- Best breathing exercises for sleep
- 7 breathing exercises to help you fall asleep faster
- Additional resources
- How to fall asleep in one minute
- Got a story for Metro.co.uk?
- 7 Mind-Blowingly Easy Yogic Breathing Exercises For Sleep
- More Tips On How to Fall Asleep Faster
- A Quiet Mind
- Intro to Pranayama: 3 Practices to Get Started
- 5 Breathing Techniques To Help You Drift Off
- What are Breathing Techniques?
- Nervous benefits
- 1 – The 4-7-8 routine
- 2 – Meditative breathing
- 3 – Double exhalation
- 4 – Alternate your nostrils
- 5 – Deep breathing
- This “4-7-8” breathing hack could help you fall asleep in 60 seconds or less
- The 4-7-8 Breathing Technique
- The 4-7-8 Breathing Exercise Video
- The Simple Breathing Technique That Helped Me Fall Asleep So Much Faster
- What Are the Benefits and Risks of Alternate Nostril Breathing?
- The Powerful Yogic Technique That Brings Deeper Sleep
- The Power of Breathing
- Background on Nadi Shodhana Pranayama
- Instructions for Alternate-Nostril Breathing:
- Chakra Pocket Stones – Set of 7
Best breathing exercises for sleep
If you’ve ever found yourself lying awake in bed, frustrated that you can’t sleep, good news! The answer may be as simple as a few breathing exercises.
Breathing exercises calm your nervous system, staving off insomnia and preparing your body for sleep. Even better, training your breath is just like any sort of exercise. The more you do it, the better you get at it. You’ll fall asleep faster at night. You’ll be able to sleep in a noisy hotel room or plane. You’ll get less stressed during the day.
Armed with these breathing exercises, you’ll breathe better all day long, and peacefully drift off to sleep each night.
7 breathing exercises to help you fall asleep faster
Add one (or all) of these breathing exercises to your nightly bedtime routine for sound sleep.
Except for the first two, all of these exercises can be performed lying down on your back in bed, with your eyes closed.
1. Meditative breath
For a short meditation before you get into bed, sit down with your back straight and your head tucked slightly forward.
Progressively lengthen your breaths. For the first exhale, count to one. Then count to two, then three, up to five. After your fifth exhale, held for a count of five, start over again at one. By keeping to this pattern you keep your mind focused on your breath instead of anxiety.
Meditate for 10 minutes.
2. Alternating nostril breath
There’s a reason we pant when we get excited or nervous. Mouth breathing stresses your body, while nasal breathing keeps your body in a steady, more relaxed state.
Tune in to your nasal breathing with this yoga breathing control technique known as nadi shodhana. Sitting up, breathe in through one nostril while you gently block the other one by pressing your finger against it. When you exhale, release your finger and breathe through the other nostril, blocking the opposite nostril.
3. Diaphragmatic breath
With one hand resting on your lower abdomen and the other on your chest, take five deep breaths, inhaling for a count of three, then exhaling for a count of three.
Clear your mind by focusing on the way your hand rises and falls according to your inhales and exhales.
4. Visualizing breath
As you inhale, envision the air traveling into your nose, through your entire body, and back out again. Imagine it traveling through all your muscles, all the way to your toes and fingers, before it comes back out again during your exhale.
Focusing on your breathing activates your parasympathetic system, encouraging it to calm down, relax, and lower your heart rate in preparation for sleep.
5. 4-7-8 Relaxing breath
First, position your tongue so the tip is resting against that ridge of tissue behind your upper front teeth. Keep it there throughout the exercise.
Exhale through your mouth fully, making a whoosh sound as you do so. Then close your mouth and inhale through your nose for a count of four. Hold the breath for a count of seven. Exhale through your mouth, again making a whoosh sound, but this time do it for a count of eight. Repeat this three more times. If you can’t hold your breath for the entire time at first, that’s okay. What’s important is the ratio, so count faster until you can work your way up to slower breaths.
According to Dr. Andrew Weil, a Harvard-trained doctor and the originator of the technique, if you diligently practice this twice a day for two months, you’ll start falling asleep within a minute!
6. Lengthened breath
When your body is stressed, it breathes faster to take in more air. Trick it into a state of relaxation by breathing out longer than you breathe in.
Inhale for a count of three, then exhale for a count of six. Feel free to change up the numbers you count, but the idea is to have a prolonged exhale in comparison to your inhale. Slow, deep breathing like this, known as pranayamic breathing, resets your autonomic nervous system.
7. Humming bee breath
Known by yogis as “brahmari,” the Sanskrit word for bee, you create a buzzing sound during this breathing exercise.
Inhale deeply and slowly through your nose, then exhale just as slowly, using your throat to make a humming sound as you do. As you exhale, close off your ears with your index fingers to really heighten the effect and focus on the buzz.
- How to Build a Bedtime Routine
- How to Train Yourself to Sleep in Noisy Environments
- 10 Tips to Help You Fall Asleep Faster
A simple breathing technique that takes seconds to complete could help you fall asleep in just one minute.
The 4-7-8 trick works by switching off the body’s stress response, meaning falling into sleep is easier – and all you have to do is breathe.
