Best Breathing Exercises for Sleep

Many people all over the world have sleep problems. If you want to improve the quality and duration of sleep, best breathing exercises can help you accomplish this. Take a look at Counting Sheep’s top suggestions for best breathing exercises for sleep, based on thorough research and verified experiences.

Written by:


, Sleep Researcher
Last Updated: Thu, July 18, 2019
Fact checked by:

Marko Jevtic

, Sleep Specialist

Many people in the United States have sleep problems. Of course, something like this is not surprising when you take into account our modern lifestyle. Our fast-paced society filled with long work hours, homework, financial issues, and other situations that are exhausting both physically and emotionally, can make it quite difficult to relax, unwind, and get a recommended number of hours of shut-eye at night.  

Sleep deprivation and different sleep disorders are more common than people even realize. According to research, 20% of adults aged between 25 and 45 years sleep 90 minutes less than the recommended amount. Among sleep disorders, insomnia is definitely the most common. Occasional insomnia is reported by around 30% of adults, whereas chronic insomnia is reported by approximately 10% of adults. Obstructive sleep apnea is also quite common, and it affects between 9% and 21% of women, and between 24% to 31% of men. 

Various stimulants including alarm clocks, blue light emitted from our favorite electronic devices, coffee, energy drinks, and more interfere with our sleep cycles. As a result, sleep deprivation is becoming more and more common. Digital revolution has made it quite challenging to get a sufficient amount of shut-eye as we feel the need to be connected 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Luckily, we can improve our quality and duration of sleep by using sleep aids such as sleeping pills, earplugs, and noise machines. Another very simple solution that can help you get a good night’s rest that you deserve is breathing.  

Advantages of Breathing Exercises for Sleep 

Breathing exercises can provide a simple and effective solution for people having troubles sleeping at night. They are a very useful tool for relaxing and clearing the mind as breathing is something that we can regulate and control. Slow and deep breathing helps us relax, calms our nervous system, and prepares our body for sleep. Focusing on breathing also helps us take our minds off worries, which provides stress relief, anxiety relief, and it lowers our blood pressure and slows down our heart rate.  

We all know that breathing keeps us alive. Also, most of us know that, when we inhale, we absorb oxygen. On the other hand, when we exhale, we get rid of carbon dioxide. Deep breathing benefits include encouraged removal of carbon dioxide from our systems, and cleansing of our bodies, which helps maintain an appropriate pH balance.  

What Should You Keep in Mind Before You Get Started? 

Many different breathing exercises for sleep are available that can help you relax and fall asleep faster. However, a few simple and basic principles apply to all of them. For example, it is the best idea to keep your eyes closed while trying to breathe deeply and slowly as something like this will help you shut out the distractions that can prevent you from engaging completely. Also, you should forget about your obligations and worries and focus solely on your breathing and the healing power of your breath.  

You can do breathing exercises anywhere, anytime, not just before bedtime. You can do them while you are at work, before an exam, before a meeting, or whenever else you feel the need to relax a bit. If you need help to fall asleep fast, these exercises are an excellent solution. Here are several exercises that you can try and determine which one is the best fit for you: 

Alternate Nasal Breathing Exercise 

This exercise includes closing one nostril with your thumb while breathing through the other nostril, and then doing the opposite, and it is a perfect solution for people whose minds tend to wander a lot. During this exercise, people need to focus on which nostril they are breathing through, and concentrating on this prevents them from thinking about other things that stress them out. Nasal breathing also sends signals of relaxation to the brain, while mouth breathing is an indication of stress. Studies have shown that people who tried this exercise felt less stressed afterwards.  

If you want to try this exercise, you should start by sitting with your legs crossed and placing your left hand on your knee. Use your right thumb to block your right nostril, and inhale through the left nostril. Then, use your right ring finger to close the left nostril, and exhale through your right nostril. After that, do the opposite. Basically, you are inhaling or exhaling throw one nostril while blocking the other. Repeat this for 5 minutes, or until you start feeling calmer. Also, don’t forget to keep your eyes closed during this exercise. Although it may seem a bit odd at first, you will get used to it quickly. Not only it is excellent for stress relief, but it can also help clear out your sinuses if you do it when you have a cold. 

