, including guidance on when we should (and shouldn’t) be drinking caffeine, and recommendations of the best podcasts to help us drift off into dreamland.
But while podcasts and hot drinks may not be for everyone, a quick breathing exercise is something we can all turn to when we’re lying awake in the early hours wondering why we can’t just sleep.
In her book Kaizen: The Japanese Method for Transforming Habits One Small Step at a Time, Sarah Harvey tells us how we can make small adjustments which will change our lives.
Kaizen, which means ‘change’ ‘good’ in Japanese, focuses on mindful, positive change, rather than criticising yourself – something that’s crucial when it comes to sleep, when we often find that we’re berating ourselves for not being able to shut our eyes and just relax.
In a previous extract from Kaizen, Harvey recommended keeping a sleep diary, improving your sleep environment and transforming your bedtime rituals. In this new extract, she lays out the steps to a simple breathing exercise which will help you find calmness just before you go to sleep.
Can’t sleep? Try this breathing exercise for sleep
For the times when you can’t sleep, I am going to share with you a short breathing exercise that I find helps me when it is 3am and my mind is racing with nonsense thoughts. What yogis refer to as Moon Breath or Chandra Bhedana involves breathing in through your left nostril only. The left side of your body is thought to be associated with the nervous system, and so Chandra Bhedana has been traditionally used to calm it down and promote sleep.
Here is a short exercise that you can do anywhere:
1. Sit upright or lie down, whichever is more comfortable.
2. Close your eyes and relax your eye sockets. Imagine your eyeballs are swimming in cooling pools of water.
3. Close your right nostril with your right thumb.
4. Rest the second and third fingers of your right hand in your palm and extend your fourth and fifth fingers.
5. Breathe in through your left nostril and then close it with your fourth finger of your right hand, while releasing your thumb from your left nostril and breathing out through your right nostril.
6. Regulate your breath and keep repeating this action for a couple of minutes until your breathing is really slow and you feel more relaxed.
7. Hopefully your brain will feel less wired and you will be able to fall asleep.
A variation on this is to alternate the nostrils as you perform the exercise. This is called Nadi Shodhana or alternate nostril breathing and is a really simple way to quickly quieten the mind and settle your emotions, so is a useful exercise to have up your sleeve during moments of anxiety or stress. It really helps to focus the mind and press the reset button on your nervous system.
It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop
Kaizen: The Japanese Method for Transforming Habits One Small Step at a Time by Sarah Harvey is out now (Bluebird, £9.99).