Harvard-educated doctor and author Andrew Weil champions the technique and says it is as effective as tranquillisers.
Adults should get seven to nine hours a night (Picture: Getty)
How to fall asleep in one minute
Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
- Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four seconds.
- Hold your breath for a count of seven seconds.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight seconds.
This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.
The 4-7-8 method has been endorsed by yoga and meditation teachers.
In 2016, Dr Weil said: ‘This exercise is a natural tranquiliser for the nervous system.
‘Unlike tranquilising drugs, which are often effective when you first take them but then lose their power over time, this exercise is subtle when you first try it but gains in power with repetition and practice.
‘Do it at least twice a day. You cannot do it too frequently.’
No need to bury your head under your pillow with this technique (Picture: Getty)
Dr Weil says that not only is it a tool for getting some much-needed sleep, people can benefit from it in times of upset, tension or stress.
‘Once you develop this technique by practicing it every day, it will be a very useful tool that you will always have with you,’ he said.
‘This exercise cannot be recommended too highly. Everyone can benefit from it.’
The breathing exercise even beats a recently re-discovered military approved technique that helped people get to sleep in just two minutes.
Sleep is vital to sustaining energy, balancing emotions, work and fitness performance, as well as your overall health.
Most people struggle with sleeping issues by either not getting enough, not sleeping restfully, or a combination of both.
A recent study by the Uppsala University in Sweden revealed that disrupted sleep patterns alter metabolism and boost the body’s ability to store fat, making a strong link between obesity and shift work.
The European Study of Cardiology also found that getting less than five hours sleep a night could be as bad for you as smoking.
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7 Mind-Blowingly Easy Yogic Breathing Exercises For Sleep
Practicing a simple breathing exercise can help calm us down, thanks to the immediate effects deep breathing has on the vagus nerve. With just a few mindful deep breaths, you can begin to feel calmer and more relaxed.
As you can imagine, then can be a super useful tool to keep your mind off stress (especially the kind that makes you stay awake at night).
If you want to try a breathing exercise to see if it works, then check out these seven effective breathing techniques:
1. The 4-7-8 Technique
The 4-7-8 breathing technique is a common and straightforward breathing practice that helps people relax while replenishing oxygen. It reduces anxiety from a stressful situation (aka our evolutionary defense mechanism that we know and love, the fight-or-flight response).
- Position the tongue with the tip resting behind your upper front teeth. The tongue should stay that way the entire exercise.
- Let your lips gently part and exhale completely, making a breathy whooshing sound.
- With a pursed lip, inhale through your nose silently for 4 seconds.
- Hold your breath for 7 seconds, making no sound and keeping the lips pursed.
- Exhale for 8 seconds, making the same whooshing sound.
- Repeat it for four to eight times.
Check out this helpful video showing you the 4-7-8 breathing technique.
2 Diaphragmatic Breathing
You can lie down or sit when doing this ribcage diaphragmatic breathing exercise. Diaphragmatic breathing is especially helpful for patients who suffer from insomnia. It’s mindful breathing that lessens tense feelings by activating the parasympathetic nervous system…
…which is the rest-and-digest response system, the exact opposite of the fight-or-flight system.
- Let the left hand rest on the lower abdomen and the other on the chest, close to the ribcage.
- Take five deep breaths (no sound), inhale for three counts and exhale for another three. Remember to breathe through pursed lips.
- Focus on the rise and fall of your inhalation and exhalation, keeping your lips pursed as you go.
3. Visualizing Breath
This is an excellent way to activate your parasympathetic system and lower your heart rate. It’s great for those suffering from a stressful situation and who want to stay asleep. This is my personal favorite and has helped me fall asleep faster than any other breathing exercise.
- Inhale through your mouth, visualizing the air that travels through the nose and going back out of your mouth again. Imagine that it moves from all your body.
- Exhale and repeat the yogic breathing until the sleepiness begins.
4. Alternating Nostril Breathing
The rhythm of breathing through the nose helps keep your body less tense and excited. Use this mindful breathing method as you sit up.
- Breathe through your left nostril as you block the thumb or middle finger with the other one. Hold your breath for two to three seconds.
- Exhale by releasing the thumb or middle finger, then breathing through the other nostril.
- Repeat with the left nostril again, doing this four to eight times. Continue the rhythm until you feel relaxed and drowsy.
5. Meditative Breath
This is a short type of mindfulness meditation, taking only ten minutes without movement. It only requires inhalation and exhalation.
It focuses on the parasympathetic nervous system, which slows your heart rate for sleep. I not only use this for sleeping, but also when I’m feeling a little anxious.
- Lengthen your breaths before beginning. As you exhale, count to five, taking up all five seconds to complete your exhale.
- As you inhale, slowly count to five, taking the full five seconds to inhale.
- Continue in this way until you get to the fifth breath.
- Focus on your breath and the calming sensation.
6. Three-Part Yogic Breath
This is a straightforward exercise that helps calm you down for sleep. Here are three steps for it:
- Take a long and deep inhale. As you inhale, notice the air lifting first your belly, then your chest, then your collar bones.
