THERE’S nothing more frustrating than when you are trying to sleep but the world’s problems seem to be weighing on your mind.

Before you know it, it’s gone 12am and all hope is lost.

The woman with a headache lay near the man in the bed. night time


The woman with a headache lay near the man in the bed. night timeCredit: Getty

Many people wake up in the early hours of the morning and are unable to stop overthinking.

Sleep expert Dr Nerina Ramlakhan gave her advice for what to do when you find yourself in this position.

She responded to the queries of a Stylist reader, who said they “struggle with insomnia and overthinking during the night”.

This 40-year-old business owner provided a five-day sleep diary, filled with night disturbances and lying awake staring at the ceiling.

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Dr Nerina said: “When you wake during the night, accept that it’s going to happen (and it’s totally normal to wake during the night) and don’t check the time – this is waking you up too fully and setting your mind off.

“When you settle back into bed… use the BOX breathing method to calm your mind and guide you back into your body.”

The BOX breathing method

The BOX breathing method, also called square breathing, is a repetitive breathing pattern to help you release stress and anxiety.

It also goes by the name of “the Navy SEAL breathing technique” because it is useful for steeling nerves before a high-pressure situation. 

Bob Soulliere, a Wim Hof Method Instructor, told “Because the brain is a pattern-recognition machine, when you give it a pattern, it pays attention. It says, ‘I’m taking control’. 

“This immediately calms the central nervous system.

“If you have a racing mind, if you have panic, if you want to calm yourself for sleep, one of the first, best interventions is to slow and bring your breathing to a regular cadence.”

How to do the BOX breathing method

Imagine a square.

Each side represents: Inhale, hold, exhale, relax.

Follow these steps for each square side.

  • Inhale: Inhale slowly through the nose as you count to four. Put your hand on your belly and feel it gently expand. 
  • Hold: Tense every muscle in your body as you hold the breath for four counts. 
  • Exhale: Exhale for four counts, relaxing all the muscles again.
  • Relax: Don’t do anything for four counts - neither inhaling or exhaling. Scan the body to make sure all your muscles are relaxed

Repeat the cycle for as many rounds as possible until you feel sleepy, or as though your body is sinking into the bed.

The American Association of Nurse Anesthesiology offers this video tutorial so you can visualise the box. 

Other breathing exercises used for bed time include the 4-7-8 technique, which involves inhaling for four beats, bolding for seven, exhaling for eight and repeating.

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