In a world that’s racing by us, it’s hardly a surprise that many of us are plagued with racing thoughts. All the new information our brain acquires during the day including the anxious thoughts we’ve been trying to ignore catches up at night. The tension from the day can cause our minds to work overtime at night.
The proper amount and quality of sleep are essential for feeling well and maintaining health, yet many individuals have trouble getting the rest they require. Many people say they have problems falling or staying asleep, and nearly one-third sleep for less than seven hours per night.
As early as the first millennium B.C., both Hinduism and China's Tao religion emphasized a "vital principle" that flows through the body – a type of energy or internal breath – and both saw respiration as one of its manifestations. This energy is known as Prana in Hinduism and Qi in China (one of the key concepts of yoga).
Pranayam (retention of breath) Yoga was the first school of thought to develop a theory around respiratory control, contending that controlled breathing may improve all-around quality of life and lengthen life. Among other things, Pranayam comprises some outstanding exercises for sleep.
Published in 1890, “Breathing in India” was a compilation of many colonial-era Hindustani meditation texts. The Merck Manual, which was released in 1899, has over the years grown considerably to become one of the most well-liked and complete medical resources for professionals and patients alike. It has a section dedicated to breathing exercises.
Simple breathing exercises during the day and at bedtime could increase melatonin production in the body. Various relaxation techniques could enhance your sleep. They can also be used to calm us down after we wake up from loud noises or nightmares, or as an alternative to our phones before bed.
Breathing techniques can improve your life in several ways, including stress reduction, sleep prevention, emotion regulation, and attentiveness. They influence both physiological (by activating the parasympathetic nervous system) and psychological variables.
Breathing is a fundamental component of all relaxation, calming, and meditation techniques. It is possible that breathing is the common denominator among all methods for soothing the body and mind.
Some of the most effective breathing techniques are listed as follows:
An activity that promotes slower, more relaxed breaths is belly breathing, commonly referred to as abdominal or diaphragmatic breathing. Most people are used to using their neck and chest muscles to take shallow breaths. The diaphragm, a crucial breathing muscle positioned at the base of the chest, is activated by belly breathing in the following manner:
Choose a comfortable posture to sit or lay down in, and place one hand on your chest and the other just above your belly button on your tummy.
Inhale deeply through your nose, paying attention to how your tummy rises as you breathe and your palm on your chest stays still.
When you exhale, let the hand that is resting on your tummy slowly drop.
Count each breath you take while using only your diaphragm, feeling your hand rise and fall. Relax and resume regular breathing after 20 belly breaths.
Bhramari Pranayam Breathing
Bhramari Pranayam is a yogic breath-control technique. In it, the practitioner covers their eyes and ears while making a buzzing or humming noise. There are multiple steps in this breathing exercise:
Choose a comfortable seat and cover your ears with your thumbs to muffle outside noises.
Close your eyes with the remaining fingers of your hand while positioning your index fingers above your eyebrows and your thumbs over your ears.
Inhale deeply, then gently exhale through your nostrils while humming or buzzing, and pay attention to the space in between your eyebrows.
You can practise deep breathing as much as you like to unwind.
4-7-8 breathing sometimes referred to as “soothing breath”, is a pranayam-based deep rhythmic breathing technique. To lower anxiety and encourage restful sleep, this breathing exercise incorporates a typical sequence of inhaling, holding the breath, and exhaling. Use these five steps to try this breathing exercise:
Let your lips separate and exhale loudly through your mouth to thoroughly empty your lungs.
Close your mouth and take a slow, quiet breath through your nose while counting to four.
Count to seven while holding your breath.
Take a leisurely, eight-count exhalation through your mouth.
After around six cycles, return to your regular breathing.
Box breathing is a method that incorporates visualization and breathing exercises. Box breathing, as the name suggests, entails picturing a box with four sides to serve as a reminder of the rhythm and duration of each breath. There are various ways to complete this exercise:
After exhaling, begin to softly inhale through your nose while counting to four.
Continue holding your breath for four more counts.
For a count of four, slowly exhale through your mouth.
As you exhale, keep your breath held for one more count of four.
If necessary, repeat this breathing method.
Alternate Nasal Breathing Exercise
Nadi Shodhan Pranayam is another name for the alternative nostril or alternate nasal breathing technique. This practice is excellent for learning and mastering deep breathing and controlling the rate and pattern of your breathing by pinching one nostril at a time. The following steps make it up:
Cross your legs as you sit down.
Breathe deeply through your left nostril for six seconds while blocking your right nostril with your right thumb.
Hold your breath for six seconds while blocking your left nostril with your index finger.
Clear your right nostril, then exhale for six seconds through that nostril.
Inhale for six seconds through your right nostril.
Use your thumb to cover your right nostril and hold your breath for six seconds.
