9 Breathing Exercises for Sleep: Techniques That Work!
- They generally do not require any special equipment and can be done at home or office.
- Good sleep quality will help you feel refreshed and energized for the rest of your day.
- Breathing exercises are safe and have no side effects.
- It is beneficial not only for good night’s sleep but also for our overall well-being.
Imagine you're out at a party and the room begins to feel crowded. Perhaps you’re waiting in a queue somewhere and you can feel the annoyance rising, or maybe you’ve got your kids with you on holiday and they're losing their minds from being cooped up inside for too long. It wouldn't be an understatement to say that these common situations aren't an ideal recipe for a good night's sleep, but luckily for us, there are a lot of breathing exercises that have been proven time after time to clear your head, decrease anxiety and decrease your heart rate.
Difficulties in falling asleep
Having trouble falling asleep is a common occurrence. In fact, research suggests that almost a third of adults experience chronic insomnia, a sleep disorder characterized by persistent difficulties in falling asleep or staying asleep. However, for those of us without insomnia, tossing and turning in bed after a stressful day can be a familiar experience.
Stress and anxiety are often to blame for sleep issues. During periods of stress, the body activates its natural stress response, beginning with a cascade of hormones that make us feel more alert and trigger additional physiological changes. Our breathing becomes more quick and shallow, our heart rate and blood pressure increases, and our digestion slows down.
When our body’s stress response is activated, it can be immensely challenging to fall asleep and stay asleep. Fortunately, research has shown that breathing exercises for better sleep helps turn off the stress response. By activating another natural process, called the relaxation response, we can calm the mind, relax the body, and help ourselves drift off to sleep naturally.
How Do Breathing Exercises Impact Sleep
There are many benefits of breathing exercises:
- Reduced risk of diseases like cancer and diabetes, improved physical function, and a better quality of life.
- Breathing exercises can also benefit certain specific groups. For example, pregnant women who engage in routine breathing exercises are less likely to gain excessive amount of weight or experience postpartum depression.
- Elderly people who practice breathing exercises are at a lower risk of getting injured during a fall. Breathing exercises thus induce better sleep in many of us.
Benefits of Breathing Exercises
Breathing exercises heal us in many ways. They have immense physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual benefits. Breathing exercises help us tremendously in reducing stress and inducing relaxation. They also improve the efficiency of our lungs.
The best thing about breathing exercises is that they are easy to learn and can be practiced anywhere. They do not require any special pieces of equipment either
1. Reduce stress and anxiety: Breathing exercises increase our oxygen intake and calm our minds. They are shown to be highly effective in reducing stress and anxiety. Practicing deep breathing is a hack that a lot of experts and psychologists use to treat anxious thoughts and nervousness in a jiffy. Deep breathing slows down your heart rate, allows the body to take in more oxygen, and ultimately signals the brain to wind down. It also balances your hormones by lowering cortisol levels and inducing an endorphin rush in the body
2. Improve the quality of sleep: Breathing exercises relax our bodies and calm our minds. They help us to get rid of stress and anxiety. Breathing exercises thus help us in getting a good night’s sleep.
3. Enhance cognitive functions: Performing breathing exercises on a regular basis is associated with improved concentration and focus. They also enhance our memory and improve our decision-making abilities.
4. Improve cardiovascular health: Performing breathing exercises regularly helps maintain our blood pressure levels and helps patients with hypertension. This reduces the incidence of stroke and heart disease. Thus, breathing exercises are extremely beneficial for the health of our cardiovascular system.
5. Good for our lungs: Breathing exercises improve the functioning of the lungs. They have proved to be immensely beneficial for patients with chronic lung diseases like Asthma, Emphysema, Bronchitis, COPD, etc.
6. Detox our body: Performing breathing exercises helps our body to get rid of toxic gases and carbon dioxide, thus detoxifying our body.
7. Good for our digestive system: Performing breathing exercises regularly ensures smooth functioning of our digestive system and helps get rid of gastrointestinal issues like flatulence, constipation, bloating, indigestion etc. They also provide relief from symptoms of GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease).
8. Give a glow to our skin: Breathing exercises like pranayama increase the supply of oxygen, which increases the blood thrush and improves skin health. They also detoxify blood which results in younger-looking and glowing skin.
9. Fight sinusitis: Breathing exercises help in the treatment of chronic sinusitis.
10. Help in weight loss: Breathing exercises activate our abdominal muscles. Kapalbhati pranayama helps get rid of belly fat and tones the abdominal muscles.
11. Improve immunity: Breathing exercises improve the defense mechanism of our body, thus boosting immunity.
12. Anti-ageing: Breathing exercises help in slowing down the aging process. They help maintain body weight, prevent wrinkles and keep your skin glowing, while reducing stress, strengthening the abdominal muscles, correcting bad posture, etc.
13. Lowers inflammation: A study conducted by BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine reported that practicing breathing exercises for as short as 20 minutes can significantly reduce stress and indications of inflammation when measured in one’s saliva. Researchers collected the saliva of twenty participants and examined the degree of cytokines in the body which are a kind of biomolecule, linked to the body’s immune response towards inflammation.
