It happens to everyone at least occasionally – you fall into bed at the end of a long day, expecting a quick slide into sleep, but instead, once your head hits the pillow, you suddenly feel wide awake. Next time this scenario plays out in your bedroom, instead of tossing and turning while worrying about how exhausted you’ll be in the morning if you don’t fall asleep in the next few minutes, try one of the following seven moves. None takes more than a few minutes, but each has a powerful effect in encouraging relaxation and sleep.
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Slip On Socks
It might seem crazy, but a visit to the land of Nod should start with a trip to your sock drawer. Sleep researchers have found that wearing socks to bed reduces the time needed to fall into a deep sleep, and helps keep you there longer. The reason is that your body naturally shunts more blood flow to your extremities as you fall asleep, thus lowering your core temperature, which normally drops a degree or two while sleeping. When you keep your feet warm, the dilated blood vessels make it easier for your body to perform this function, and you’ll fall asleep sooner. Keep a special pair of fuzzy socks just for bedtime wear. Slipping them on each night as part of your bedtime routine will help your brain associate the socks with relaxation and sleep.
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Ear's the Rub
Is your chattering mind keeping you awake? If so, you’ll find sweet relief with an easy move from traditional Chinese medicine. Simply rub each earlobe between a thumb and index finger for a minute or so, until you feel soothing warmth. Finish with gentle downwards tugs on the earlobes.
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Shrug Off Stress
After a tough day, sky-high stress levels can make it difficult to relax enough for sleep. Luckily, the solution is as close as your shoulders. The muscles in your neck, shoulders and upper back are prime repositories for tension, as well as aches and stiffness that make it difficult to get comfortable. Try this easy move to release the pressure:
- Slowly inhale deeply, while lifting your shoulders towards your ears in a shrugging motion.
- Hold your breath and the position for a few seconds.
- Exhale slowly, while lowering your shoulders to their normal position.
- Repeat five times.
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Here’s another easy self-massage technique used in Chinese medicine to help relieve anxiety and encourage sleep.
Continue to 5 of 7 below.
- Place the tips of your index fingers in the middle of your forehead, and gently draw the fingers out to your temples.
- Repeat several times while working your fingers from the center of your forehead to your eyebrows.
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Try a Mudra
Mudras (pronounced moo-dras) have been used in Eastern traditions and yoga for centuries to balance body energies and stabilize moods. There are many mudras, but most involve simple positioning of the hands and fingers. A good mudra for sleepless nights is the Shakti mudra. It helps with chronic insomnia, especially if practiced daily.
- Lie on your back, with your hands resting on your thighs.
- Curl your thumbs inside loosely clenched fists. Bring your hands close together so the fists nearly touch.
- Lift your ring and pinkie fingers, steepling them against each other.
- Breathe slowly and regularly while holding the mudra for several minutes.
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Although nothing beats having someone else give you a soothing massage, you can come close with a mini-massage of your own hands, head and feet. Massage helps promote your body’s production of melatonin – the hormone that regulates your sleep cycle. Just apply a little bit of moisturizing lotion to your hands, then knead and rub your scalp in firm circular motions. After five minutes, add a dab more lotion to your hands, and then massage both of your feet, focusing on the arch, the toes and back of your heels. Finally, finish by massaging your hands. If needed, add a bit more lotion to your skin, and then rub your hands together, circling over both the palms and the backs of your hands and wrists.
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Breathe It Out
Deep breathing has long been used as a meditative method to blow away tension. Next time you’re having trouble sleeping, all you need to do is slowly take in ten deep breaths, letting your belly expand while your lungs inflate fully. As you slowly breathe out, your brain calms down, lowering your heart rate and blood pressure while reducing anxiety. The result is peaceful sleep.