Clear your left nostril, then exhale for six seconds via that nostril.
Continue doing this breathing exercise many times.
According to a study published in the International Journal of Yoga in 2013, participants who practiced nasal breathing felt less anxious afterward.
Three-part Breathing Exercise
The easy-to-follow steps of this breathing technique are:
Start by inhaling deeply.
Exhale thoroughly while focusing closely on your body and how it feels.
Once you've repeated this a few times, lengthen your exhalation to equal the length of your inhalation.
The simplicity of this method makes some people prefer it to all other breathing exercises.
You can control your breathing by using the Buteyko breathing technique, which bears the name of the doctor who developed it. Do the following to use Buteyko breathing while you sleep:
Spend around 30 seconds breathing naturally through your nose while lying in bed with your mouth softly closed (not pursed).
Take a deeper, more deliberate breath through your nose once.
Gently pinch your nose closed with your thumb and forefinger, keeping your lips closed as well until you feel that you need to take a breath again.
Continue to breathe deeply through your nose while keeping your mouth closed.
Many people are hyperventilating without realizing it. This practice aids in resetting your breathing pattern.
Papworth Breathing Technique
The Papworth approach incorporates many breathing strategies. To breathe more naturally, you concentrate on your diaphragm:
If using this method to fall asleep, sit up straight, possibly in bed.
Breathe deeply and deliberately, counting to four with each inhale (mouth or nose) and each exhalation (the nose should be used).
Pay attention to how your abdomen rises and falls, and listen for sounds that indicate your stomach is producing breath.
The yawning and sighing tendencies can be reduced with the help of this calming technique.
A breathing exercise and relaxing visions are both parts of guided imagery. Before beginning this activity, think about the kinds of imagery that you could find relaxing. While some people prefer an imagined scenario, such as floating in the ocean or on a soft cloud, others may enjoy recalling a calming memory, like time spent on vacation.
Once you've decided on an image, visualize it while engaging in a breathing activity like diaphragmatic breathing. Choose a video or podcast that gives guided imagery for sleep if you're having trouble conjuring up a calming image.
Continue taking slow, deep breaths while you concentrate on each of your five senses (the sights, sounds, scents, tastes, and feelings) that you would experience throughout the visualization to heighten your state of relaxation.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation and Deep Breathing
With this method, you inhale as you contract a muscle group and exhale as you relax it. Your physical and mental relaxation is aided by progressive muscle relaxation.
Get into a comfortable, spine-straight position by lying down on your back or sitting up straight in a chair.
To help you ponder and focus, close your eyes or glance down.
Start by only observing your breath. Do you exhale and inhale from your chest? Do you breathe slowly or quickly?
Start breathing intentionally as you maintain a comfortable, steady posture with your shoulders. Breathe in slowly and deeply through your nose. Feel your center widen as the breath fills your body.
Keep your attention on your breath and pay attention to how your center rises and falls as you breathe. Continue for another five to ten breath cycles. Relax the tense muscles in your feet as you exhale.
Consider how your body is feeling as you inhale deeply. Do some locations seem to be tenser than others? Imagine your body releasing tension and stress with each inhale.
While deep breathing, pull in the calf muscles.
Let out a sigh. Calf tightness should be released.
Go up your body in stages. Each muscle should be tensed. This covers your fingers, arms, shoulders, neck, and face, as well as your legs, abdomen, and chest.
Deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation have been found to enhance relaxation. It demonstrates an instantaneous rise in physiological arousal followed by a swift decline to baseline levels, while progressive muscle relaxation demonstrates an immediate linear trend toward physiological relaxation.
Bedtime Breathing Routine
While adding these workouts into your evening regimen, persistence is essential. You can further optimize your night-time breath work by following these recommendations:
• Examine the following for further sound sleep advice: One thing you can use at night to help with sleep improvement is relaxation exercises. Think about including additional components of good sleep hygiene. Keeping a regular bedtime and avoiding caffeine and heavy meals in the evening.
• See a physician: Although relaxation techniques like deep breathing can ease anxiety and promote sleep, consulting a physician or sleep specialist should always come first. It's crucial to seek support from a healthcare provider if you frequently struggle to fall or stay asleep.
To determine which breathing technique is best for you, try out a few different ones:
Make a minimal effort. In turn, tension and stress may increase.
Avoid being overly apathetic. You should have a focal point. This enables you to change your attention from unpleasant events to a rhythm that makes you feel calmer.
Try to do your breathing exercises every day at the same time. It will be easier to form a habit as a result.
Aim to spend 10 to 20 minutes daily practicing the relaxation techniques of your choice.
Whichever breathing method you prefer, it is undeniable that regular breathing exercises and adhering to a disciplined routine can help relax, sleep, and breathe more naturally and effectively.
With so many exercises for sleep available, you can find yourself falling asleep without even realizing it.