- Hold your breath at the top for a few seconds.
- Slowly exhale, noticing that as you exhale, first your collar bones move down, then your chest, then your belly.
- Repeat a few times, slowing your exhaling as you go.
7. Bhramari Pranayama Breathing Exercise
Pranayama is an original kind of yogic breathing known to reduce stress levels effectively. It’s a great exercise to practice if you toss and turn in bed or need help to stay asleep at night.
- Close your eyes, breathing deeply in and out. Cover your ears using your hands.
- Place your fingers on your eyebrow (one each), with your other fingers covering your eyes.
- Apply gentle pressure on your nose, then with a closed mouth, breath out slowly while making the “om” sound.
- Repeat this five times.
I highly recommend that you do these breathing techniques with an oil diffuser and lavender oil or chamomile. When I use these, I fell asleep in a dreamlike fantasy land and woke up feeling fresh (without an alarm clock!).
More Tips On How to Fall Asleep Faster
Okay, I get it.
Sleeping better doesn’t just come down to a simple breathing technique.
There are a lot of factors that contribute to a good night’s rest. Here are a few other ways you can ensure that you get a good night’s rest tonight:
1. Proper Sleeping Position
Besides sleeping well, a good way to stay asleep without body pain is practicing good posture. I recommend that you sleep on your back or side with a proper pillow. This helps with spinal alignment compared to sleeping on your stomach, which holds no support.
But if you can’t change your sleeping position, use a body pillow that supports your sleeping posture. It helps keep your body aligned while lessening the pressure as you sleep straight.
2. Lowering Your Room’s Temperature
If the room is too hot, then it might be difficult for you to fall asleep. It’s best to sleep in a room with a temperature between 15 to 23 degrees Celsius, depending on your preference.
Besides that, avoid sleeping in bright light. The bright light makes it difficult to produce melatonin, a hormone for sleeping.
3. Keep a Consistent Sleep Schedule
Keeping a consistent schedule lessens the trouble of falling asleep, thanks to your body’s circadian rhythm.
This is your internal clock, which alerts your body to stay awake or fall asleep. It also encourages production of melatonin, a hormone to signal sleep. Through sleeping and waking up at the same times every day, it gets more comfortable to sleep naturally, without needing an alarm clock.
4. Avoid Napping
Daytime napping leads to trouble falling asleep at night, or even sleep deprivation. This is because you end up feeling awake at night from sleeping through the day, which messes with your circadian rhythm. Recommended by National Sleep Foundation, remove or shorten your naps to 30 minutes a day.
5. Eat and Exercise Better
Diet and exercise are crucial when improving your sleep. It develops your circadian rhythm and activates your parasympathetic nervous system.
Avoid taking caffeine or alcohol before sleeping and consider following an exercise routine in the morning. Also, avoid eating a huge meal right before sleeping and opt for light snacks or drinks, like chamomile tea.
6. Try Aromatherapy
Rather than using sleep medicine, many people use essential oils, such as lavender oil, to lessen the sleepless nights. You can use an essential oil diffuser or place a few drops on your pillow to inhale the scent. Through these relaxing scents, it can increase melatonin production and encourage slow-wave sleep.
7. Practice Calming Exercises Like Yoga or Meditation
Instead of taking sleep medicine, the National Sleep Foundation also suggests relaxation techniques.
Check out a yoga and meditation retreat to try mindfulness meditation, which relaxes your mind and body. A routine helps enhance your melatonin levels and assist your brain in sleeping quicker.
So, how can you make falling asleep easier? Through breathing exercises, relieving stress levels, and even turning off your bright light! All you need is to use these tips as a starting point to lessen stress and for falling asleep more easily.
If you have any questions or want to share your tips and experiences to relieve the dreaded toss and turn, then comment below. Your thoughts are much appreciated.
A few weeks ago, my seven-year-old son, Hayes, told me he was having trouble falling asleep. He said that he was having “many thoughts” at night and couldn’t stop his mind from thinking. I told him about a breathing practice that I had taught his older brother, Calder, a few years earlier, and I suggested that Hayes could try it while lying in bed at night to help him relax and fall asleep. The practice was simple: a few minutes of diaphragmatic breathing followed by a few minutes of consciously and gently extending each exhalation.
I was pleasantly stunned. I hadn’t realized that Calder was still using the practice I had taught him three years earlier. As I knelt on the living room floor to teach Hayes the same practice, I was reminded that pranayama, the fourth of the eight limbs of yoga outlined in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, does not have to be complicated.
Pranayama, which literally means “to extend the vital life force,” or prana, is an incredibly rich practice made up of many breathing techniques that vary in complexity from ones simple enough for a child to do to those appropriate only for advanced practitioners. While the best way to practice pranayama is under the guidance of an experienced teacher, there are simple techniques—such as gentle diaphragmatic breathing and comfortably lengthening the exhalation—that can be used at any time to transform not only your breath but also your state of mind.
In my work as a yoga therapist, I treat people struggling with a variety of issues, including depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances, chronic pain, and even life-threatening illness. Time and time again, I’ve seen simple pranayama practices reduce stress and anxiety; promote restful sleep; ease pain; increase attention and focus; and, on a more subtle level, help people connect to a calm, quiet place within so that they experience greater clarity and well-being on every level.
