If you find it difficult to fall asleep you are not alone.
According to the American Sleep Association (ASA) insomnia is the most common sleep disorder. About 30 percent of U.S adults report short-term problems and 10 percent experience long-term trouble falling or staying asleep.
Our busy and fast-paced society is full of homework long workdays financial stress parenting burnout or other emotionally exhausting situations that can make it difficult to unwind calm down and get a restful sleep.
When it’s hard to fall asleep focusing on your breathing may help.
Let’s take a look at some breathing exercises to calm your mind and body and help you fall asleep.
While there are many breathing exercises you can try to relax and fall asleep some basic principles apply to all of them.
It’s always a good idea to close your eyes to help you keep out distractions. Focus on your breath and think about the healing power of your breath.
Each of these nine different exercises has slightly different benefits. Give it a try and see which one suits you best.
Soon you will fall asleep like a baby.
Here’s how to practice the 4-7-8 breathing technique:
- Allow your lips to gently part.
- Exhale completely making a whirring whirring sound.
- Press your lips together as you inhale silently through your nose for a count of 4 seconds.
- Hold your breath for a count of 7.
- Exhale again for a full 8 seconds swooping the entire time.
- Repeat 4 times at the first start. Eventually repeat up to 8 times.
Dr. Andrew Weil developed this technique as a variation of pranayama an ancient yoga technique that helps people relax while oxygenating their bodies.
These steps will help you with the original Bhramari pranayama breathing exercise:
- Close your eyes and take a deep breath.
- Cover your ears with your hands.
- Place your index fingers above your eyebrows and the rest of your fingers above your eyes.
- Next press lightly on the sides of the nose and focus on the brow area.
- Close your mouth and exhale slowly through your nose making a humming “Om” sound.
- Repeat the process 5 times.
In clinical studies Bhramari pranayama has been shown to rapidly reduce breathing and heart rate. This tends to be very calming and prepares your body for sleep.
To practice the three-part breathing exercise follow these three steps:
- Take a long, deep inhale.
- Exhale fully while focusing on your body and how it feels.
- After doing this a few times slow your exhale so that it takes twice as long as you inhale.
Some people prefer this technique over others because it is so simple.
To do diaphragmatic breathing exercises:
- Lie on your back and bend your knees onto a pillow or sit on a chair.
- Place one hand flat on your chest and the other on your stomach.
- Breathe slowly and deeply through your nose keeping your hands still in front of your chest as your hands on your stomach rise and fall with your breath.
- Next, breath slowly through pursed lips.
- Ultimately you want to be able to inhale and exhale without moving your chest.
This technique slows your breathing and reduces your oxygen needs because it strengthens your diaphragm.
Following are the steps in the Alternating Nose or Alternating Nostril breathing practice also known as nadi shodhana pranayama:
- Sit with your legs crossed.
- Put your left hand on your knee and your right thumb on your nose.
- Exhale fully then close your right nostril.
- Inhale through your left nostril.
- Open the right nostril and exhale through it while closing the left nostril.
- Exhale through the left nostril and continue this rotation for 5 minutes.
A 2013 study reported that people who tried nasal breathing exercises experienced less stress.
To practice buteyko breathing for sleep:
- Sit on the bed with your mouth gently closed (without pouting) and breathe through your nose at a natural rate for about 30 seconds.
- Consciously inhale and exhale once through your nose.
- Gently pinch your nose with your thumb and forefinger while keeping your mouth closed until you feel the need to breathe again.
- With your mouth still closed take another deep breath through your nose.
Many people don’t realize they are hyperventilating. This exercise helps you get back to a normal breathing rhythm.
In the Papworth method you focus on the diaphragm to breathe more naturally:
- If you use it to fall asleep you may be able to sit upright in bed.
- Take deep methodical breaths counting to 4 with each inhale (through your mouth or nose) and every exhale should be through your nose.
- Focus on the rising and falling of your belly and listen to the breath sounds coming from your stomach.
This relaxing method helps reduce yawning and sighing habits.
Kapalbhati breathing involves a series of inhalation and exhalation exercises involving these steps outlined in the Art of Living:
- Sit in a comfortable position with your spine straight. Put your hands on your knees palms facing the sky. You can choose to sit cross-legged in a chair with your feet flat on the floor or Virasana Pose (knees bent calves tucked under your thighs).
- Take a deep breath in.
- As you exhale contract your abdomen forcing you to exhale for a short period of time. You can place your hands on your stomach and feel the contractions of your abdominal muscles.
- Your breath should automatically flow into your lungs as you quickly release your belly.
- Do 20 of these breaths to complete a round of Kapalbhati pranayama.
- After completing a round close your eyes to relax and observe how your body feels.
- Do two more rounds to complete your exercise.
Kapalbhati breathing has been reported to help open the sinuses and improve concentration. It is considered an advanced breathing technique. It is recommended to master other techniques such as Bhramari pranayama before trying this method.
During box breathing you need to focus on the oxygen you inhale and expel:
- Sit with your back straight inhale and try to push all the air out of your lungs as you exhale.
- Inhale slowly through your nose and count to 4 on your head each number filling your lungs with more air.
- Hold your breath and count to 4 in your head.
- Exhale slowly through your mouth focusing on getting all the oxygen out of your lungs.
Box breathing is a common technique during meditation and a very popular way to find mental focus and relaxation. Meditation has several known benefits for your overall health.
No matter what type of breathing exercise you prefer there is evidence that breathing exercise can help you:
- breathe more naturally and effectively
With so many varieties to choose from you might find yourself falling asleep before you know it.