You may feel alone if you have trouble falling asleep, but you’re only one of millions of Americans who struggle with getting to sleep quickly and effectively. The American Sleep Association has listed insomnia as the most common sleep disorder. Nearly 30% of Americans have trouble sleeping in the short-term and another 10% have regular trouble falling and staying asleep. If you have trouble falling and staying asleep, follow this breathing guide to help alleviate stress and tension before bed.
The 4-7-8 Breathing Technique
This technique was developed by Dr. Andrew Weil. He centered his concept around an alternative to pranayama, a yoga technique dating back centuries which helps people relax and replenish the air in their bodies.
- Gently part your lips and exhale completely, making a whooshing sound as the air leaves your body.
- Press your lips together and silently inhale through your nose for four seconds.
- Hold your breath for seven seconds then exhale again for eight. Make the whooshing sound again as you exhale.
- Repeat this process four times when starting the technique, eventually working your way up to eight cycles.
The Bhramari Pranayama Technique
This technique has been proven to quickly reduce your breathing and heart rate. Decreasing both of these things is a great way to calm your body and prepare yourself for a good night’s rest.
- Close your eyes and deeply breathe in and out.
- Cover your ears with your hands, then place your index fingers on each of your eyebrows and remaining fingers over your eyes.
- Gently apply pressure to both sides of your nose and focus on the brow area.
- Keeping your mouth closed, breathe out slowly through your nose and hum an “Om” sound.
- Repeat this process five times.
The Three-Part Breathing Exercise
This is one of the simpler techniques within the guide. Many people use this technique because it is easy and quick, as there are only three steps. Though short, this method is equally effective as any other technique here and depends heavily on the individual to succeed.
- Inhale deeply and for a prolonged period.
- Exhale fully while focusing intently on your body and the feeling of each breath.
- Repeat a few times and slow down your exhale until it’s twice as long as your inhale.
The Diaphragmatic Breathing Technique
This technique is good for slowing your breathing and lowering oxygen levels to strengthen your diaphragm.
- Lie on your back and bend your knees over a pillow.
- Put one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach.
- Take slow, deep breaths through your nose. Keep your hand on your chest and make it as still as you can. Let the hand on your stomach rise and fall with your breathing.
- Now, breathe slowly through pursed lips.
- Continue this cycle until you can naturally breathe in and out without your chest moving.
The Alternate Nasal Breathing Technique
This exercise is designed to decrease stress and has been shown to work consistently. A 2013 study reported that people who participated in using the technique were less stressed throughout their day.
- Sit with your legs crossed. Place your left hand on your knee and your right thumb against your nose.
- Exhale fully and close your right nostril.
- Inhale through your left nostril, then open your right nostril and exhale through it while closing the left.
- Continue this rotation for five minutes, finishing by exhaling through your left nostril.
The Buteyko Breathing Technique
Many people breathe in an abnormally quick rhythm. This technique was designed to help you stop hyperventilating and breathe at a normal pace.
- Sit in bed with your mouth gently closed and breathe through your nose at a natural pace for thirty seconds.
- Breathe more intentionally through your nose once.
- Gently pinch your nose closed while keeping your closed too. Hold until you feel the need to take a breath.
- With mouth still closed, take a deep breathe in and out through your nose.
The Papworth Method
Interestingly, this method actually decreases rates of yawning and sighing. It works by allowing you to breathe through your diaphragm more naturally.
- Sit up straight, preferably in the bed you fall asleep in.
- Take deep, focused breaths in and out, counting to four with each inhale through your mouth or nose, then exhale through your nose.
- Focus on your abdomen rising and falling while listening for the sound of your breath to come from your stomach.
The Kapalbhati Breathing Exercise
This exercise has been shown to open sinuses and even enhance concentration on various tasks. Though it’s one of the most effective breathing exercises in the world, it’s also advanced. It’s recommended to master other techniques in this guide first before moving on to the Kapalbhati.
- Sit in a comfortable position with your spine straight. Place your hands on your knees with palms facing the sky. It’s best to sit cross-legged on the floor.
- Take a deep breath in.
- While exhaling, contract your stomach, forcing the breath out in a short burst.
- When releasing your abdomen, your breath should flow into your lunch automatically.
- Take twenty breathes to complete one round.
- After completing a round, relax and close your eyes; observe the sensations in your body.
- Do two more rounds to complete the practice.
The Box Breathing Technique
This is one of the most common methods for those who practice meditation. It’s great for helping you focus and relax your muscles, as meditation has many wonderful health benefits.
- Sit with your back straight and breathe in. Try to push out the air in your lungs as you exhale.
- Inhale slowly through your nose and count to four silently, filling your lungs with more air with each number.
- Hold your breath and count to four in your head.
- Exhale slowly through your mouth, focusing on exhaling all of the oxygen out of your lungs.
That’s it! Those are nine techniques to help you breathe and fall asleep more easily. No matter which you choose you should feel more relaxed and get to sleep more quickly than when you began the exercises.