In the Yoga Sutra, Patanjali describes pranayama as a process by which you can break your unconscious breathing pattern and make the breath long, easeful, and smooth. Most people’s unconscious breathing patterns are anything but easeful and smooth; they tend to be tense, shallow, and erratic. When we are afraid or hear bad news, we often gasp—inhaling and then holding the breath. These breathing patterns can activate the sympathetic nervous system (often referred to as the “fight or flight response”).
One of the primary reasons that pranayama techniques that foster a long, smooth exhale (like the ones presented here) are so beneficial is because, when practiced correctly, they can support the parasympathetic nervous system and activate what is commonly known as the “relaxation response,” reducing stress and its effects on your body and mind. As a result, your resilience in the face of challenge or adversity increases, and your mind becomes more focused and still.
A Quiet Mind
The eight limbs of yoga outlined in the Yoga Sutra are a path to help you reach a state of Yoga, or focused concentration. But this focused concentration is not the end goal. As Patanjali tells us, the result of reaching this state of attention is that you experience clearer perception and a greater connection with your true Self.
When you’re connected with your true Self, it becomes easier to see what is not your true Self—your mind, body, thoughts, feelings, job, and essentially all of the changing circumstances around you. This discernment allows you to act from a place of the Self, and when you do that, you experience less suffering.
Pranayama is an important tool to get you to this state of more focused concentration, leading you to clearer perception, a greater connection with the Self, and ultimately a happier life. In Yoga Sutra 2.52, Patanjali writes, “As a result , the covering that blocks our own inner light is reduced.” In other words, through the practice of pranayama, you can reduce all of the mental noise—the agitation, distractions, and self-doubt—that prevents you from connecting with your own inner light, your true Self. In this way, pranayama can have a profound effect on your life.
Intro to Pranayama: 3 Practices to Get Started
Though practice of pranayama is safest and most effective when guided by an experienced teacher who knows your needs and capabilities, there are several simple techniques you can try at home as long as you’re in good health and you don’t push beyond your capacity.
The three breathing practices that follow—relaxed, diaphragmatic breathing; Sitali (or Sitkari) Pranayama; and gentle “extended exhale” breathing—are a good introduction to pranayama. Each supports the parasympathetic nervous system, quiets the mind, and helps to bring about a state of more focused attention. As you continue to practice these techniques over time, you may start to notice when you are unintentionally holding your breath or breathing shallowly. You also may begin to associate patterns of the breath with your moods or states of mind. This self awareness is the first step toward using the practices of pranayama to help shift your patterns and, through regular practice, create positive change in your life.
Try each practice daily for a week and observe how it affects your body, breath, and mind in order to figure out which is best for you. You can do them at just about any time of day, though preferably not immediately following a large meal.
Basic Breath Awareness
This gentle introduction to diaphragmatic breathing teaches you how to breathe more fully and consciously.
Quiets and calms the entire nervous system, reducing stress and anxiety and improving self-awareness.
At least once a day, at any time.
Lie comfortably on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor about hip-distance apart. Place a palm on your abdomen and breathe comfortably for a few moments, noticing the quality of your breath. Does the breath feel tense? strained? uneven? shallow? Simply observe the breath without any judgment. Then gradually begin to make your breathing as relaxed and smooth as possible, introducing a slight pause after each inbreath and outbreath.
Once the breath feels relaxed and comfortable, notice the movement of the body. As you inhale, the abdomen naturally expands; as you exhale, feel the slight contraction of the abdomen. In a gentle way, try to actively expand the abdomen on the inhale and contract the abdomen on the exhale to support the natural movement of the diaphragm and experience the pleasure of giving yourself a full, relaxed breath. Continue the practice for 6 to 12 breaths.
The Cooling Breath (Sitali/Sitkari Pranayama)
Sitali Pranayama is often translated as “the cooling breath” because the act of drawing the air across the tongue and into the mouth is said to have a cooling and calming effect on the nervous system. To practice Sitali, you need to be able to curl the sides of your tongue inward so that it looks like a straw. The ability to curl the tongue is a genetic trait. If you can’t, try an alternative technique called Sitkari Pranayama, which offers the same effects.
Can improve focus; reduce agitation, anger, and anxiety; and pacify excess heat in the system.
Twice a day, or as needed during stressful times. Sitali and Sitkari Pranayama are particularly supportive when you’re feeling drowsy in the morning or during an afternoon slump when you need to improve your focus.
Sit comfortably, either in a chair or on the floor, with your shoulders relaxed and your spine naturally erect. Slightly lower the chin, curl the tongue lengthwise, and project it out of the mouth to a comfortable distance. Inhale gently through the “straw” formed by your curled tongue as you slowly lift your chin toward the ceiling, lifting only as far as the neck is comfortable. At the end of the inhalation, with your chin comfortably raised, retract the tongue and close the mouth. Exhale slowly through the nostrils as you gently lower your chin back to a neutral position. Repeat for 8 to 12 breaths.
