Top Five Breathing Exercises For Sleep
Top Five Breathing Exercises For Sleep
If you find yourself in search of breathing exercises for sleep, then you’ve come to the right place. You’re also not alone. Looking for better ways to sleep is quite common. According to the American Sleep Association, 50-70 million adults in the United States suffer from some sort of sleeping disorder. Insomnia is the most common sleep disorder that affects 30% of adults in America.
There are many things you can do to get better sleep every night. Breathing exercises are just one example. Some breathing exercises aren’t for everyone, luckily, there are several different types of breathing exercises. This gives you the opportunity to experiment with different breathing techniques for sleep to find one that works best for you.
We’ve looked through the research to find you the top five breathing exercises for sleep that actually work. These breathing techniques for sleeping better are backed by science and clinical sleep professionals.
Top Five Breathing Exercises for Sleep
1. Bhramari Pranayama Breathing Exercise
Bhramari Pranayama is a breathing exercise that has traditionally been used as a natural calming practice. It helps ground you in the present moment, and because it can be soothing to the nervous system, it can be used to calm down before bedtime.
The Bhramari Pranayama is also called the Humming Bee Breath. Bhramari is a Sanskrit word that translates to bee. The hum you produce during the breathwork sounds somewhat like a bee humming, which is how the exercise earned its name.
Clinical research shows that Bhramari Pranayama breathing exercises have an immediate effect on the body by lowering blood pressure and heart rates. This is how it can help you get better sleep. It also makes it a great exercise for improving cardiovascular health.
Step 1 - With your eyes closed, breathe in and out deeply.
Step 2 - Use your hands to cover your ears.
Step 3 - Put your index fingers above each of your eyebrows, with your other fingers rested over your eyes.
Step 4 - Then apply pressure to the sides of your nose while focusing on your brow.
Step 5 - While keeping your mouth closed, breathe out through your nose slowly while humming the word “Ommmmmmm”.
Step 6 - Repeat this process with each breath for five minutes.
You can do this exercise at any time. The best time to do it for a restful sleep is about 15 to 20 minutes before you plan on lying down. This gives you time to complete the five-minute practice, and still have time to finish any other bedtime routines.
2. 4-7-8 Breathing Exercise
The 4-7-8 breathing exercise was developed by renowned physician and health guru, Dr. Andrew Weil. It’s a very simple breathing technique that doesn’t take much time and can be done anywhere. He recommends it for a wide range of health benefits, including getting better sleep at night. It’s also a good technique for reducing anxiety and frustration.
Step 1 - You’ll start by putting the tip of your tongue just behind your upper front teeth where you will keep it while breathing.
Step 2 - Breath in deeply, and then exhale through your mouth while making a whooshing sound.
Step 3 - Close your mouth and inhale gently through your nose while counting to four.
Step 4 - Now hold your breath and count to seven.
Step 5 - Exhale again through your mouth and around your tongue while making a whopping sound for a total count of eight.
Step 6 - That sequence counts as one breath. Now you will repeat the sequence three more times for a total of four breaths to complete the entire 4-7-8 breathing exercise.
This can be somewhat difficult to describe so Dr. Weil has an excellent demonstration video. You can see for yourself his exact technique and learn more about other health benefits besides better sleep that you can expect to see after a breath session.
3. The Papworth Method Breathing Exercise
The Papworth Method was introduced in the 1960s. It’s a sequence of breathing and relaxation techniques that work together to improve states of calmness and dysfunctional breathing patterns. Research studies show that the Papworth Method results in a relaxed breathing rate. It also helps reduce anxiety, which can be a common cause of not being able to fall asleep at night.
This is a breathing exercise for sleep you can do right when you get in bed. It makes a great end to a healthy bedtime routine. You can also perform the Papworth Method in any situation where you feel anxious or upset.
Step 1 - Get into bed and sit straight up.
Step 2 - Inhale deeply through your mouth or your nose while counting to four.
Step 3 - Exhale through your nose while counting to four.
Step 4 - Focus your thoughts on your breathing by paying attention to your diaphragm as it rises and falls. Listen to each breath as you exhale and inhale.
Step 5 - Repeat this process until you begin to feel calmer. Usually about five to ten minutes.
4. Diaphragmatic Breathing Exercise
Medical experts at the Mayo Clinic recommend using breathing techniques like diaphragmatic breathing to reduce stress, depression, and anxiety. By reducing your stress levels, you’re going to encourage calmer states of mind, which will, in turn, help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.
This is one of the easiest breathing exercises on the list. A systematic review of scientific research concluded that diaphragmatic breathing specifically is effective at reducing physiological and psychological stress. This makes it an easy and powerful breathing exercise that benefits more than just your sleep cycles. As with all of the other breathing exercises, diaphragmatic breathing can be done anywhere, anytime. For the best sleep results, try doing this when you’re ready to lie down.
Step 1 - Get into bed, close your eyes, and get comfortable.
Step 2 - Take a deep inhale through your nose and focus on activating your diaphragm by filling your abdomen with air.
Step 3 - Exhale by relaxing your diaphragm and releasing your breath through your nose.
Step 4 - Repeat this deep inhale, filling the diaphragm and pushing out your abdomen, and exhaling out through your nose for around three to five minutes. You can go longer if you’d like.
That’s all there is to it. Activating your diaphragm can be a new practice for some people. If you find it somewhat challenging, try resting one hand on your abdomen, just below your belly button. Focus on breathing in deeply while your hand raises on your belly as your diaphragm fills with air and your abdomen expands. This can be a great way to get started.
Studies have even shown that deep breathing exercises can help with balancing the autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system is responsible for regulating internal functions like temperature control and the functioning of the bladder. This means that using deep breathing techniques like diaphragmatic breathing can help you regulate your temperature better during the night, which is an important factor that impacts your sleep cycle. It also means you’ll be less likely to have to get up and go to the bathroom at night by positively impacting your bladder control.
5. Box Breathing Exercise
Box breathing is a breathwork technique that is well-known for being used by the United States Navy SEALs, as well as other military organizations. They use box breathing because it is proven to be effective at lowering stress, calming the mind, and activating the parasympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system is the opposite of the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for causing the fight or flight response.
Being able to reduce your instinctual responses to fight or flight is something that can save lives while under stressful situations like active combat in the military. It’s also used by athletes and other active professionals who have are often under lots of pressure and stress. Since it’s so effective in such high-stakes scenarios of stress, you can imagine how effective it is when you try using the box breathing exercise for sleep.
Step 1 - You’ll begin by breathing out slowly to release all of the air in your lungs.
Step 2 - Next, you’’ inhale through your nose for a slow count of four.
Step 3 - Then you’ll hold that breath for another slow count of four.
Step 4 - Finally, you’ll exhale slowly through your nose for another slow count of four.
Step 5 - You’ll repeat this 4x4x4 breathing pattern for a total of six breaths.
This can be done right before you go to bed. Some medical professionals, like Dr. Melisssa Young with the Cleveland Clinic, swear by the health benefits of box breathing. Dr. Young recommends doing the box breathing exercise one or two times a day. In addition to being a great way to end your day before bed, it’s also a good way to start your day by doing a breathwork session as soon as you get up in the morning.