Abdominal Breathing Exercise 

The purpose of this exercise is to train your diaphragm to do all the work, and it is also called diaphragmatic breathing exercise. It includes breathing through your nose and paying attention to how your belly fills up with air. You can do it either sitting down or while lying in bed. Deep abdominal breathing is very easy and effective, and it will strengthen your diaphragm.  

You should start by placing one hand on your abdomen and the other hand on your chest. To start, take 3 deep breaths through your nose, while keeping the hand on your chest still as the hand on your abdomen rises and falls while you are inhaling and exhaling. After that, breathe deeply several more times. Focus on the movement of your hand and forget about everything else.  

Visualizing Breathing Exercise 

This technique is an excellent solution if you want to relax your body and focus on your mind. It is all about visualization, which is often used in meditation classes. Focusing on breathing will prepare you for sleep by helping you relax, calm down, and lowering your heart rate. There are numerous variations of this technique. 

If you want to try it, you should relax and take a deep breath, while envisioning the air entering your nose and traveling through your body. Hold your breath for three seconds, and exhale through your mouth while imaging the air traveling out of your body. Repeat this until you feel calmer. You can also imagine yourself swinging slowly in a hammock, or being in a gently rocking boat. Variations are numerous, and you can use whatever form of visualization makes you feel calm. 

Meditative Breathing Exercise 

Another technique that you should try if you have troubles sleeping at night is meditative breathing. It will help you learn how to regulate your breathing and enjoy the relaxation benefits that it provides. Thanks to this method, you will experience relief from stress. It is also one of the best breathing exercises for anxiety. 

You should sit down on the floor or the bed with your back straight. Your head should be tucked slightly forward. You should focus on the rise and fall of your breath within your body, and concentrate on where you feel the movement as you breathe and how it feels. If you practice this between 8 and 10 minutes every day you will feel very relaxed before going to bed. 

Breath Counting Exercise 

This technique is an excellent way to keep your mind off stressful things while you are breathing, and it is commonly used in meditation. It will help you relax, and it will keep your mind focused. You can try it either sitting in a comfortable position with the spine straight or while lying in bed.  

You should start this breathing exercise by closing your eyes gently and breathing deeply a few times. After you exhale once you should count to one. The next time you exhale, you should count two, and repeat this process until you come to five, after which you should begin a new cycle, counting again one. You should count only when you exhale, and not when you inhale, and you shouldn’t count past five. This exercise will keep your mind focused on breathing and prevent it from wandering. 

The 4-7-8 Breathing Exercise 

The 4-7-8 breathing technique is becoming very popular because of its effectiveness. It is very simple, takes almost no time, and it can be done wherever you want and in any position. It is one of the most popular yoga breathing exercises. However, it is the best idea to sit while keeping your back straight when learning how to do this exercise.  

You should start by placing the tip of your tongue against the tissue behind the upper front teeth. Keep it there until the end of the exercise. First, you need to allow your lips to gently apart and exhale through your mouth. While exhaling make a whoosh sound. After that, you should close your mouth and silently inhale through your nose for a count of 4. The next step is to hold your breath until you count to 7, and after that, you should exhale for 8 seconds, and make a whoosh sound again. When you start doing this exercise, repeat the same cycle four times in total, and you should work up to 8 repetitions eventually. Do this exercise at least twice a day, but keep in mind that you shouldn’t do it too frequently.  

The essential part of this exercise is to hold your breath until you count to 8 as keeping the air allows your lungs to get filled with oxygen which will circulate throughout the body, and it produces a relaxing effect. If you don’t have strong lungs to inhale for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 7 seconds, and exhale for 8 seconds, don’t worry. The time you spend on each phase of this exercise is not essential. What’s important is the 4:7:8 ratio. You can speed up the exercise if you can’t hold your breath for 8 seconds, but you should make sure you keep the ratio of 4:7:8 for all the phases. Over time, you will get used to being able to breathe like this, and you will be able to inhale and exhale more and more deeply the more you practice. Besides helping you sleep, this technique is also one of the best breathing exercises to strengthen lungs. If you were wondering how to strengthen lungs naturally, 4 7 8 Once you develop this technique, you will be able to use it whenever you feel under a lot of stress, and whenever something upsetting happens.

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Renata is an economist who has always had a passion for writing. She is a dog lover, Netflix addict and a sleepaholic. When she is not busy doing sleep research, she spends her time reading books, hiking and playing video games.

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