Open the mouth slightly with your tongue just behind the teeth. Inhale slowly through the space between the upper and lower teeth, letting the air wash over your tongue as you raise your chin toward the ceiling. At the end of the inhalation, close the mouth and exhale through the nostrils as you slowly lower your chin back to neutral. Repeat for 8 to 12 breaths.
The Long Exhale
This 1:2 breathing practice, which involves gradually increasing your exhalation until it is twice the length of your inhalation, relaxes the nervous system.
Can reduce insomnia, sleep disturbances, and anxiety.
Before bedtime to help support sleep, in the middle of the night when you’re struggling with insomnia, or at any time of the day to calm stress or anxiety. (In general, it’s best to avoid practicing 1:2 breathing first thing in the morning unless you’re experiencing anxiety. The relaxing effects of the practice tend to make it more difficult to get up and go on with your day.)
Begin by lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart. Place a palm on the abdomen and take a few relaxed breaths, feeling the abdomen expand on the inhalation and gently contract on the exhalation. With your palm on your abdomen, mentally count the length of each inhalation and exhalation for several more breaths. If the inhalation is longer than the exhalation, you can begin to make them the same length over the next few breaths.
Once your inhalation and exhalation are equal, gradually increase the length of your exhalation by 1 to 2 seconds by gently contracting the abdomen. As long as the breath feels smooth and relaxed, continue to gradually increase the exhalation by 1 to 2 seconds once every few breaths. Make sure you experience no strain as the exhalation increases and keep going until your exhalation is up to twice the length of the inhalation, but not beyond. For example, if your inhalation is comfortably 4 seconds, do not increase the length of your exhalation to more than 8 seconds.
Keep in mind that even an exhalation that is only slightly longer than the inhalation can induce a calming effect, so take care that you don’t push yourself beyond your capacity. (If you do, you’ll likely activate the sympathetic nervous system, or stress response, and feel agitated rather than calm.)
If your breath feels uncomfortable or short, or if you’re gasping on the next inhalation, back off to a ratio that is more comfortable for 8 to 12 breaths. Then finish your practice with 6 to 8 natural, relaxed breaths.
Kate Holcombe is the founder and president of the nonprofit Healing Yoga Foundation in San Francisco.
5 Breathing Techniques To Help You Drift Off
Sleep can be an elusive thing which is why we’re constantly on the hunt for the be-all and end-all trick to nodding off, whether this is banishing our phone to a distant corner of the house or changing our diet.
However, with stress and anxiety being a common cause of sleepless nights, finding ways to banish these feelings before our head hits the pillow seems the best practice. But how to go about it? Yoga and meditation are good choices, but certain breathing techniques can be just as effective.
What are Breathing Techniques?
Finding ways to rid ourselves of stresses from the day is crucial when on the quest for a good night’s sleep. We can all find it hard to switch off, but the answer could lie in something as simple as the way we breathe. As both a voluntary and involuntary action, we can take control of our breathing as and when we wish. Breathing affects the rest of our body, so by learning how to take control of our breathing, we can change how breathing affects our body, too.
Controlled breathing has long featured in Eastern health exercises, with many finding their way to the practice via yoga. Whichever way you come across it the effect of the action is that more oxygen enters the body while carbon dioxide goes out. This has a range of benefits with the main effect being a relaxation response to the body’s fight or flight response that occurs when stressed.
As well as relaxing our fight or flight response to stressful situations it can also help to manage anxiety. Controlled breathing stimulates the vagus nerve, releasing a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine. This decreases feelings of anxiety, increases focus and promotes feelings of calm.
Controlled breathing also results in lower heart rate and blood pressure when practised consistently. These calming and relaxing benefits are all ideal for helping us to banish anxious thoughts and feelings and settle down easily for sleep.
1 – The 4-7-8 routine
Developed by Dr Andrew Weil, this technique relaxes and de-stresses. To try this yourself do the following: exhale through your mouth, making a ‘whoosh’ sound. Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose as you count to four. Hold your breath for a count of seven and exhale through the mouth again in the same way for a count of eight. Repeat this four times.
2 – Meditative breathing
The very first step in mindfulness meditation is learning to regulate your breathing. It requires some concentration, but it’s worth it once the relaxing effect takes hold. Connect with the rise and fall of your breath within your body, where you feel movement as you breathe and how the sensation of breathing feels. You should feel your muscles relax and loosen as you practise this for 8 to 10 minutes.
3 – Double exhalation
This technique helps to keep us from thinking about stressful things and is much more effective than counting sheep! Slow breathing such as this also helps to reset the autonomic nervous system by synchronising neural elements in the brain, heart and lungs. To do this yourself, simply exhale twice as long as you inhale. The practice is particularly common in yoga.
4 – Alternate your nostrils
It might seem a little odd but breathing through your nose sends signals of relaxation to the brain. Breathing through your mouth, however, is an indication of stress. Commonly you breathe through your mouth when unwell, scared, fatigued and when your heart rate is elevated.
To try this sit in a relaxed position and close your left nostril with your right ring finger to inhale. Swap your nostrils to exhale. Keep your eyes closed throughout and practice until you begin to feel calmer.
