Nan Huai was a spiritual teacher of contemporary China. He was considered by many to be the major force in the revival of Chinese Buddhism. As far as sleep, he said, “Tibetan yoga was very explicit about this. It’s just a matter of calming your breath first, not trying to calm your mind to get to sleep.” In a 24 hour cycle he only has 4 hours of sleep, but never appears to suffer from sleep deprivation. While sleeping pills and supplements may help (try to mix ZMA with melatonin), there are some alternative techniques to improve our sleeping pattern. We’re breathing 24–7, that’s why the breathe is key to everything.

How to improve sleeping pattern according to Nan Huai: 

1. Focus just on your breath not on your thoughts.

In samadhi, breathing takes place in the navel area by itself instead of the lung. The more thoughts there are in the mind, the shorter the breaths and the more difficult to do navel breathing.

“Calm your breath. Just try to feel your body and see where you feel a little bit extra energy or disruption or disharmony, and picture that as a ball of light. And bring that ball of light up to your throat.”

2. Start to practice Ujjayi, an Ancient Yogic Breathing Technique daily.

Ujjayi has a balancing influence on the entire cardiorespiratory system, releases feelings of irritation and frustration, and helps calm the mind and body. Ujjayi is “victorious breath,” and has been used for thousands of years to enhance Astanga and Hatha Yoga practice.

“If you sit quietly and practise ujjayi breathing for 10 minutes a day, you’re going to instantly decrease your cortisol, stress and C-reactive protein, and increase your feel-good hormones, helping you sleep and function better.”