Top 6 best breathing exercises for sleep
Breathing is something we do all day, every day, to stay alive, but few of us utilise the power of breathing exercises for sleep.
Having to do breathing exercises might seem like a strange idea. You’re already breathing. If you weren’t, you wouldn’t be here reading this article.
While your breathing might be sufficient to keep you alive, you might not be breathing correctly and deeply enough for optimal sleep. You might not be using the power of your breath to help your body relax and unwind before bed.
That’s where breathing exercises come in.
Do breathing exercises help you sleep?
Breathing exercises can be very effective when you struggle to fall asleep. If your sleep problems are caused by stress, anxiety and even overexcitement before bed, breathing exercises can help your mind and body relax and calm down enough for you to drift off into sleep.
Breathing exercises can reduce cortisol levels, which, when elevated, can keep you up and make you feel jittery.
6 Breathing exercises for sleep
From abdominal breathing and box breathing to the 4-7-8 method, you can experiment and play with quite a few different techniques to see what works for you.
Do 5 to 10 minutes of breathing exercises before bed and start with these 6 breathing techniques:
1. 4-7-8 method
The 4-7-8 method is a breathing exercise that can help relieve anxiety and promote sleep.
To do the 4-7-8 breathing method, breathe in deeply for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 7, and then breathe out for 8 seconds. The 4-7-8 method can be challenging at first, especially the breath-hold, and you may need to build up to the longer time periods of the 4-7-8 method.
2. Abdominal Breathing
Abdominal breathing is something you should try to do whenever you do breathing exercises. Belly breathing helps ensure that you breathe deeply enough and take in enough oxygen to supply your cells.
To do this type of breathing, you want to breathe in deeply and let your ribcage and stomach fill up and expand.
To make it easier, place your hand on your belly. You should feel your belly expand and push your hand out. When you exhale, try to push all the air out of your abdomen and then repeat the process.
3. Body Scan
Breathing exercises that encourage mindfulness can help you relax and get into the present moment. If you struggle to fall asleep because you are stressing about things in the future or thinking of something that happened in the past, try breathing exercises that incorporate a body scan and help you get into the present moment.
To do this type of breathing exercise, focus on your breath. Feel the air enter and exit your nose and mouth. Feel it go through your airways and fill up your lungs and belly. Focus on the way the air flows in and out of your body.
Bring your awareness to the crown of your head and pause and breathe for a few seconds. Then shift your attention down to your forehead, nose, lips, chin, throat, chest, arms, belly, hips, and legs, pausing and breathing with each body part scanned.
4. Breathing imagery
Breathing exercises paired with imagery visualisation allow you to get your deep breaths and meditation for the day done in one go. Pairing breathing exercises with imagery can help you relax even more and help you focus on something other than work, your to-do list, family problems, etc.
To do this type of breathing exercise, breathe in slowly and deeply through your nose and out again. Repeat the process. You can choose how long you want to inhale and exhale. You want to breathe comfortably for you and remain focused on your breath.
Once you have found your breathing rhythm, you can start the visualisation process. You can visualise a place or environment that makes you feel happy and relaxed. You can take the time to visualise your goals for the future.
You can also find guided visualisation meditations online for some assistance.
5. Buteyko breathing
Buteyko breathing is a type of breathing exercise that can help return your breathing to an average volume. It is beneficial for those who are prone to hyperventilating.
To do Buteyko breathing, sit upright, elongating your spine nice and long. Breathe in normally through your nose, but do not make it a deep breath. Allow your stomach to expand and focus on your diaphragm while breathing.
Exhale normally through your nose, pushing all the air out of your lungs. Next, take a short and shallow breath in for 1 to 2 seconds. Stop and then slowly exhale for 5 seconds or longer. Hold your breath after exhaling completely.
Now, breathe, and repeat the entire process.
6. Box breathing
Box breathing is simple to do, and the steps are easy to remember. All you have to do is:
- Inhale for 4 seconds or longer
- Hold your breath for 4 seconds or longer
- Exhale for 4 seconds or longer
- Hold your breath for 4 seconds or longer
The goal is to make your inhales, exhales, and breath holds all the same duration of time.
Box breathing is a very effective technique for helping you relax and unwind, relieve anxiety and cope with stress.
Other ways to sleep better
There are some other natural remedies for insomnia you can try. They include:
- Light therapy
- Valerian root
- Sleep teas
Make breathing exercises like box breathing and the 4-7-8 method part of your nightly routine, and you will not only reduce stress, but you will also fall asleep easier and improve the quality of your sleep.
Breathe your way to sleep success tonight.