5 – Deep breathing
This routine is ideal as you get to lie down while doing it, putting you in the perfect position to fall right to sleep. Lie on your back, legs hip distance apart, arms relaxing at the side of your body. Take a few deep inhales through the nose and exhale through your mouth. Each time you inhale aim to fill your lungs and rid them entirely of air when you exhale.
After you have done this three times, take a deep nose inhalation for four counts, constricting the back of the throat, so it feels like you are breathing through a straw. It should sound a little bit like snoring. Hold the breath for a count of four before exhaling through the nose in the same way for a count of four again. Each time you repeat the breath try to breathe and hold the breath for an excess of two more counts until you reach the maximum you can manage. Then begin holding less until you are back to 4 counts at which point you should be ready for sleep.
If you tried any of these breathing techniques let us know what you thought in the comments section.
A deep breathing trick can make insomniacs drop off to sleep in under one minute, a health expert has claimed.
The method involves making a loud whooshing noise with the mouth then holding the breath in stages.
Called the ‘4-7-8’ method, it has been pioneered by the US sleep expert Dr Andrew Weil who claims that the technique works by calming the mind and relaxing the muscles.
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One in three Britons suffers from poor sleep, with stress, computers and taking work home often blamed for the lack of quality rest.
Regular poor sleep puts you at risk of serious medical conditions including obesity, heart disease and diabetes – and it shortens your life expectancy.
But Dr Weil, founder of the Arizona Centre for Intergrative Medicine at the University of Arizona, claims a simple alteration to normal breathing could be the answer.
“This comes from yoga and in yoga breathing you have to keep the tip of the tongue behind the upper front teeth,” he said.
“ You breathe in through your nose quietly and blow air out forcefully through your mouth making a whoosh sound. It takes all of about 30 seconds so there is no excuse for not doing it.
Plagued by anxiety night after night? Relying on over-the-counter meds? Just not getting the seven hours your body requires? If any of this sounds all too familiar, this breathing trick will help you get to bed sooner — no prescriptions required.
The exercise is called the 4-7-8 technique, and Dr. Andrew Weil calls it a “natural tranquiliser for the nervous system.” Study after study has linked meditation to lowered stress levels, and this easy-to-follow exercise will help you reap some of the de-stressing benefits that come along with consistent meditation practice. Beyond bedtime, Dr. Weil recommends performing this exercise whenever dealing with a stressful situation. The next time you can’t curb sugar cravings, get into a fight with your partner, or can’t hit the hay because you’re overwhelmed, try it out for yourself. You’ll start feeling more relaxed immediately. Here’s how to do it:
- Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth, and keep it there through the entire exercise.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
- Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
- Hold your breath for a count of seven.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
- This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat three more times for a total of four cycles.
For more explanation, plus a video tutorial, check out this video:
Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / THEM TOO
This “4-7-8” breathing hack could help you fall asleep in 60 seconds or less
Despite the important role sleep plays in the quality of our lives, approximately one-third of adults fail to get a good night’s sleep every day.
It can be a real challenge to fall asleep when your mind is alert with anxious thoughts about work, bills, and life.
But, if we don’t learn to sleep well, how can we perform at our best every day? Good sleep gives us the necessary energy, health and mental edge required to make consistent progress towards our goals.
One of the best ways to fall asleep quicker is by practicing deep breathing exercises.
Here’s one of the most effective techniques—it’s called the “4-7-8” breathing technique.
The 4-7-8 Breathing Technique
Harvard trained medical doctor, Dr. Andrew Weil, first introduced the “4-7-8” breathing technique to help people alleviate anxiety and sleep quicker.
Here’s how it works.
Step 1: Sit down on a chair and keep your back straight.
Step 2: Place the tip of your tongue against the mouth tissue just behind your upper front teeth.
Step 3: Inhale for 4 seconds
Step 4: Hold your breath for 7 seconds
Step 5: Exhale (through your mouth) for 8 seconds
Congratulations, you just completed one round of “4-7-8” breathing. Rinse and repeat for at least 4 rounds.
Note: Make sure to keep your tongue in the same position throughout. You can also repeat this exercise twice or more every day. If you feel light headed at any point stop the exercise.
Here’s a quick video demonstration by Dr. Weil himself on how to do this properly.
The 4-7-8 Breathing Exercise Video
1. Research studies by Institute of Medicine also showing that sleep deprivation could be linked to diabetes, obesity, depression and other health problems.
2. Studies on effect of deep breathing exercises on blood pressure and heart rate.
3.Thanks to Dr. Weil for his work on this.
4.The 4-7-8 breathing technique is similar pranayamic breathing. Respiratory practices that improve sleep by reducing stress and blood pressure issues.
The Simple Breathing Technique That Helped Me Fall Asleep So Much Faster
There’s nothing worse than finally making it into bed after a long day at work and then being unable to actually fall asleep. We’ve all been there—laying wide awake, getting increasingly stressed at how much valuable shut eye we’re losing with each passing minute.
In an effort to cure this problem, I decided to try the 4-7-8 exercise—a popular breathing technique that’s supposed to help you fall asleep in under one minute.
