It’s a remarkable relationship we have with our tongue. In fact, it’s one of our primary sources of info when we first come into the world. Watch a waking baby and it won’t be but a moment before something’s in their mouth. Anything is game. And they’re not doing that because it all tastes good. (I’m sure much of it doesn’t!) What babies are doing is learning. They’re learning with their tongues.
That’s how we began. We had to develop our oral and motor skills, learning movement of the mouth and tongue, so we could graduate our way to speech. And, all along our tongue was sending lots and lots of data to the brain.
If you want to sleep, learn to bite your tongue.
When a kid’s doing a task that requires concentration, their tongue will likely escape out the side of their mouth – suddenly clenched between their teeth as if it would otherwise run away.
Researches Gillian Forrester and Alina Rodriguez studied children doing tasks, paying specific attention to their tongues. All of the children being studied stuck their tongues out during tasks and games. It’s quite a common & normal phenomenon. They also found it was most prevalent during tasks requiring deeper thought and concentration.
Our human instincts understand it’s hard to concentrate when our tongue’s involved. The deep connection our tongue has to the brain’s language centers means it’s working on our words even if we’re just thinking them. Thinking creates tiny micro-movements in the tongue and that sends more information to the brain. When it’s time to concentrate kids naturally aim to cut off the flow of data – literally biting their tongue.
And, so we come full circle: Lying in bed unable to sleep.
When it’s time for bed, you turn everything off – the TV or device and lights – so you won’t be disturbed. But, you may still find yourself being bothered by the noise of your thoughts – that mind chatter that’s activating the tongue, sending more input to the brain.
Quiet your tongue and your thoughts will follow suit.
More effective (and civilized) than biting one’s tongue is to relax it. This idea of relaxing your tongue is touted by sleep experts as a good way to help you sleep and it’s really easy to do with a little focus and intent.
Over time, I’ve created my own tongue relaxation routine. It helps me fall asleep faster and it’s super easy to do:
Muscles love a good stretch to relax. We adults avoid sticking our tongues out, which means they hardly ever get to stretch out. Bedtime’s the perfect opportunity to let your tongue escape. No one need see.
Think about the way an animal will yawn. Sometimes that tongue gets way out there. Be inspired by that mental picture and let it all hang. I call it the “Yawn Pose” and it often results in an actual big deep yawn.
Once your head hits the pillow (I recommend face-up while doing this), focus your mind on the back of your tongue and let it relax. Feel it becoming more and more free of tension. It has nothing it needs to do right now. Let it have it’s well deserved rest. It may feel like spreading out, suddenly taking up a little more space in your mouth. That’s good! Let it be free.
Once you’re feeling like the tension has melted away from your tongue, it will start to spread into your jaw and face. Simply breath into the relaxation.
That’s all there is to it. Bring your focus to your breathing and before you know it you’ll have drifted off to the land of dreams.