Medically reviewed by Elaine K. Luo, MD — Written by Jennifer Leavitt, MS
If you find it difficult to fall asleep, you’re not alone. According to the American Sleep Association, insomnia is the most common sleep disorder, with 30 percent of American adults reporting short-term problems, and 10 percent experiencing chronic trouble falling or staying asleep.
Our busy and fast-paced society, filled with homework, long work days, financial strains, parenting burnout, or other emotionally exhausting situations, can make it really difficult to unwind, calm down, and get some ZZZs.
When it’s hard to sleep, focusing on your breath may help. Let’s take a look at some breathing exercises to calm your mind and body so that you can fall asleep.
Although there are a number of breathing exercises you can try to relax and fall asleep, a few basic principles apply to all of them.
It’s always a good idea to close your eyes, which may help you shut out distractions. Focus on your breathing and think about the healing power of your breath.
These nine different exercises each have slightly different benefits. Take a look to see which one is the best match for you, and soon you’ll be sleeping like a baby.
Here is how to practice the 4-7-8 breathing technique:
This technique was developed by Dr. Andrew Weil as a variation of pranayama, an ancient yogic technique that helps people relax as it replenishes oxygen in the body.
These steps will help you perform the original Bhramari pranayama breathing exercise:
Bhramari pranayama has been shown in clinical studies to quickly reduce breathing and heart rate. This tends to be very calming and can prepare your body for sleep.
To practice the three-part breathing exercise, follow these three steps:
Some people prefer this technique over others because of its sheer simplicity.
To do diaphragmatic breathing exercises:
This technique slows your breathing and decreases your oxygen needs as it strengthens your diaphragm.
Here are the steps for the alternate nasal or alternate nostril breathing exercise, also called nadi shodhana pranayama:
A 2013 study reported that people who tried nasal breathing exercises felt less stressed afterwards.
To practice buteyko breathing for sleep:
Many people don’t realize that they are hyperventilating. This exercise helps you to reset a normal rhythm of breathing.
In the Papworth method you focus on your diaphragm to breathe more naturally:
This relaxing method is helpful for reducing habits of yawning and sighing.
Also known as pursed lip breathing, kapalbhati breathing involves four steps:
Kapalbhati breathing relieves shortness of breath and improves ventilation by getting rid of excess carbon dioxide.
During box breathing, you want to focus intently on the oxygen you’re bringing in and pushing out:
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.
No matter which type of breathing exercise you prefer, the evidence is clear that breathing exercises can help you relax, sleep, and breathe more naturally and effectively. With so many varieties to choose from, you may just find yourself fast asleep before you know it.
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Originally published on Healthline.
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