Do you struggle with sleep from time to time, whether it’s falling asleep, staying asleep, or getting enough sleep? You’re not alone in your tossing and turning. More than a third of American adults are not getting enough sleep (at least seven hours per night) on a regular basis, according to a 2016 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study.
For quality, consistent sleep every night, it’s critical to develop a healthy bedtime routine, as well as lifestyle factors such as proper nutrition and physical activity, all of which affect your sleep patterns. That said, there are some nights where anxietyjust gets the better of you despite all of your best efforts.
So, the next time you find yourself in “mind overdrive” (incessant worrying, ruminating, and thinking about things like work and to-do lists) when you should be snoozing, try the following technique. I like to call this practice The Smiling, Sleepy Buddha. It’s one of my favorite methods to peacefully fall asleep or fall back to sleep when anxious thoughts wake me up in the middle of the night. It incorporates mindfulness, a breath technique, body temperature regulation, and a tiny smile.
The Smiling, Sleepy Buddha: A Mind-Body Practice to Help You Fall Asleep
Step 1: Ease into Savasana.
Roll over onto your back (so you can effectively take long, deep, full breaths) into Savasana (Corpse Pose).
Step 2: Smile and relax.
Add an-ever-so slight and comfortable smile to your face. Use just enough pressure to gently engage the muscles around the lips without straining or overly forcing. (If someone were to look at you, they might not even notice you’re smiling.)
The mind can influence the body (hence the mind-body connection), but the reverse communication linkage—body to mind—is also true. The body can inform the brain and, in this case, it’s a small brain hack meant to signal to the brain and nervous system that everything is OK, that you’re safe and you’re content. Your nervous system darn well knows you wouldn’t be smiling if you were in actual danger.The smile helps both the brain and the body to relax (and you’ll resemble a peaceful, happy, meditating Buddha!).