In Self-Care

The following breathing exercises for sleep are also great for relaxation after a stressful or busy day.

Insomnia is a common problem with 30% of adults experiencing short-term insomnia and nearly 10% suffering from long-lasting or chronic insomnia. When suffering from insomnia, it can be difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. Insomnia can also cause our bodies to wake up too early and make it difficult or impossible to get back to sleep.

However, you can help yourself relax and hopefully better sleep by using certain breathing exercises.

a woman that doesnt know relaxation techniques can help you fall asleep

Trouble Falling Asleep or Staying Asleep

There are many things that can keep you up at night. You could have jet lag, stress at work or school or concerns about finances, family, or relationships.

Insomnia is Hazardous to Your Health

Unfortunately, for insomnia sufferers daytime anxiety and other stress indicators can be at a peak. These include irritability, fatigue, problems concentrating, energy deficiency, and poor work performance.

But that’s not all, adults who sleep less than 7 hours a night are more likely to have heart disease, depression, and even diabetes.

An estimated 4% of adults use prescription sleep aids such as benzodiazepines. These drugs can be addictive, habit-forming, and still not provide people with a restful sleep.

If you feel you are a chronic insomnia sufferer, it is highly recommended you speak to your doctor and/or pursue help from a sleep specialist.

Specific Breathing Techniques & Meditation Can Help

Research has shown that meditation and specific breathing exercises (such as deep breathing) can help ease anxiety and improve sleep quality. Even simple, slow, deep breathing can bring many benefits to your mind and body. Practicing some of the deep breathing techniques described in this article should provide benefits.

Before detailing the techniques recommended, we wish to highlight a few of the key benefits which include:

  • Less stress
  • Relief of certain Asthma symptoms
  • Higher melatonin levels (a sleep-inducing hormone)
  • Calmer nervous system
  • Reduction of anxiety

Below is a list of some breathing exercises that can help reduce stress. Reducing stress is ideal when falling asleep is your goal.

a man practicing breath control and diaphragmatic breathing methods

The 4-7-8 Breathing Technique

The 4-7-8 technique encourages the mind and body not to replay your worries at night, but to regulate the breath. It is said to calm racing nerves and soothe racing hearts.

Proponents of 4-7-8 breathing claim that it gets stronger with practice and time.

Although the effects of 4-7-8 breathing are not immediately apparent, they can be felt over time. It is possible to feel lightheaded when you first try it. Some people will see better results if they practice 4-7-8 breathing at least twice a day than if they only do it once.

How To Do The 4-7-8 Breathing Technique

  1. Allow your lips to gently part.
  2. Exhale completely, making a breathy whoosh sound as you do.
  3. Press your lips together as you silently inhale through the nose for a count of 4 seconds.
  4. Hold your breath for a count of 7.
  5. Exhale again for a full 8 seconds, making a whooshing sound throughout.
  6. Repeat 4 times when you first start. Eventually work up to 8 repetitions.

a woman trying abdominal breathing, a stress management technique

Buteyko Breathing

Great for sleeping and relieving anxiety, this exercise helps you to reset to a normal breathing rhythm.

When practicing this breathing pattern, you should always inhale through your nose. You should stop practicing if you feel anxious, shortness of breath or extreme discomfort. You may find that you can hold your breath for longer periods of time as you improve.

How To Do Buteyko Breathing

  1. Sit in bed with your mouth gently closed (not pursed) and breathe through your nose at a natural pace for about 30 seconds.
  2. Breathe a bit more intentionally in and out through your nose once.
  3. Gently pinch your nose closed with your thumb and forefinger, keeping your mouth closed as well, until you feel that you need to take a breath again.
  4. With your mouth still closed, take a deep breath in and out through your nose again.

a man practicing relaxation exercises he read about in peer reviewed studies

The Papworth Breathing Technique

This technique is great for reducing yawning and breathing deeply.

The Papworth breathing technique historically has been used for correct and controlled breathing. This technique encourages a more relaxed, gentler breathing by using the abdomen and not the chest. This method teaches you which muscles to use to breathe and how to breathe slowly or deeply. It also emphasizes the importance of nose breathing.

How To Do The Papworth Breathing Technique

  1. Sit up straight, perhaps in bed if using this to fall asleep.
  2. Take deep, methodical breaths in and out, counting to 4 with each inhale — through your mouth or nose. Each exhale should be through your nose.
  3. Focus on your abdomen rising and falling and listen for the sounds of your breath to come from your stomach.

a woman rememberting that even a single meditative breath can be helpful

Box Breathing

Popular in meditation, this breathing technique will help you calm the mind and relax the body.

Box breathing is also known as square breathing. It involves taking slow deep breaths. It is a great way to increase performance and concentration, as well as a powerful stress reliever. This is also known as four-square breathing.

Used Daily By Real-Life Professionals

This technique is beneficial for anyone, but especially for those who want to meditate or to reduce stress. This technique is used by athletes, U.S. Navy SEALs and police officers as well as nurses.

It may be especially helpful for those suffering from a lung condition, such as chronic obstruction pulmonary disease (COPD).

How To Do Box Breathing

  1. Sit with your back straight, breathe in, and then try to push all of the air out of your lungs as you exhale.
  2. Inhale slowly through your nose and count to 4 in your head, filling your lungs with more air with each number.
  3. Hold your breath and count to 4 in your head.
  4. Slowly exhale through your mouth, focusing on getting all the oxygen out of your lungs.
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