We are always running somewhere. Like squirrels in a wheel. And our life is getting faster and faster every year. And a dynamically developing society dictates its own rules: the days are filled with work, and for some, its amount clearly exceeds the norm; evenings — household chores and other activities. At the same time, someone also experiences financial difficulties, feels emotionally burnt out because of work or for other reasons unrelated to it. And in the end, all this can make it difficult to relax and provoke stress, which, in turn, will lead to problems with a night’s sleep. Concentrating on your breath will help you deal with this. Let’s look at the best breathing techniques that will calm your restless mind and help you fall into the gentle embrace of Morpheus.
What do breathing exercises do before bed?
Most techniques for facilitating the process of falling asleep involve slow, deep breaths in and out.
Firstly, this calms the central nervous system, and our brain suddenly begins to understand that it’s time to go to rest.
And secondly, such breathing brings the body into a state of general slowdown. The heart no longer beats so fast, blood pressure may drop slightly, the level of the stress hormone that blocks melatonin, which is responsible for a good and healthy night’s sleep, decreases.
All of this is part of the relaxation process. A measured rhythm of breathing will calm the mind and relax the body. The accumulated anxiety will be removed as if by hand, you will learn to cope with stress more easily, and you will notice that breathing exercises are a great way to prepare for sleep.
Did you know?
Insomnia is the most common specific sleep disorder, with about 30% of adults reporting short-term problems and 10% reporting chronic insomnia.
Breathing exercises: what should be considered?
You can do breathing exercises at any time, right before bed or when you wake up at night. And even during the day to relax and calm down.
It is best to do the exercises in a prone position. But some of them still recommend doing it while sitting. It’s also always a good idea to close your eyes so you don’t get distracted. Just focus on your breath and think about its healing power.
50–70 million adults in the US suffer from sleep disorders. Wherein:
48.0% report snoring;
37.9% reported falling asleep unintentionally during the day at least once in the previous month;
4.7% reported nodding or falling asleep while driving at least once in the previous month.
Breathing exercises to help you fall asleep
Each of these exercises has different benefits. Try them out and see which one suits you best.
Exercise number 1. Abdominal breathing
The diaphragm is a large muscle at the base of the lungs, primarily responsible for breathing. Breathing from the diaphragm or belly creates negative pressure in the pleural cavity. As a result, blood flow to the heart increases, the heart rate decreases, and you begin to feel calm and relaxed.
The following steps will help ensure that you are breathing deeply with your diaphragm and not shallowly with your chest.
Step 1. Lying on your back with knees bent or sitting on a chair.
Step 2 One hand on the stomach, the other on the chest.
Step 3 Take a slow, deep breath in through your nose, keeping the hand on your chest still while the hand on your stomach rises with the breath.
Step 4 Exhale slowly through closed lips.
Keep your face relaxed while breathing. Inhale and exhale counting to make sure you are breathing slowly. Focus on the sound of your breath.
Continue to breathe like this for 5–10 minutes. Practice this type of breathing regularly, for example once a day.
By the way!
In a study published in journal Perspectives in Psychiatric Careadults who practiced diaphragmatic breathing for at least 10 minutes twice a day for 8 weeks reported lower levels of anxiety.
Exercise number 2. Mantra repetition
Once you have mastered the art of diaphragmatic breathing, add a mantra to help you focus on the relaxing aspect of breathing. Follow the instructions below.
Step 1. Lying or sitting in a relaxed position.
Step 2 While inhaling through the diaphragm, say a phrase to yourself, for example, “I breathe in relaxation.”
Step 3 Then at the exit, releasing the air from the abdomen, say “I exhale tension.” As you do this, be aware of any tension in your body and release it. You can even use your imagination. Think of these sensations as visual events, such as air moving in and out of your body.
Be sure to pause before exhaling and before inhaling. Keep doing this for 5–10 minutes until you feel sleepy.
Exercise number 3. Breathing program 4–7‑8
Some medical experts confirm the relaxation benefits of this technique, which involves inhaling for 4 seconds, holding the breath for 7 seconds, and exhaling for 8 seconds.
Follow the steps below to practice this type of breathing.
Step 1. Sitting with a straight back. Lips slightly parted. The tip of the tongue behind the front upper teeth.
Step 2 Exhale completely, making a hoarse whistling sound as you do so.
