While respiratory techniques are commonly used in yoga and as a means to stave off anxiety, breathing to fall asleep may be exactly what you need to calm your body and drift off peacefully and quickly. How does it work? The same way counting sheep does. The repetitive nature of monitoring and moderating your breathing lulls the brain into a relaxed state that, in turn, helps relax the body.
This may be the most obvious way of breathing to fall asleep, but wait just a minute before you discredit it! Slow, deep breathing has actually been shown to decrease both heart rate and blood pressure. The key here is to engage your diaphragm, abdominals, and lungs. By breathing slowly and deeply, you will be able to feel your lungs expand fully.
The most common method of breathing to fall asleep is known as 4-7-8 and was made popular by Dr. Andrew Weil, a Harvard-trained medical doctor who focuses on holistic health practices. The process is as follows:
- 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 the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.
The Telegraph notes that the key to success with this method of breathing to fall asleep is to do it religiously, at least twice a day. Another added benefit of this method is that it may lower stress levels.
Another method is to breathe in with one nostril and out with the other. This is based on the yoga practice of nadi shodhana and is believed to give the body a greater sense of balance. Interestingly, Psychology Today notes that mouth breathing indicates to the body it is in a stressed state, while nostril breathing communicates that it is in a state of homeostasis or equilibrium. This exercise should be done before bed, sitting up straight with your eyes closed.
Twice as Nice
Last on our list of methods of breathing to fall asleep is one that focuses on exhaling for twice the amount of time you inhaled. This is believed to have restorative and calming benefits. Count as you both inhale and exhale. If you inhale for three seconds, exhale for six. The focus on counting is known to keep your mind centered on the task at hand, and not on your inability to fall asleep. Breathing to fall asleep can help relax your body initially, while SHEEX® performance bedding allows you to stay relaxed and asleep longer so you wake up feeling well-rested and refreshed. Information for this article was sourced from Huffington Post, Medical Daily, Shape, Pop Sugar, Sleep Quality Mainly Depends on Breathing, and The Telegraph.