5 Breathing Exercises for Sleep
Getting a good night’s sleep can be a tough task. In fact, a Gallup study found that 40% of Americans get fewer than the recommended 7 hours of sleep.
Sleep deprivation can lead to numerous physical health problems like heart disease, high blood pressure, and more. Additionally, a lack of sleep has detrimental effects on mood, leading you to be more irritable, less productive, and unfocused.
It’s hard for some of us to shed the worries of the day or stop thinking about the future, so how can we get more sleep when there’s so much going on?
The answer lies in your breathing.
When you’re calm, your breath slows down. Fortunately, while stress may make your breathing uneven, the relationship between your breath and state of relaxation is a two-way street. If you can slow down your breathing, then your body will know it’s ok to relax. Focusing on your breath can also declutter your thoughts by getting you to focus on the present moment.
Start regulating your breath before bed with these five breathing exercises that will help you get more sleep.
1. The 4-7-8 (or Relaxing Breath) Exercise
Th 4-7-8 breathing exercise is a popular technique that has been making its rounds on the internet. Practitioners of this exercise claim to fall asleep in less than a minute after doing it.
Start by comfortably sitting up in bed with your back straight. Then, press your tongue to the roof of your mouth. Close your mouth and inhale through your nose while counting to 4. Hold that breath for 7 counts before releasing. Then, exhale through your mouth (with your tongue in the same position) while counting to 8.
Repeat this process 4 times and settle into dreamland.
2. Alternate Nostril Breathing
The alternate nostril breathing exercise has a long history in yoga as a way to restore energetic balance between the two hemispheres of the brain. Science has yet to fully research what might be going on in hemispheric functioning during the exercise but it is still a powerful way to focus on your breath.
Start by getting into a comfortable, seated position. Let your left hand relax in your lap. Put your right ring finger over your left nostril and take a deep breath from the right nostril. Then place your right thumb over your right nostril. Release your left nostril and exhale that breath.
Now that your left nostril is free, inhale deeply through that side. Then close your left nostril with your ring finger. Release your right nostril and exhale.
Repeat this pattern until you feel your breath is in a calm state.
3. Breath Counting
Sometimes the simplest methods are the most effective. Breath counting is exactly just as it sounds – counting your breaths. It is an easy way to get a feel for breathing exercises.
Sit in a comfortable position with a straight spine, relaxed limbs, and lean your head slightly forward. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. When you feel your breath is coming to you naturally, being counting.
Count 1 on your next exhale. Then inhale. Count your next exhale as 2. Keep doing this until you reach 5.
Once you reach 5, you can begin a new cycle. Don’t go higher than 5, and count only on the exhale. This will help prevent your attention from wandering.
Try 10 minutes of this breathing exercise before heading into peaceful sleep.
4. Diaphragmatic Breathing
This breathing exercise focuses on breathing with your abdomen rather than your chest.
You can do this exercise sitting or lying down. If sitting, make sure your shoulders are back and your spine is straight.
Place one hand on your chest and the other on your belly. Breathe in deep for two seconds, making sure to push your belly out. Breathe out slowly through your lips and feel your stomach decrease.
Repeat as long as you like.
5. Mindful Breathing Exercises
A common thread between all these breathing exercises is mindfulness. Mindfulness is an effective technique for reducing stress and anxiety – it means making a conscious effort to bring your thoughts to present instead of letting your mind wander.
To strengthen your mindfulness practice and discover the calm you need before sleep, try guided these meditations for breathing.
Sleep deeper with the gentle guidance of meditation guru Dr. Deepak Chopra.
If you’re still having trouble with anxious thoughts, follow this meditation to take a break from thinking.
Guided meditations often start by slowing the breath and move to calming your thoughts. The added benefit is that there is someone coaching you on the journey.
Discover more guided restful meditation tracks on Spire’s Soundcloud.
Stop tossing and turning. Incorporate these breathing exercises into your nightly routine to get the sleep you deserve. With a full night of rest, you’ll be ready to conquer your day.