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It is safe to say that enjoying a good night’s sleep is a luxury in today’s fast-paced lifestyle.
With so much to do and so little time, we can hardly ever relax for a minute, let alone get eight hours of sound sleep. And nothing is more frustrating than not being able to fall asleep when you’ve worked all day and must wake up early the next morning.
Well, fret not because this is just the guide for you. We have listed some of the most effective breathing exercises to help you fall asleep and wake up refreshed. Some of these exercises may even help improve blood pressure, reduce anxiety, and promote better health in general.
So, without wasting any more time, let’s get straight to the exercises…
If you can add only one breathing exercise to your routine, this should be it. This breathing exercise is also known as the “relaxing breath” technique, widely inspired by pranayama practices. To perform this relaxation exercise, you must know the basics of breath control. As a result, you will be able to reduce stress and anxiety and fall asleep fast.
Here’s how to perform this unique breathing technique:
According to a 2018 study, slow breathing exercises can improve cognitive and emotional functioning as well. Participants reported improved relaxation, focus, comfort, and energy, as well as decreased depression and anxiety symptoms.
This method is a type of slow breathing exercise promoting stress relief. Most people are used to shallow breathing through the neck and chest, especially when stressed. As such, belly breathing uses your diaphragm, which plays a vital role in your overall breathing.
You can perform this diaphragmatic breathing exercise by following the steps below:
This breathing technique involves deep breathing while visualizing a box. Basically, you need to visualize a 4-sided box and stay mindful of the length and pattern of each breath.
Let’s take a look at the steps to perform box breathing effectively:
Also known as nadi shodhana pranayama, the alternate nostril breathing pattern grounds your body and mind, allowing you to relax and enjoy deep sleep. If you want to incorporate yoga into your routine, this is one of the best breathing techniques to try with most yoga poses.
Here are some easy steps to perform this breathing method:
This breath control method is also based on a yoga technique called pranayama. The word “bhramari” means “bee” in Sanskrit, so this breathing exercise requires you to make a buzzing sound while taking slow breaths.
The breathing technique involves the following steps:
In times of stress, you tend to take fast, shallow breaths to inhale more air. So, to counter that, you can trick your brain by practicing relaxation techniques, such as this exercise.
Taking slow, deep breaths (or pranayamic breathing) helps reset your autonomic nervous system, and here’s how you can do that:
If you have trouble sleeping due to anxiety, stress, etc., certain breathing techniques can help activate your parasympathetic nervous system. As a result, you will be able to calm and relax your mind and heart rate.
Here are the steps you must follow to visually focus on your breath:
This is a deep breathing technique you can try to calm your thoughts before going to bed. Here’s what you need to do:
The basic idea is to shift your focus to the breaths so that you do not feel anxious anymore.
Buteyko breathing, named after the creator of this breathing technique, can help reduce hyperventilation, anxiety, symptoms of asthma, and more. The method focuses on slow, deep breaths, and with adequate practice, this exercise can be incorporated into your daily routine easily.
To prepare for this exercise, we recommend sitting comfortably on the floor or on a chair in an upright position. Relax your muscles and breathe normally for a few minutes before proceeding to the following steps:
Note that you must not try holding your breath for too long. In case you feel any discomfort or shortness of breath while doing any of the aforementioned breathing exercises, do not continue. Visit a suitable healthcare provider instead.
Similar to other visual breathing exercises discussed above, this technique involves choosing an image that calms you down or makes you happy. It could be a past memory of a vacation or playtime with your dog. Alternatively, you could pick something imaginary, too, like sliding down a rainbow! And if you’re not able to pick an image, you can check out guided imagery for sleep on the internet.
Now follow the steps of diaphragmatic breathing or any other exercise while visualizing the selected image. We further recommend focusing on your five senses to increase the likelihood of falling asleep and waking up well-rested.
Like any other form of exercise, these breathing techniques will become easier to perform and show better results with practice. So, make sure you stay consistent with your exercise routine.
Besides, here are some points to keep in mind while practicing these breathing exercises:
When developing a new habit, don’t expect to excel at it from the get-go. Some days, you may not feel like trying these exercises, and that’s okay. Do not beat yourself over it. After all, these exercises are meant to help you fall asleep faster and improve your health in the long run. They’re supposed to make you feel good, not guilty!
That said, make some time for these breathing exercises whenever you can. Even five minutes of these breathing techniques can work wonders on your physical and mental health.
If you fail to do so for a day or two, don’t stress over it and get back to the routine the next day.
Yes, these breathing techniques help in calming your nerves and alleviating symptoms of stress and anxiety. However, they are in no way a substitute for professional medical help. So, if you still face trouble sleeping, it’s best to contact a doctor or a sleep specialist.
Besides these breathing exercises, we recommend incorporating other healthy habits into your bedtime routine for the best results. Try reading a book, taking a warm bath, journaling, doing your skincare, etc., and follow them up with these exercises. However, keep in mind that the activities you indulge in before bed should be calming, so stay away from any gadgets.
Moreover, avoid having a large meal or coffee at night, as it can spike your blood sugar levels or elongate the digestion process. Instead, you can have milk, oatmeal, honey, non-caffeinated herbal teas, etc.
Sleeping in a cool and dark room can help induce sleep and stay asleep longer. In fact, “light” pollution while sleeping can cause a host of health issues, like increased heart rate, erratic blood sugar levels, etc.
As such, we suggest dimming the lights, drawing the curtains, and even using an eye mask (if required) to encourage your body’s circadian level to function optimally. It is also recommended to keep the room temperature between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit to enjoy a comfortably cool sleeping environment.
“White noise” or any ambient sound can relax the body and mind and help you fall asleep. However, ensure that your room can block noises so that you don’t wake up in the middle of the night due to some drunkards honking outside!
According to a study conducted in 2015, a comfy bed cannot beat a cluttered room and thus may not help you fall asleep. In fact, sleeping in a messy room can make you more prone to developing a sleep disorder. So, clean your room and keep distractions at bay.
Make sure you choose the right type of mattress (firm or soft), bed linens (silk, cotton, etc.), and enough pillows to keep yourself cozy and comfortable. Besides being plush, ensure that the bedding offers sufficient support to your head and pressure points, especially if you suffer from chronic pain and other health issues.
Adding to the previous point, your sleeping position determines the type of mattress and pillow you require. For instance, if you sleep on your back or stomach, you’ll require a medium-firm to firm mattress for optimal spinal alignment. However, side sleepers may seek something softer to adapt to their body contours.
So, analyze the most comfortable sleep position for you and buy your bedding accordingly.
We hope the breathing exercises and tips shared above will help you enjoy a deep slumber and wake up fully recharged! As you can see, the exercises are not difficult to perform but require consistent effort. So, try to take out some time every day, and eventually, it will become a habit, further helping you maintain a healthy sleep routine.
Here’s to sleeping well and feeling your best every morning!