9 Breathing Techniques for Sleep

9 Breathing Techniques for Sleep

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Last Updated on Aug 22, 2022

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    Sleep disorders have become one of the most common health issues globally. According to ASA or American Sleep Association, 30% of Americans suffer from short-term sleep issues, and 10% undergo chronic trouble falling asleep or remaining asleep. This results from the ongoing stress, household chores, work pressure, prolonged working hours, financial strains, emotional strains, and additional elements present in our regular lives. All these make it quite hard to unwind and experience a solid sleep. This is where breathing exercises for sleep appear as a helper. There are exercises to fall asleep like the 4-7-8 breathing technique, Bhramari Pranayama, three-part, and more. Let us throw light on some breathing exercises before bed.

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    4-7-8 Breathing Technique

    The 4-7-8 is one of the breathing exercises for sleep that was first introduced by MD Andrew Weil. This is a mindful breathing technique that alleviates stress and promotes relaxation. The following steps will show how to conduct this yoga breathing for sleep:

    1. Start by permitting your lips to gently part

    2. Thoroughly exhale everything you have by building a ‘Whoosh’ sound from your mouth

    3. Then press your lips together as you silently inhale through the nose on a count of 4

    4. Now, hold your breath for 7 seconds

    5. Start exhaling for 8 seconds by constantly making a ‘Whoosh’ sound from the mouth

    6. Keep repeating up to 4 times in the initial stages. Then proceed 8 times. 

    The main motive behind this technique of breathing to fall asleep was to create a variation of pranayama. This is one of the breathing exercises for sleep that reloads oxygen in the body.

    Bhramari Pranayama Breathing Exercise

    One of the best breathing exercises for sleep, the Bhramari Pranayama is quite popular for its ability to lower heart rate and blood pressure, eventually pushing your body to deep sleep. Let us check how it is to be done:

    1. Start by closing your eyes and deeply breathing in and out

    2. Guard your ears with your hands

    3. Fix each of your index fingers over your eyebrows and the remaining fingers over your eyes 

    4. Then, put mild pressure on the sides of your nose, and concentrate on your brow area

    5. Let your mouth stay closed and slowly breathe out through your nose

    6. As you breathe out, hum the ‘Om’ sound

    7. Repeat this breathing process 5 times 

    Three-Part Breathing Exercise

    The three-part breathing exercises are one of the simplest breathing exercises for sleep. It is often the perfect start for beginners. It is also known as Dirga Pranayama and is a relaxing and grounding technique. Let us check it out: 

    1. Start with a long, and deep inhale 

    2. Exhale thoroughly while examining how your body feels 

    3. Continue this for quite some time

    4. Then, pace down your exhaling duration so that it is twice as long as the inhaling time

    Diaphragmatic Breathing Exercise

    One helpful way of breathing to fall asleep is the diaphragmatic breathing technique. This type of yoga breathing for sleep is also known as belly breathing and is quite assisting in relaxing and easing stress. How to perform this breathwork for sleep?

    1. Find yourself a comfortable position - either lying down or sitting

    2. Put one hand on your belly another one on the chest

    3. Start breathing deeply through your nose pushing into your belly, let your belly push your hand out while your chest is unmoved

    4. Pucker your lips and exhale as if you are whistling. While exhaling, ensure that your hand slides back as your belly squeezes in. Utilize your hand to pump out the remaining air in your belly - in a gentle manner.

    5. Practice this breathing exercise for sleep around 3 to 10 times, at your own pace

    6. Also, ensure that you analyze how this breathwork for sleep is making you feel

    Alternate Nasal Breathing Exercise

    Also known as Nadi Shodhana Pranayama, this is one of the popular breathing exercises for sleep that promotes mindfulness, calmness, and aids in deep sleep. Let us learn a bit more about this pranayama for sleep:

    1. Start by sitting with your legs crossed

    2. Put your left hand on your knee and the right thumb on your nose 

    3. Exhale out completely and close the right nostril

    4. Then inhale through your left nostril

    5. Uncover your right nostril and exhale from it, while covering the left

    6. Continue this process for 5 minutes, and end it by exhaling it from your left nostril

    A 2013 study stated that people who practiced yoga breathing for sleep experienced less stress.

    Buteyko Breathing

    Buteyko breathing is one of the breathing exercises for sleep that inculcates breath-control and breath-holding techniques. This breathing technique might require you to undergo training to excel in the same. 

    1. Sit on your bed, and gently close your lips, not purse
    2. Breathe through your nose in a relaxed manner for 30 seconds 

    3. Breathe slightly more intentionally in and out through your nose 

    4. Follow it up by pinching your nose shut with your thumb and forefinger. All this while keeping your mouth locked until you feel like retaking a breath. 

    5. When your mouth is still covered, inhale and exhale deeply through your nose again. 

    Some people don’t realize that they are hyperventilating. For them, the Buteyko breathwork for sleep is helpful.

    The Papworth Method

    The Papworth method is a way of breathing to help sleep. It mainly focuses on the diaphragm for breathing more naturally. How do you practice this deep breathing for sleep?

    1. Sit straight on your bed, especially if following it, to get good sleep

    2. Start by breathing thoroughly in and out

    3. Count of 4 whenever you are inhaling through your nose or mouth

    4. Exhale through your nose when following this breathing technique

    5. Notice how your abdomen rises and falls

    6. Pay heed to how your breathing sounds appear from your stomach

    Kapalbhati Breathing Exercise

    Kapalbhati breathing exercises for sleep involve a string of inhaling and exhaling. To perform these breathing exercises before bed, follow the below steps:

    1. Sit in a comfortable position with your spine straight. Place your hands on your knees and palms skywards.

    2. You might sit cross-legged on the floor, on the chair with feet flat on the floor, or in the Virasana pose where your knees will be bent and shins tucked under the thighs.