14. May alleviate joint pain: When you include breathing exercises in your routine, the level of oxygen in the cells is elevated and you also experience a positive effect on your joints. Breathing exercises make the muscles and joints strong and prevent the chances of wear and tear. Breathing exercises minimize the strain of physical exercise and improve the ability of the body to handle intense physical workouts.
Techniques To Promote Good Sleep
There are several things that you can do to help ensure a good night's sleep.
- One is to establish a regular sleep schedule. Go to bed and get up at the same time each day, even on weekends. This will help regulate your body's natural sleep rhythm.
- Another important thing to do is to create a relaxing bedtime routine. This might involve taking a warm bath, reading a book, or stretching. Do something that will help you unwind and prepare for sleep.
- It's also important to create a comfortable sleeping environment. Make sure your bedroom is dark, quiet, and cool. Get rid of any distractions, such as electronics. Create an environment that promotes relaxation and sleep.
- And you should definitely make breathing exercises a part of your daily routine, to induce restful, consistent sleep.
How to Add Breathing Exercises to Your Day
Breathing exercises don’t have to take a lot of time out of your day. It’s really just about setting aside some time to pay attention to your breathing.
Here are a few ideas to get started:
- Begin with just 5 minutes a day and increase your time as the exercise becomes easier and more comfortable.
- If 5 minutes feels too long, start with just 2 minutes.
- Practice multiple times in a day. Schedule set times or practice conscious breathing whenever you feel like during the day.
Breathing Techniques for Better Sleep
Yoga and meditation are two excellent breathing exercises for sleep. Both of these techniques can help relax the body and mind, making it easier to fall asleep. Many different yoga and meditation techniques can be used for sleep, so it is worth experimenting to find the ones that work best for you.
If you're struggling with sleep, some breathing exercises can help. There are several techniques you can try.
- One of the simplest breathing exercises is to focus on your breath and count every time you inhale and exhale. This exercise can help calm your mind and body, and it can also help improve your sleep quality.
- Belly breathing or diaphragmatic breathing is a great way to relax the body and mind before bed. Do it: To do this exercise, simply place one hand on your stomach and the other on your chest. Breathe in slowly through your nose, allowing your stomach to expand. Then, breathe out slowly through your mouth. Repeat this cycle for several minutes. Diaphragmatic breathing engages the large muscle at the base of the lungs. Not only can this exercise reduce stress and increase relaxation, it can also strengthen the diaphragm and increase the efficiency of our breathing.
- One is 4-7-8 breathing, which involves breathing in for four seconds, holding your breath for seven seconds, and then exhaling for eight seconds. This helps slow down your heart rate and calms your nerves. Another option is progressive muscle relaxation, which involves tensing and relaxing different muscle groups one at a time. This can help reduce tension and promote relaxation. This slightly more advanced breathing technique helps control the speed of your breath. This may not be the best option if you’re uncomfortable holding your breath, but it’s generally considered safe and easy.
- Another breathing technique is the box breathing technique. This involves breathing in for four seconds, holding your breath for four seconds, exhaling for four seconds, and then holding your breath for four seconds. This helps to oxygenate your blood and relax your muscles. Box breathing is a common technique during meditation, a very popular method of finding mental focus and relaxing. Meditation has a variety of known benefits for your overall health.
- Slowly progress to the 10-10-10 technique involves breathing in for 10 seconds, holding your breath for 10 seconds, and then exhaling for 10 seconds. This helps slow down your heart rate and clear your mind.
- Another breathing exercise that can help you sleep is alternate nostril breathing. This exercise helps to calm the mind and body, making it easier to fall asleep. To do this exercise, simply hold your right thumb over your right nostril and breathe in through your left nostril. Then, hold your left thumb over your left nostril and breathe out through your right nostril. Repeat this cycle for several minutes.
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation is another excellent breathing exercise for sleep. This technique involves tensing and relaxing different muscle groups in the body, starting with the feet and moving up to the head. This helps release tension in the muscles and promote relaxation.
- The Squeeze and release technique involves clenching different muscle groups in your body while you breathe in, and then releasing them as you breathe out.
- Pursed lip breathing: To practice pursed lip breathing, breathe in slowly through your nose for two counts, keeping your mouth closed. Take a normal breath. Pucker or "purse" your lips as if you were going to whistle and breathe out. This simple breathing technique makes you slow down your pace of breathing by having you apply deliberate effort in each breath. You can practice pursed lip breathing at any time. It may be especially useful during activities such as bending, lifting, or stair climbing. Practice using this breath 4 to 5 times a day when you begin, in order to correctly learn the breathing pattern.
Breathing exercises don’t require a special routine, nor do you need to set aside a definite time. It can be easily incorporated into your daily routine.
Experiment with different techniques and see what works best for you. Remember to practice breathing techniques regularly so that you can get maximum benefits from these exercises, which include reduced anxiety, improved sleep quality, and better relaxation. Breathing exercises like box breathing and 4-7-8 breathing are great ways to wind down before bed and improve your sleep quality. Give them a shot tonight and see if they help you get a good night's rest!
- Kołomańska-Bogucka D, Mazur-Bialy AI. Physical Activity and the Occurrence of Postnatal Depression-A Systematic Review. Medicina (Kaunas). 2019;55(9):560. Published 2019 Sep 2. doi:10.3390/medicina55090560