Nothing’s worse than lying awake late into the night, especially when you have to get up early. Once midnight comes and goes, that’s when you might look up sleep hacks on TikTok out of pure desperation. Luckily, there are quite a few tricks to try — such as the pineal gland meditation, which has racked up billions of views.
Created by scientist and chiropractor Dr. Joe Dispenza, the pineal gland meditation is meant to ease stress and calm your mind so that you can drift right off to dreamland. According to Dr. Ryan Sultan, M.D., a board-certified psychiatrist, therapist, and professor at Columbia University, the technique combines meditation and breathwork in a way that has an extra calming effect on your physiology.
The sleep hack involves breathing in through your nose, clenching all of your muscles, breathing out, and then repeating the process five times. “While the technique is rooted in physiological changes like muscle relaxation, it also integrates mindfulness principles,” he tells Bustle. “Focusing on one's breathing and physical sensations diverts the mind from anxiety-inducing thoughts, a key component of many meditation practices.”
In the comments section of TikTok creator @liv.ingwell’s viral video about it, lots of people said this quick little trick helped them with insomnia. According to Sultan, the technique does trigger a sense of relaxation that helps you fall asleep almost immediately — or up to 30 minutes later. If it doesn’t work right away, he recommends combining it with other relaxation techniques, like putting your phone away and lowering the temperature in your bedroom.
Intrigued? Read on for more intel on the hack and why it works.
How The Pineal Gland Meditation Works
For a quick rundown, the pineal gland is a small, pinecone-shaped endocrine gland located deep within your brain that helps ensure a balanced circadian rhythm, says Sultan. “It's most recognized for producing melatonin, a hormone responsible for regulating our sleep-wake cycles.”
The pineal gland helps your body know when it’s time to be awake during the day and when it’s time to go to sleep during the night. And the deep breathing involved in the meditation technique is what helps enhance that mind-body connection, says Jill Zwarensteyn, a certified sleep science coach at Sleep Advisor. Plus, the pineal gland is said to be connected to your third eye chakra, which is why you’re encouraged to think about the spot between your eyebrows during the meditation.
As you slowly inhale through your nose, the controlled breathing also helps increase your oxygen intake to calm your nervous system, Sultan says. The act of breathing in and squeezing all of your muscles and then relaxing them will relieve physical stress and tension from your body, too, which feels good before bed. It works by rerouting your attention from racing thoughts to your bodily sensations, he explains. (You can’t focus on stress if you’re busy clenching.)
By repeating this breathing technique five times, Sultan says it amplifies the relaxation response in your body and mind so that you eventually fall asleep. To make the most of it, Zwarensteyn recommends getting comfy in bed, contracting your lower muscles first, and working your way up towards your head.
“As you do this, energy is being brought to the pineal gland,” she tells Bustle. “This will cause the pineal gland to release melatonin as you exhale.” After repeating the process five times, you should eventually be relaxed enough to sleep.
When To Try The Pineal Gland Meditation
You can try the pineal gland meditation anytime you’re struggling to fall asleep, like when you’re awake due to stress or overthinking. “By focusing on physical sensations, the technique can divert attention from disruptive thoughts,” says Sultan.
It’s also a good trick to try if you have insomnia, as it might serve as a non-pharmacological method to aid sleep onset, he adds. Remember, if it doesn’t work right away, you can always try it again.
“Some individuals might take a few repetitions to experience the relaxation benefits fully,” says Sultan. “Additionally, with practice, your body may become more attuned to the response, making the technique more effective over time.”
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Dr. Ryan Sultan, M.D., board-certified psychiatrist, therapist, professor at Columbia University