5 Simple Breathing Exercises for Sleep

by | Mar 11, 2022

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Do you often find yourself lying in bed, staring at the ceiling, unable to fall asleep? Despite shutting off electronic devices at a reasonable hour, dousing your pillow in lavender essential oil, and taking a hot bath, your brain always seems to kick into high gear the second your head hits the pillow 

If this sounds familiar, don’t fret. Practicing simple breathing exercises for sleep can help calm your mind and body, making it easier to fall into a deep, restorative slumber.

In this article, we’ll be sharing five simple breathing exercises for sleep, but before we get into the how-to, let’s explore how breathing relates to sleep.  

For anyone looking to improve their sleep, Somnox 2 is your science-backed sleep companion that guides you towards slow-paced breathing that helps you fall asleep faster, worry less and wake up rested. 70% of our users improved their sleep quality within 4 weeks. Interested? Sign up for early access.

 

How Are Breathing and Sleep Connected?   

Your autonomic nervous system regulates many unconscious bodily functions, including heart rate, digestion, and breathing. It’s also responsible for triggering the “fight or flight” response, during which the body prepares to fight or flee a threat. When the fight or flight response is triggered, a person’s breathing becomes shallow and rapid to increase oxygen within the body.

This response served our ancestors well, as they periodically had to escape predators like lions, tigers, and bears. In today’s modern age, however, our lives are rarely in true danger. Instead, threats are things like work deadlines, relationship issues, and financial worries.

Although these things don’t threaten your life, your brain doesn’t know that, and treats all threats the same—whether physical or psychological, real or imagined—by stimulating your sympathetic nervous system.

Relaxed, diaphragmatic breathing is an antidote to an unbalanced autonomic nervous system. It activates your parasympathetic nervous system, also known as the “rest and digest” system while dialing down the activity of your sympathetic nervous system.[*]

Deep breathing essentially gives your brain a safety signal, telling it that it’s okay to let its guard down and relax. Once your brain relaxes, your body will follow suit, allowing you to easily drift off into a restful sleep.

 

Simple Breathing Exercises for Sleep 

While breathing is largely an unconscious process that’s controlled by your brain stem, you can consciously change your breathing rate to facilitate sleep. Here are a few simple breathing exercises for sleep that you can try tonight.

 

4-7-8 Breathing

 The 4-7-8 method is a breathing technique developed by Dr. Andrew Weil, who describes it as a “natural tranquilizer for the nervous system.

To practice 4-7-8 breathing, simply follow these steps:

  1. Exhale completely through your mouth with a “whoosh” sound.
  2. Close your mouth and inhale through your nose for a count of four, ensuring that you’re breathing into your stomach, rather than your chest.
  3. Hold your breath for a count of seven.
  4. Exhale through your mouth for a count of eight with a “whoosh” sound.
  5. Repeat this cycle until you drift off to sleep.

 

Count Your Breaths

Counting your breaths is a meditative and grounding practice that can soothe your mind and body, as well as take your mind off anxiety-inducing thoughts.

To practice, follow these simple steps:

  1. Begin with a few rounds of diaphragmatic breathing in and out through your nose.
  2. Establish a slow pattern of breathing for about a minute.
  3. As you exhale, count “one” to yourself.
  4. On the next exhale, count “two,” and so on up to “five.”  
  5. When you get to “five,” count back down to “one.”
  6. Continue until you start dozing off.

 

Inflate the Balloon

Visualization is a powerful tool that can help prepare your mind and body for sleep. While there are endless visualization techniques, the following one is particularly helpful for encouraging you to breathe deeply from your diaphragm, rather than engaging in stress-induced shallow breathing.

To practice this visualization, follow these simple steps:

  1. Begin with a few rounds of diaphragmatic breathing in and out through your nose.
  2. Establish a slow pattern of breathing for about a minute.
  3. As you inhale, visualize your abdomen as a balloon that’s inflating with air.
  4. As you exhale, visualize the balloon slowly deflating, as the air releases.
  5. You can even imagine the balloon as your favorite color, or that you’re floating in the sky.
  6. Continue until your eyes feel heavy and you fall asleep.

 

Diaphragmatic Breathing with Somnox

Somnox is a jelly-bean-shaped companion that uses robotic technology to help you fall asleep faster, sleep deeper, and wake up refreshed. This science-backed sleep companion expands and deflates as if it’s taking deep, relaxing belly breaths. 

Simply holding the breathe and sleep companion unconsciously encourages you to adopt the same slowed-down breathing rhythm. This, in turn, stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which puts you in a state that’s more conducive to sleep.

To use Somnox for sleep, follow these steps:

  1. Turn on Somnox 2. Within minutes, you’ll subconsciously adopt its calm breathing pattern.
  2. Smart sensors respond to your breathing in real-time, matching your rhythm and gradually adjusting it to the ideal rate.
  3. Fall asleep, stay asleep, and wake up feeling peaceful and rested.

Seventy percent of Somnox users report improved sleep quality within four weeks. 

 

Alternate Nostril Breathing

Alternate nostril breathing, also known as nadi shodhana pranayama, is a yogic breath control practice. While it might take a minute to get the hang of it, research shows that this practice may lower stress, enabling you to fall asleep faster.[*

To practice alternate nostril breathing, follow these steps:

  1. Raise your hand to your nose, as if you were going to pinch your nose shut with your thumb and pointer fingers. 
  2. Exhale fully and then close your right nostril with your thumb.
  3. Inhale through your left nostril.
  4. Open your right nostril and exhale through it, while closing your left nostril with your pointer finger.
  5. Continue this rotation for five minutes.

 

Breathing for Better Sleep

Your breath is the most powerful tool you have to support better sleep. Decades of research has shown that deep, diaphragmatic breathing can calm the racing thoughts that are often the culprit behind restless nights.[*][*] 

The next time you find yourself tossing and turning, try practicing one of the above breathing exercises for sleep. You just might be surprised by how quickly you’re able to drift off into dreamland.

For anyone looking to improve their sleep, Somnox 2 is your science-backed sleep companion that guides you towards slow-paced breathing that helps you fall asleep faster, worry less and wake up rested. 70% of our users improved their sleep quality within 4 weeks. Interested? Sign up for early access.

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