The practice is easy: Breathe in through your nose for four seconds, hold your breath for seven, exhale through your mouth for eight. It was developed in this way so that you take in more air on your inhales, let the oxygen hit your bloodstream by holding your breath, and slow down your heart rate on your exhales.
It sounded simple enough to me. However, the first time I tried it I felt silly. As a perfectionist, I was so focused on counting right that it actually made me more awake. So the next night, I decided to just let my breathing go for as long as it felt right—in, hold, out—instead of counting the exact seconds. This worked so much better that after a few breaths, it happened naturally. I woke up the next morning feeling great and I couldn’t actually remember when I’d fallen asleep.
In conclusion: It works!
Gif courtesy of GIPHY
So, here’s what I’d recommend for anyone who wants to test this out: Take it at your own pace. The practice is not about holding for exactly seven seconds or taking five specific breaths—it’s about tuning into your breathing and simultaneously letting go of whatever else is on your mind.
Tonight, when you lie down in your bed, focus intently on your breathing and let each inhale and exhale unwind you more and more. If it’s not working (fast enough), try to relax each individual limb from toe to head with every new breath. You’ll fall asleep so quickly you’ll forget you were ever stressed!
Have you ever wondered why you have two nostrils instead of one big one?
Our body is a finely tuned machine operating on positive and negative electrical currents. In the ancient science of Kundalini Yoga, we are taught that there are two energies called Ida and Pingala that intertwine up the sides of the spine and that unite to form the Sushmana, the central channel.
The Ida energy, on the left, is the moon energy: reflective, calming, cooling, female. The right is Pingala and has the energy of the sun: bright, fiery, awakening and male.
We compare these systems in our Western terminology as the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. The sympathetic system, Pingala, is the fight or flight system and charges you up in times of danger. The parasympathetic system, Ida, slows you down and helps your body automatically run its day to day jobs of digestion, elimination, sleep cycles and more.
When you need to calm down, when your mind is racing faster than a hurricane, or when you can’t go to sleep, try left nostril (Ida) breathing. Simply take your right hand and, with your fingers outstretched, block off your right nostril by putting gentle pressure on it with your right thumb. Be sure to keep the rest of your fingers straight and pointing up towards the sky; the fingers act like antennas for the “cosmic” energy that surrounds us all. (Alternately, if sticking your fingers up in front of all your friends might not be the most appropriate thing to do, use any finger to block off the side of the nose)
With a long, slow, deep breath, gently inhale through your left nostril. Then, just as gently, exhale long, slowly and completely, again through the left nostril. Relax your body as you feel the relaxing, cooling breath bringing new life into your body. Relax even deeper with each exhale as you breathe out all tension, all stress, and all disease.
Here’s an alternative rhythm you can use for left nostril breathing. (The key to life is rhythm. It is said that God has a hard time hearing your prayers if they aren’t rhythmic) Try breathing in through the left nostril as described using different “counts”. Inhale for 4 beats, hold the breath for 4 beats, and exhale for 4 beats. To help you count, use a mantra.
For instance, inhale using the mantra Sa Ta Na Ma (all have the “ah” sound) as a way to count to four. Hold the breath mentally chanting Sa Ta Na Ma again, at the same speed. And finally, exhale mentally vibrating Sa Ta Na Ma.
The mantra (a mantra is the projection (tra) of the mind (man)) Sa Ta Na Ma means I am that Infinite One. Each sound represents a particular aspect of Infinity: SA is infinity, TA is birth, NA is death, and MA is rebirth.
You can, with practice, increase the length of breathing and holding by increasing the repetitions of the mantra. If you want to try an 8 cycle (breathing in 8, hold 8, exhale 8) repeat the Sa Ta Na Ma mantra twice on the inhale, twice on the hold and twice on the exhale.
The benefits of left nostril breathing are numerous including sharper, clearer focus of the mind, and a deep, full relaxation or sleep. It is said in the Yogic tradition, as taught by Yogi Bhajan, that if a person breathes through the left nostril for 31 minutes a day for 90 days (the time it takes to plant a new habit into the subconscious) they will naturally change their metabolism in favor of relaxation and weight loss.
Be sure to compare this with right nostril breathing and alternate nostril breathing.
As with any meditation I will teach here, feel free to start with a shorter practice time and slowly, as your tolerance and confidence increase, you can build up the amount of time you practice. With Kundalini Yoga meditations a good starting time is 3 minutes
© The Teachings of Yogi Bhajan
What Are the Benefits and Risks of Alternate Nostril Breathing?
Alternate nostril breathing may help to:
- relax your body and mind
- reduce anxiety
- promote overall well-being
These benefits, in turn, may help you to be more focused and aware.
You can use this breathing technique to help manage stresses in your daily life. You may also find that practicing alternate nostril breathing helps you to be more mindful of the present moment.
In the news
- Hilary Clinton wrote in her book ”What Happened” that she used alternate nostril breathing after her loss of the 2018 United States presidential election to manage stress and anxiety.
1. Lowers stress and improves cardiovascular function
One of the main benefits of alternate nostril breathing is that it may lower stress. A 2013 study found that people who practiced alternate nostril breathing lowered their perceived stress levels.