Step 3 Press your lips together and inhale slowly through your nose for 4 seconds.
Step 4 Hold your breath for a count of 7.
Step 5 Now exhale for a full 8 seconds, making a whistling sound.
If you complete this cycle, you have taken one breath. Do this again three times.
By the way!
In a study published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 39 adults were asked to perform a pranayama technique similar to 4–7‑8 breathing. While sitting, they inhaled through their nose for four seconds and then slowly exhaled for six seconds, for a total of five minutes. Systolic and diastolic blood pressure dropped significantly, as did the heart rate.
Exercise number 4. Counting while breathing
There are many variations on the theme of counting breaths. Choose one of them and practice until you feel sleepy. Follow the tips below.
Step 1. Lying in bed, focus on your breathing and try to relax.
Step 2 As you exhale and relax, feel how the bed supports your body.
Step 3 Count from one to 10 and then back from 10 to one, but align the count with your exhalations.
Step 4 Keep repeating this sequence until you fall asleep.
Exercise number 5. Scanning the body
This method involves scanning your body for signs of tension so that you can overcome them and fall asleep. Follow the steps below to practice this technique.
Step 1. Lying in bed, focus on relaxing as you exhale.
Step 2 Feel the bed underneath you and how it supports you.
Step 3 Visualize every part of your body, starting at your head and working your way through your entire body, to find places that feel tense. When you notice an area of tension, direct your breath to that spot. See if you can feel the tension release and the part of your body relax.
Step 4 After you’ve finished looking for tension throughout your body, focus on exhaling. Also, repeat a mantra to yourself, such as the word “sleep” or any other signal that will help you start to doze off.
By following this technique, you will find that both your mind and body begin to relax.
Scientists have found that body scans can reduce stress, promote relaxation, and improve sleep quality. For example, study, held in 2020 with the participation of 54 teenagers, treated for insomnia found that a 20-minute body scan before bed helped them sleep longer and wake up less frequently at night.
Exercise number 6. Breathing images
It may sound simple, but imagery is a powerful way to relax, and so by doing these breathing exercises, you can help yourself slow down before bed.
The following steps will get it right.
Step 1. Lying in bed, focus on relaxing as you exhale.
Step 2 Feel your bed supporting you as you enter into a relaxed state as you exhale.
Step 3 As you relax, focus on your exhalations and notice how you feel as you exhale. Examples of sensations might include sinking into bed, feeling like everything is slowing down, feeling heavier, or even sometimes feeling like you have more patience.
Step 4 When you relax, begin to imagine that your breath is made up of flowers. Watch as you breathe in and out and see how these colors match your breath.
Step 5 Focus only on your breathing until you fall asleep.
Exercise number 7. Alternative nasal breathing
Here are the steps for the alternate nose breathing exercise, also called nadi shodhana pranayama.
Step 1. Sitting cross-legged.
Step 2 The left hand rests on the knee, and the thumb of the right hand is pressed to the nose.
Step 3 Exhale completely, then close the right nostril.
Step 4 Deep breath through the left nostril.
Step 5 Now the left nostril is closed, and through the open right nostril, you slowly exhale all the air.
Step 6 Continue this cycle for 5 minutes, ending with an exhalation through the left nostril.
A study conducted in 2013 among young medical students from Indiashowed that people who tried nasal breathing exercises felt less stress afterwards.
In this exercise, you also focus on your diaphragm to breathe more naturally.
Step 1. Sitting up straight, you can right in bed.
Step 2 Take a deep breath (whether through your nose or mouth) while counting to 4, then, continuing to count to 4, exhale slowly through your nose.
Step 3 Focus on raising and lowering your belly and listen for breath sounds coming from your stomach.
This relaxing method helps break the habit of yawning and sighing.
Elena Rashevskaya, psychotherapist, psychologist
Problems with falling asleep at night always remain extremely important. Often we fall asleep due to fatigue, barely reaching the bed. Because of this, all the important events that occurred during the day can “get stuck” in the mind, and sometimes even end in a nervous breakdown. To avoid such consequences, as a psychotherapist who often encounters such problems with patients, I suggest the following:
Before going to bed, it is important to tune in to a night’s rest — talk to yourself or with a person you trust. We analyze what happened, find a reasonable solution or explanation, thus removing the negative. And only after that we go “into the arms of Morpheus.”