    3. Breath in deeply

    4. While exhaling, squeeze your tummy, and force the breath out in a flow

    5. You might keep your hand on your stomach to feel the abdominal muscles contract

    6. When you swiftly release your abdomen, your breath needs to flow into your lungs automatically

    7. Engage in 20 such breathings for the completion of one Kapalbhati round

    8. Once you are done with one of the rounds, close your eyes, and feel how your body is reacting to it

    9. Once you are affirming the sensations, continue with 2 more rounds

    Box Breathing

    Box breathing exercises for sleep are mostly about the oxygen count we are bringing in, and giving out. This exercise of deep breathing for sleep can be performed by:

    1. Sitting with your back straight

    2. Proceed by pushing all the air out of your lungs as you exhale

    3. Inhale slowly through your nose and count till 4 in your head. As you count, fill your lungs with more air.

    4. Pause your breath, and count to 4 in your mind

    5. Gradually exhale all the oxygen out of your lungs 

    Relaxation Exercises To Help Fall Asleep

    Everybody wants to experience lowered blood pressure, and heart rate, a deepened sleep, and develop an overall sense of well-being. All this goodness can be achieved from relaxation exercises to falling asleep. The following are some types of relaxation exercises for better sleep.

    1. Progressive Relaxation: This involves tensing diverse muscles in your body to release the tension.

    2. Autogenic Training: It involves auto-suggesting certain mental exercises involving relaxation, eventually your mind concentrating on your body’s experience of relaxation.

    3. Guided Imagery or Visualization: It involves envisioning calming and relaxing images or scenes in your head and relaxing your mind.

    4. Biofeedback-Assisted Relaxation: This involves an electronic device that states how the person’s heart rate, blood pressure, or muscle tension changes in response to stress or relaxation. You can manage your body responses accordingly.

    5. Self-Hypnosis: In this self-hypnosis technique, people pick the suggestion (a nonverbal cue or phrase) and produce the relaxation sensation on their own.

    6. Breathing Exercises: Diaphragmatic breathing exercises for sleep might alleviate deep sleep.  

    Visualization Exercises

    Apart from breathing exercises for sleep, visualization exercises to aid in peaceful sleep. This process involves the creation of relaxing mental images that helps in deep sleep. 

    • Body Scan

    Body scan is a type of meditation involving slowed and focused attention on diverse parts of the body. Once lying on the bed, try the following body scan exercises:

    1. Start by taking deep breaths by practicing 4-7-8 or diaphragmatic techniques
    2. Put all the focus on your toes, and notice if you're feeling any sensation on the toes by holding tension in that part of your body 
    3. If you feel any uneasiness due to some tension, release the thought and notice it releasing from the body through your breath 
    4. Methodically, move to another body part and release the tension in the same way 
    • Autogenic Training

    The autogenic training follows similar steps to the body scan with slight differences. This technique promotes self-statements about heaviness and warmth in every part of the body. Let us see how it goes:

    1. Begin by breathing exercises for sleep to put yourself into a calm state
    2. Then focus on your feet and gradually repeat to yourself six times, “my feet are very heavy, I am completely calm”
    3. Again focus on your feet and gradually repeat to yourself six times, “my feet are very warm, and I am completely calm”
    4. Go on repeating this process as you focus on each of your body parts

    Progressive Muscle Relaxation

    Progressive muscle relaxation states that a person can't be tensed if their muscles are relaxed. This is one of the breathing exercises for sleep that methodically tenses and relaxes 16 diverse groups of muscles, one by one. 

    How to do it?

    1. Inhale and tense the first lot of muscles for 5 to 10 seconds 

    2. Exhale while quickly relieving the muscles of that group

    3. Keep calm before moving to the other group 


    Self-hypnosis is a product of progressive muscle relaxation with slight twists. The hypnotic state promotes your body to indulge in a specific thought process once the body is completely relaxed. You need to fix which word or phrase you’re going to focus on before starting with these breathing exercises for sleep. While some use ‘relax’ others use ‘let go’. Either you can record yourself, or listen to tapes or videos online. 

    Let’s begin with this yoga breathing for sleep.

    1. Make yourself relaxed, and lie on the bed

    2. Indulge into a hypnotic state with the help of progressive muscle relaxation

    3. Once you’re completely relaxed, gradually repeat your preferred phase

    10 Tips to Get Better Sleep

    Breathing exercises for sleep are undoubtedly beneficial activities. But, there are certain factors that aid in peaceful sleep, let us check some of them out.

    1. Having a lowered temperature helps the body feel relaxed 

    2. Inculcate the 4-7-8 breathing to fall asleep

    3. Fix a sleeping schedule 

    4. Practice meditation, yoga, and mindfulness

    5. Don’t obsess about the fact that you cannot fall asleep after a disrupted sleep in the middle of the night

    6. Try and avert napping during the day

    7. Don’t overeat before bedtime

    8. Listen to some soothing music 

    9. Exercising is a need

    10. Get yourself a comfy mattress

    There are many ways how to breathe while sleeping, you can try the diaphragmatic breathing technique or Kapalbhati - depending on your needs. Breathing exercises for sleep have been valued in the past. Start practicing slowly, and gradually excel in all the breathing exercises for sleep.

    This article is for informational purposes and should not replace advice from your doctor or other medical professional.
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