These results were also shown in the group that practiced fast breathing techniques such as breath of fire.
In the same study, alternate nostril breathing was the only type of breath work that was found to have a positive effect on cardiovascular function. It was shown to significantly lower factors such as heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood pressure.
After 12 weeks of practice, the participants had improvement in heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood pressure. The participants were taught the practice for 30 minutes three times per week by a certified yoga instructor.
2. Improves lung function and respiratory endurance
Yogic breathing practices may improve lung function and respiratory endurance. A small 2017 study examined the effects of pranayama practice on the lung functions of competitive swimmers and found that it had a positive effect on respiratory endurance.
Improved respiratory endurance may also improve athletic performance.
The swimmers in the study did alternate nostril breathing in addition to two other breathing practices for 30 minutes, five days a week for one month. Larger, more in-depth studies are needed to expand upon these findings.
3. Lowers heart rate
Lowering your heart rate can help to promote cardiovascular health. According to a 2006 study, engaging in a slow yogic breath such as alternative nostril breathing may significantly decrease heart rate and average breathing rhythm.
Alternate nostril breathing may be a useful method to help you lower your heart rate in the moment, too.
Further research is needed to better understand the long-term effects on heart rates and breathing patterns.
4. Promotes well-being
Alternate nostril breathing may enhance overall health and well-being. It has also been shown to have a positive effect on mental health by reducing stress and anxiety.
Research from 2011 found that a six-week alternative nostril breathing program had a positive impact on physical and physiological fitness-based performance. The breathing technique was found to have a positive influence on blood pressure, heart rate, and vital capacity.
Furthermore, a 2018 review found that different types of yogic breathing have many positive benefits for your health, including improvements to neurocognitive, respiratory, and metabolic functions in healthy people.
Alternate nostril breathing was also found to increase breath awareness and have a beneficial effect on the nervous system.
The Powerful Yogic Technique That Brings Deeper Sleep
Breathing well has been at the cornerstone of my practice for years.
In my training as a yoga teacher, we learned how to teach a full range of pranayama, or yogic breathing practice.
Each practice is designed to create a different effect in the mind and body. Each one has a different application.
It is an elegant form of working with one’s energy on a more subtle level than yoga asana, or the poses we think of as “yoga.”
When I taught, I would always close with a few minutes of pranayama to help students integrate the practice and to prepare them for the outside world.
These practices, even just for a few repetitions, can often be more potent than a full hour of asana.
SEE ALSO: Buddha’s 6 Rules Of Love
The Power of Breathing
I didn’t fully understand its power until I was on an overnight bus speeding across Patagonia.
I was traveling with my dude and we were traveling from Puerto Madryn on the Atlantic Coast, to Bariloche, in the Andes mountains, in Patagonia.
The bus trip took fourteen hours, and within 15 minutes of boarding, my dude was asleep. For the next twelve hours.
I read for a bit, but really craved sleep. The rattling of the double-decker bus wasn’t particularly conducive, and the seats didn’t recline. So I fell back on my yoga training.
Before long, I was waking up with the sun coming up over the Patagonian mountains.
How did I do it? I used a simple alternate-nostril breathing practice.
With this simple meditation, I was able to fall asleep on the bus and enjoy fairly restful sleep, given the circumstances.
I’ve been using the practice at least weekly ever since, for a whole range of self-care needs.
I love this practice for any kind of sleeplessness, especially related to anxiety.
I also find it’s beneficial for motion sickness or nausea, and sensations of claustrophobia.
I also use this as a meditation if I’m feeling overwhelmed, trying to make a difficult decision, or preparing for a difficult conversation.
To me, it feels like a miracle practice.
Background on Nadi Shodhana Pranayama
Nadi Shodhana Pranayama, or alternate-nostril breathing, quiets the mind and brings balance to the hemispheres of the brain.
It comes from classical yoga breathing practice, called pranayama, that are designed to create a variety of energetic effects in the body and mind, in order to prepare, ultimately, for deep meditation.
Instructions for Alternate-Nostril Breathing:
Sit comfortably with your eyes closed and your back upright. Bring your left hand to rest in your lap.
You’ll use the right hand for this pranayama, if possible. Bring your right forefinger and middle finger to your third eye space.
Bring the ring and pinky fingers to close the left nostril.
Inhale through the right side. Bring your thumb to close the right nostril, release the left-side fingers.
Exhale from the left nostril. Inhale through the left nostril. Close the left nostril with the ring and pinky fingers. Lift the thumb.
Exhale from the right nostril. Then begin the pattern over again, and repeat for a few minutes.
If you get lost, or distracted, bring your awareness back to the breath, and remember the pattern:
Exhale, inhale; switch sides.
Exhale, inhale; switch sides.
Once you’re accustomed to the rhythm, try the practice without using your hands, simply guiding the air through one nostril and then the other using your awareness and energy (rather than your hand). It’s a wonderful way to experiment with energy work.
I hope you enjoy integrating this meditation into your self-care repertoire! I’d love to hear about how you use it in your own life.
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