I wanted to share a simple, and for me, effective approach to settling into sleep. It is based on a breathing exercise in yoga, and although I was aware of the exercise, this particular application of it had not come to my attention.
In a nutshell, our active rational part of the brain, left brain, is what keeps us from dropping off to sleep. And in yoga tradition our left brain is connected to our right nostril, and conversely our right brain is connected to our left nostril.
According to science our nostrils alternate during the day in dominance. You can test this out by putting a finger over each nostril in turn and seeing which breathes more easily. I actually recommend doing this as part of the ‘going to sleep exercise’ I will outline below.
To harmonise your breathing cycle with your sleep cycle try this out.
At night-time, as you settle to sleep, test out which nostril is dominant. I would hazard a guess it is your right nostril. So, to allow your right nostril to complete its breathing cycle, lie on your left side. This will allow your right nostril to remain unconstricted, and to drain well, and thus will allow your rational brain to process the day unhindered.
At some stage you will feel the cycle is complete, and now is the time to roll over on to your right side. If you test your nostril dominance immediately after rolling onto your right side you will still find your right nostril somewhat dominant. But check it out a little while later and you will find your left nostril is now the dominant one, and your intuitive right side of your brain is now coming to the fore, allowing you to settle into sleep. The video below suggests ‘ a few minutes’ before turning – I would guess that there is quite a wide range of times before the cycle is complete, between different people, and on different occasions.
Tossing and turning in your sleep can be a result of the changeover in dominance of your breathing side. If that is not harmonised with your sleep cycle, the changeover of breathing cycle can have a tendency to wake you rather than just happening below the radar of sleep.
Now, I cannot say whether this will work for everyone, and it may not work all the time, but it has a logic to it, and a coming together of the ancient yogic tradition with modern day science that speaks to me.
For a video about this see here.