5 Breathing Techniques That Help You Sleep When It Feels Like Nothing Else Will

by Georgina Berbari

There aren't many things that get me all that angry; honestly, I consider myself a pretty chill person. But, being exhausted after a long, busy day and curling up under my covers, only to realize that I can't fall asleep for the life of me... that gets me pissed as hell, friends. If you're anything like me, and find yourself constantly tossing and turning in the night, implementing some breathing techniques that help you sleep while you're lying awake at night could be the wildly simple cure for your restlessness.

When you don't get enough sleep, you'll likely feel cranky AF, completely sluggish, and there can even be detrimental effects to your brain in the long run. And while some people do have legit medical conditions that prevent them from snoozing, many humans' lack of shut-eye boils down to a copious amount of cell phone use before bed and not knowing how to get those racing thoughts in your noggin to shut the heck up.

So, along with limiting cellphone usage a couple of hours before you turn in for the night, try these five breathing techniques if you're lying awake in bed and it feels like literally nothing will help you fall asleep. Because, let's be real: Counting sheep has never really helped anyone.

Deep Inhales, Long Exhales

Deep belly breathing (like the kind that completely fills up your abdominal area and makes it balloon out) is one of the easiest and most effective ways to calm your entire body down and activate your parasympathetic nervous system, so your body won't be in "fight or flight" mode while you're trying to catch some Zs.

Many people unknowingly constrict their breathing to shallow inhales that reside in the chest, but according to Harvard Health, taking a few moments to engage in deep abdominal breathing has the power to slow your heart rate and stabilize your blood pressure, which is optimal for a blissful night's sleep.

The 4-7-8 Technique
Andrew Weil, M.D. on YouTube

The 4-7-8 relaxation breathing technique involves inhaling through your nose for four counts, holding that breath in for seven counts, and exhaling through your mouth for eight counts. It sounds a bit complicated at first, but this bad boy will have you sleeping like a baby in no time.

Dr. Andrew Weil, a physician, holistic health author and founder of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, told HuffPost that the 4-7-8 breath can work wonders before bedtime when you're trying to relax and let feelings of sleepiness take you away. It's worth a try, right?

Alternate Nostril Breathing
Yoga With Adriene on YouTube

Alternate nostril breathing is a form of yogic breathing (otherwise known as Pranayama) that instills a sense of deep calm when practiced correctly. When you can't seem to sleep, try this technique by placing your right thumb over your right nostril, and inhaling fully through your opposite nostril. When you've completed that inhale, take your ring finger and close off the left nostril, exhaling through your right nostril. Continue this soothing pattern until you feel like you can sleep soundly and that your entire body feels relaxed and restored.

Breath Counting

If your mind is clouded with chatter and you can't seem to quiet your thoughts so you can drift off to sleep, breath counting is where it's at. Breathe normally and deeply, but when you exhale, mentally count “one.” Breathe in again, and on your next exhale count to “two.” Do this until you reach a count of five, and then start all over again.

According to Dr. Axe's website, where he shares countless medical tips, this works because all the concentration required to perform this numerical breathing exercise will tire you out and calm your mind after a few rounds.

Equal Breathing

Equal breathing is a great method that will let you get that beauty sleep that you truly deserve, girl. According to TIME, equal breathing is similar to counting sheep because of its soothing and reassuring nature. Again, I highly doubt that tallying up fluffy white farm animals has every really lulled a human being to sleep, but... I digress.

Start breathing deeply into your abdomen and when you inhale, hold the breath out for a count of four. When you release your breath on your exhale, count to four again. This simple method will help calm your nervous system, relieve any stress you're holding, and you'll be having sweet dreams before you know it, friend.