Best Breathing Exercises Sleep

Deep breaths, better sleep.
Best Breathing Exercises Sleep
Tom Greenspan
December 21, 2022

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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… 

Best Breathing Exercise You Must Try To Fall Asleep Faster

1. 4-7-8 Breathing

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:

  • Exhale through your mouth, making sure you breathe out all the air from your lungs 
  • Close your mouth, inhale through your nose, and count till 4
  • Now hold your breath while counting till 7
  • Exhale slowly and steadily and count till 8
  • Repeat this exercise six times before getting back to normal breathing 
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.

2. Diaphragmatic Breathing/ Belly Breathing/ Abdominal Breathing

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:

  • Lie down or sit comfortably with one hand on the chest and the other placed above your belly button
  • Now take a deep breath, ensuring that your hand on the chest remains still and the one on your stomach rises as you inhale 
  • Slowly exhale through pursed lips, and let the same hand move down with your stomach
  • Perform this exercise 20 times and feel your hand move while breathing with your diaphragm

3. Box Breathing

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:

  • Start by breathing out
  • Then inhale through your nose as you count till 4
  • Hold your breath for another 4 counts
  • Again, count to 4 as you exhale slowly 
  • Hold your breath for a count of 4
  • Repeat this breathing method for as long as you’d like 

4. Alternate Nostril Breathing

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:

  • Close your right nostril with your right thumb and breathe deeply through your left nostril for 6 seconds
  • Now shut your left nostril with your index finger and hold your breath for another 6 seconds
  • Next, remove your thumb from your right nostril and slowly exhale for the next 6 seconds
  • This time, breath in from your right nostril just like you did with your left nostril in the first step
  • Block both nostrils and hold your breath for 6 seconds
  • Breathe out deeply from your left nostril as done earlier
  • Just like the aforementioned breathing exercises, repeat for as long as you’d like  

5. Bhramari Pranayama Breathing Exercise (Humming Bee Breath)

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:

  • Sit in a comfortable position and block your ears with your thumb
  • Place your index fingers above your eyebrows and let the rest of the fingers cover your eyes
  • Take a deep breath in and exhale slowly through your nose 
  • While performing the aforementioned step, produce a humming/buzzing sound and focus between your eyebrows
  • Repeat as required 

6. Lengthened Breathing 

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: 

  • Breathe in for a count of 3
  • Exhale and count till 6
  • You can change the counts but ensure that you take longer to exhale than you do to inhale

7. Visualizing Your Breath

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:

  • As you inhale deeply, try to visualize the air going inside your body through your nose and back out again
  • Imagine the air reaching all of your muscles - right from your head to your toes
  • Ensure you focus on the breath exiting your system too

8. Meditative Breathing 

This is a deep breathing technique you can try to calm your thoughts before going to bed. Here’s what you need to do:

  • Sit in a comfortable position with your back straight and your head leaning a bit toward the front 
  • Take a deep inhale quietly and exhale on one count
  • Repeat the process, but this time, count to 2 while exhaling
  • Keep lengthening your breaths each time up to 5
  • Start over and continue till you feel comfortable 

The basic idea is to shift your focus to the breaths so that you do not feel anxious anymore.

9. Buteyko Breathing 

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:

  • Keep your mouth closed (not pressed) and breathe naturally through your nostrils for 30 seconds
  • Now breathe in and breathe out more mindfully through your nose
  • Use your thumb and index finger to pinch your nose and block the nostrils
  • Keep your mouth closed and hold your breath until you feel the need to take a breath
  • Continue to take deep breaths through your nose while keeping your mouth closed

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.

10. Guided Imagery

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.

Adding Breathing Exercises To Your Bedtime Routine

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:

1. Setbacks Are Normal 

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. 

2. Contact A Healthcare Professional

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. 

3. Try Other Sleep Techniques

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. 

Creating The Best Environment For A Restful Sleep

1. Keep Your Bedroom Cool And Dark

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. 

2. Maintain A Peaceful 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!

3. Declutter Your Bedroom

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.

4. Choose The Right Bedding 

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.

5. Sleep In A Comfortable Position

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.

Final Words

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!