According to patients, they really like the “butterfly hug” exercise. This is one of the options for breathing exercises. You need to close your eyes, take three deep breaths, after each, making a second delay, and then four exhalations. The number of exhalations should be one more. We exhale and mentally let go of all the bad things accumulated during the day. If there is a partner next to us, we ask him to lightly and gently touch our forearms. If we are alone, we touch ourselves, as if the wing of a butterfly.
The choice of pillow and mattress is very important. The pillow should be flat, no more than 7–8 cm high, of medium softness. The mattress is preferably orthopedic, well-kept shape, medium hardness. This will ensure the physiological position of your spine and, accordingly, prolong health and longevity.
If you follow these simple recommendations, you are guaranteed a deep and productive sleep.
Nina Kolomiytseva, certified specialist of the International Yoga Association (Yoga alliance)
Breathing practices exist not only for recovering from acute respiratory viral infections and maintaining immunity, but also for relaxation. Breathing exercises in the evening qualitatively improve the quality of sleep, as they allow you to tune in to the upcoming vacation. Among other things, breathing exercises before bed help cleanse the airways, improve blood circulation, relieve muscle clamps and spasms, help normalize the functioning of the nervous system, and prevent insomnia and restless sleep.
Before you start breathing exercises, you need to perform a few simple steps.
Firstly, be sure to ventilate the room. If you have no problems with immunity, you can leave the window open all night.
Secondly, pick up spacious clothes for sleep from soft natural fabrics.
Thirdly, turn off all devices that somehow interfere with normal sleep, including the TV.
Breathing exercises can be performed lying in bed with your eyes closed. It is very important to focus on doing the exercises and not think at this moment about some of your affairs, problems, etc. All these questions must be left until the morning, guided by ancient wisdom that the morning is wiser than the evening. Breathing during gymnastics should be carried out only through the nose. It is important that the inhalation be shorter than the exhalation.
Exercise number 1. Breathe out. Then start inhaling slowly, first filling the stomach with air (it should inflate at the same time), then the area of the ribs (they should expand at the same time), last we fill the chest with air (its upper part, including the collarbone area). Exhalation is also carried out slowly and in the reverse order: the upper chest, ribs, stomach. Repeat this exercise at least 5 times.
Exercise number 2. Here you need to focus on breathing with your stomach. Try not to involve the chest and its upper part. To control the correct execution of this technique, place your hand on your stomach. Repeat this exercise 5–7 times.
Exercise number 3. This exercise can be called counting breathing. Breathe out. Then start inhaling and as you do this, count to 4, hold your breath and count to 7, slowly exhale and count to 8. Hold your breath and repeat this exercise a few more times.
Exercise number 4. In this exercise, we count to 10: odd numbers — inhale, even — exhale. This technique helps to concentrate and teach you to disconnect from the outside world.
When performing any breathing exercises, do not forget the main thing: a short breath, a deep exhalation. And it is guaranteed to help you fall asleep very quickly.
Anna Devavani, psychologist
It is really easiest to start breathing exercises before going to bed. Since you are already lying on a flat surface, which means with a straight back, and at the same time your body is as relaxed as possible. If this is not the case, find a way to lie flat and “dissolve” all the tension in the body. As far as you can!
Start breathing deep into your belly. For convenience, place your hands on your stomach. They should rise as you inhale and fall as you exhale. Do not speed up your breathing, but make it deeper each time. We often tighten our belly to look slimmer. Now forget about harmony. Just relax your belly and let it expand. The chest expands as you inhale. The most important thing is that you feel for the very muscle that drives breathing: the diaphragm. It is she who allows, by “cleaning up” the organs of the abdominal cavity, as wide as possible to stretch our pulmonary furs.
When you feel that your breathing has become deeper, imagine that with each breath your body is filled with golden energy of joy, liveliness. And with each exhalation, concern, fear, tension leave you.
An advanced version of the exercise: imagine that the energy on inhalation does not come through the mouth or nose, but flows inward, as if through the pores of the whole body. And on exhalation — leaves it. This variation gives surprisingly strong sensations in the body, and it relaxes much faster.
The exercise time can start from 5 minutes, and last as long as you wish. I recommend doing the exercise for at least 10 minutes every day.