How to Sleep Better: Breathing Exercises and Nutrition Tips from the Experts

In the middle of a particularly stressful week, I made my way to Exhale’s Upper East Side location for an event hosted by Core Fusion co-founder Elisabeth Halfpapp, who is not only one of the world’s leading fitness experts, but a truly inspirational woman (sign up for one of her classes to see for yourself!). The theme of the event was “Night Moves” and focused on a series of breathing-based exercises designed to promote relaxation and sleep. Following the moves, all of which were one to two minutes and are outlined in video format here, nutritionist Gayle Reichler shared some tips on what to eat to achieve more restful sleep. Both women are expert contributors to a new site, Bedtime Network, that focuses on helping woman achieve more restful sleeping patterns – who doesn’t want that? Here are some of the most interesting factoids I picked up.

  • Yogis believe that your left side is your “calm” side, so if you’re feeling stressed try laying on your left side.

  • Woman care more about what side of the bed they sleep on than men.

  • Bedtime Network is geared towards women even though the sleep-related content is applicable to all ages and genders. The idea is that women are the seeds of change in a family and will influence (hopefully!) their spouses and children in positive ways.

  • A study conducted and authored by a nursing team from Case Western Reserve University found that listening to classical or soft jazz music that cycles at 60-80 beats per minute prior to bedtime led to a more restful and satisfying night’s sleep.

  • Growing up, most children have unconscious bedtime signals – milk and cookies, baths, etc. – that signal to their brain that soon it will be time to sleep. As we get older, those relaxing signals are typically replaced by stimulating ones – a glass of wine or TV for example. While any signal that gets you to fall asleep is positive to some extent, ideally the signal would be something soothing, which is where Elisabeth’s one minute exercises come in.

  • Elisabeth has a fantastic saying, “We hold tension in our tissues.” When doing breathing exercises, try to remember that and as much as you can, let your shoulders drop and relax.

  • When doing the breathing exercices breath in and out through your nose.

  • We tend to inhale a lot more than we exhale, so focusing on exhaling more can be incredibly beneficial in terms of body relaxation.

  • If you wake up in the middle of the night, try not to look at the clock, it will do nothing aside from possibly create anxiety as to how much time you have left to sleep.

  • If you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t fall back to sleep, try to think of a target word like “erase” or “melt” and focus on your breathing.

  • When you get home from work, change your clothes to signal to youself that you’re moving out of work mode and into relaxation mode.

  • Do not work or eat in your bed.

  • Pale green is a great wall color because of its soothing effect.

  • Caffeine affects everyone differently, but if you have trouble sleeping, try not drinking any after noon.

  • Foods that promote restful sleep are: warm milk, soy, poultry in particular turkey, bananas, oatmal, yogurt, whole grains, rice, beans, seafood, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, eggs, lentils, hazelnuts, and peanuts.

image: Victoria’s Secret