Have you ever found yourself spending long hours on your bed without sleep? There’s good news! Just a few breathing exercises can change the quality of your life, including sleeping patterns. They are quite simple, do not take long, and many of them do not require a special place to practice them.
Breathing exercises are good at calming down your nervous system, in the process staving off insomnia and making your body ready for sleep. Training your breath is much the same as any other exercise. You perfect with more attempts, leading to a faster night’s sleep, even in a noisy environment.
With proper breathing exercises, you can breathe better during the day and drift off to a peaceful sleep every night. Here are six great practices to try out. Add them to your nightly bedtime routine, and you’ll experience sound sleep. Apart from the last one, you can do all of these breathing exercises with your eyes closed while lying in your bed on the back.
Humming Bee Breath
The yogis know the humming bee breath as “brahmari.” This is the Sanskrit name for the bee. The exercise involves creating a buzzing sound that is soothing for any spinning mind. The practice lengthens your breathing out without straining much.
To practice humming bee breath, sit comfortably with your back straight and shoulders relaxed. Take a few natural breaths, then close your eyes (if you get more anxious with closed eyes, keep them open). Keep your lips tightly sealed and follow these simple steps:
- Inhale slowly and deeply through your nostrils
- Using your index fingers, close off your ears in preparation for exhalation. This helps to heighten the focus on the buzz and the effect.
- Slowly exhale while humming with the help of your throat
One thing you should understand about this practice is that sustaining the humming exhalation for longer periods results in more relaxation. However, the reverse effect can occur when you force the breath beyond your capacity, leading to increased stress and less sleep. So, keep everything comfortable.
When there’s stress on your body, you tend to breathe faster in order to get in more air. What you need to do at such times is to trick it into a relaxed state by making your exhalation longer than inhalation. For instance, take six counts while exhaling and three when inhaling.
You’re free to change the number of counts, but ensure you are prolonging exhalation in relation to inhalation. This kind of slow, deep breathing is called pranayamic breathing. It helps to reset the autonomic nervous system.
Alternating Nostril Breath – Nadi shodana
There is a reason why you pant when you’re excited or nervous. While nasal breathing is good at keeping your body in a more relaxed and steady state, mouth inhale and exhale can really stress it. That’s why you should always use your nostrils to breathe. Nadi shodhana is a breathing control technique in yoga that can help you do this.
While you’re sitting up, gently block your left nostril with your finger before breathing in through the right one. Prior to exhaling, release the left and block the right nose with your finger. Breathe out through the open nostril. Continue with this process for about 12 rounds. Hitting even 8 counts may take time, but stay at it. It is practice anyway.
4-7-8 Relaxing Breath
This is an ancient Indian technique that Andrew Weil developed. Its literal meaning is “regulation of breath.” Weil himself describes it as the natural tranquilizer for your nervous system that can calm down and relax your body. It’s a very useful technique that can help you take control of your breathing.
If you practice it regularly, it can help in taking less time to fall asleep. It’s meant to bring your body into a deep relaxation state. The 4-7-8 technique involves holding your breath for a period of time to allow the body to replenish its oxygen. This gives your tissues and organs the necessary boost in terms of the essential gas.
It’s advisable to sit with the back straight while doing this exercise. Start by placing your tongue’s tip again the ridge of tissue that lies behind the upper front teeth. Keep it there throughout the entire exercise. Then, take the following steps:
- Completely exhale through your mouth. This can make a whoosh sound.
- With a closed mouth, inhale quietly through the nostrils to a count of four
- Hold breath to a count of seven
- Completely exhale through your mouth again to a count of eight
- Repeat the whole process four times
This exercise involves the activation of your parasympathetic system through a focus on your breath. This encourages it to relax, calm down, and lower the heart rate as you prepare to get a peaceful sleep.
When you’re inhaling, envision the air making a journey through your nose and the entire body, then back out again. Imagine that it is traveling through all your muscles, toes, and fingers, before coming back out during exhalation.
If you’re a beginner yogi, you’re probably aware of belly breathing, and it is an excellent introduction to yoga’s breath awareness. However, you’ll have to use your diaphragm for inhalation and exhalation if you’re going to advance in practice.
Many people begin yoga as “chest breathers.” That means they’re used to a very unhealthy pattern of breathing from the chest. It usually results in the overuse of neck and upper body muscles and underuse of the diaphragm. Since the accessory muscles tire off quickly, overusing them results in more fatigue and anxiety. You should avoid this.
Diaphragmatic breathing involves taking five deep breaths while one of your hands is resting on the lower abdomen and the other one on the chest. Inhalation should be up to a count of three and exhalation to three. Focus on how your hand rises and falls in relation to the inhale and exhales. This helps clear your mind.
Diaphragmatic breathing reduces the stimulation of fight or flight (the release of cortisol) and increases the release of melatonin and serotonin. Melatonin is necessary, so it is suggested that it be taken in the form of a supplement such as MidNite. This leads to a state of rest and restoration that can make you sleep much more easily.