6 Breathing Techniques To Help You Get To Sleep
According to the American Sleep Association, close to 40% of people experience difficulties falling asleep or staying asleep. This could be due to many reasons such as sleep disorders, difficulty turning off their mind at bedtime, and other health-related issues. The societal expectations that many Americans face today cause many people to live fast-paced lives filled with various obligations – whether it be long work hours or an overabundance of schoolwork, raising a family, or dealing with the stress of life, all of which can be emotionally exhausting.
Whatever your personal situation, if you have trouble falling asleep, it can be difficult to reset your cycle of quality sleep and wakefulness. Since getting proper shut-eye is vital to various components of health, not getting enough quality sleep can lead to the worsening or the onset of chronic health conditions. The good news is that there are simple things that you can do help you fall asleep, such as deep breathing techniques. Read on to learn some easy breathing techniques to help you get to sleep.
Does deep breathing help you fall asleep?
Research has shown that deep breathing exercises can help to calm the mind, release tension and anxiety, and help people get to sleep faster. Breathing as a stress-reducing exercise helps with sleep because of the way it targets the brain and the body. Deep breathing has an effect on autonomic hyper-arousal state, which is a state in which the body is on high alert. When a person suffers from anxiety or another condition that causes them to feel hyper-arousal prior to bed, this can severely hinder their ability to fall or stay asleep. Deep breathing techniques have shown to slow the action of that state, and thus help lull you off to sleep.
What exercises can I do to fall asleep faster?
There are plenty of breathing exercises for sleep, and many different variations to choose from. Why not try some or all of the below to see what works best for you?
1. 4-7-8 breathing
The 4-7-8 breathing exercise was developed by Dr. Andrew Weil and is a variation on an ancient yogic technique known as pranayama. It has been shown to help promote relaxation while helping the body replenish oxygen stores.
To perform this breathing technique, you will begin by parting your lips gently. When you’re ready, exhale completely, making a whoosh sound as you let the air out. With your lips pressed together, inhale for a count of four seconds, hold your breath for seven seconds, and exhale completely for eight seconds, making the same whooshing sound as you do. You can repeat this exercise four times if you’re a beginner, working up to repeating it eight times.
2. Bhramari pranayama breathing
Studies have shown that Bhramari breathing can reduce heart rate and breath rate, which helps to calm the body and mind while it prepares to go to sleep. To perform this technique:
- Close your eyes while breathing deeply both in and out.
- Using your index fingers, place one above each of your eyebrows with the rest of your fingers on each hand over your eyes. Cover your ears with your palms as you do this.
- Put a gentle level of pressure on the sides of your nose, focusing on the brow area.
- With your mouth closed, breathe slowly out of your nose while making a humming Om
Try repeating this process five times.
3. Three-part breathing
This technique is one of the simpler ones and is often preferred because of how easy it is to do. Three-part breathing starts by taking a long, deep inhale, then exhaling fully. During the exhale, focus on how your body feels. Once you’ve done this a handful of times, you can slow your exhale down so it doubles the counts of your inhale. For example, if you breathe in for a count of four, you will extend your exhale for a count of eight.
4. Diaphragmatic breathing
This breathing technique helps to decrease your overall oxygen needs as well as strengthen your diaphragm. Start by lying on your back with your knees bent up over a pillow. With one hand flat on your chest and the other flat on your stomach, begin to take slow, deep breaths through your nose while keeping both hands still so you can feel the rise and fall of your breath. Then, purse your lips and breathe slowly. The main goal of this exercise is to get to a point where you can breathe both in and out without moving your chest.
5. Alternate nasal breathing
Studies have shown that nasal breathing can help to reduce overall feelings of stress, which can then lead to falling asleep easier. To perform this technique, sit cross-legged and close your left nostril with one hand, breathing in through your right nostril. Then, exhale fully and close the right nostril so that your next inhale goes in through your left nostril. Continue alternating between breathing in the left or right nostril for five minutes.
6. Buteyko breathing
This type of exercise is helpful for those who hyperventilate or have an abnormal breathing rhythm. It works by resetting the breath rate. To perform this technique you will:
- Sit in bed with a gently closed mouth and breath through you nose naturally for 30 seconds.
- After 30 seconds, make breaths deeper and more intentional, in and out through your nose.
- Hold your breath by pinching your nose closed and keeping your mouth closed until you feel you need to breathe again.
- Keeping your mouth closed, take a deep breath through your nose once again.
Not being able to get to sleep can be frustrating, but these breathing techniques can help you fall asleep faster, and reduce the stress and anxiety that may make it difficult to get a quality amount of shut-eye.