5 Breathing Techniques To Make You Fall Asleep When Your Brain Refuses To Turn Off
When you're having trouble falling asleep, time can feel like it's coming to a literal standstill, and it can almost feel like you're losing your mind. No matter how comfy a position you get into, or how much you try to simply chill, your brain just doesn't seem to turn off, and honestly, it's probably ruining your overall sleep schedule — but you have no idea how to catch some quality shut-eye. While it might not be the first strategy you'd think of, there are certain breathing techniques that can help you fall asleep, so you can finally get the good night's slumber you deserve.
"Getting a full night’s sleep is the most underrated health habit and healing tool available," Nancy Gerstein, yoga teacher, author of the book Guiding Yoga’s Light, and founder of Motivational Yoga, tells Elite Daily over email. "The body needs time to heal, cleanse, and rejuvenate from the day’s activities. Sleep is linked to balanced hormone levels (including the stress hormone cortisol) and clear thinking."
But the more worked up you get about not sleeping, says Gerstein, the more sleep will likely elude you. "The key to sound sleep is in the surrendering, not in trying harder," she explains.
Enter: breathing techniques. According to Harvard Health, deep, diaphragmatic breathing "can slow the heartbeat and lower or stabilize blood pressure," meaning it can help you relax and wind down physically, which can then translate into a mental state of relaxation as well.
So, if you've been feeling especially restless lately, for one reason or another, why not try using the power of your very own breath to help you fall asleep? Once you’re in bed, focus on your inhales and exhales, clear your mind, and try one of these techniques to see how it affects you.
Left Nostril Breathing
"One of my favorite breathing techniques to do when I want to relax and let go of anxiety before going to sleep is left nostril breathing," Veronica Parker, a kundalini yoga teacher and meditation coach, tells Elite Daily over email. "It’s short, sweet, and powerful."
Here's how you do it: Lie down on your bed or sit up in a chair — whatever feels comfortable for you — and close your eyes. Then, press your right thumb against your left nostril to close it off. Inhale and exhale through the left nostril for three minutes. Then, let go of your thumb and inhale deeply through both nostrils. "Give yourself permission to release the busyness of your day," Parker suggests.
Three-Part Exhale Breathing
If your brain feels like it's on overdrive whenever you lie down in bed, Gerstein says that one way to change your thinking patterns is to consciously change your breathing patterns. "The three-part exhale breath is useful if you have trouble falling asleep, releasing anxiety, or for times when you have a build-up of tension," she explains.
To try it yourself, take a deep breath in, then exhale about one-third of the breath out from the pelvic floor to the navel center. Pause for a moment, "then exhale the second third of the breath from the navel center to the heart center and pause [again]," Gerstein explains. Finally, exhale the remaining breath from the heart center to the throat, and pause once more. Inhale again, and repeat the process.
"Let each part of the exhalation be of equal length," Gerstein suggests. "The pauses between the sections of exhalation should feel like a calm moment of hesitation rather than holding the breath."
Be sure to breathe normally for a few moments before repeating the three-part exhalation. If it helps, try to visualize yourself walking up a tall staircase, exhaling as you step up, and pausing at each step before ascending further.
Try 10 breath cycles total, Gerstein, recommends, and see how you feel.
"Invite a long sigh of relaxation into your pre-slumber time by breathing out twice as long as you inhale," Gerstein tells Elite Daily, referring to a technique known as "2:1 breathing."
For this one, inhale for a count of three, then exhale for a count of six. If the count is too short or too long, feel free to change it to something that feels more natural for you, such as 2:4, or 3:6.
Humming Bee Breath
If you can't fall asleep no matter how hard you try, Brittany Piper, a wellness coach and activist, recommends trying out the humming bee breath. "To practice the humming bee breath, first lie in a comfortable position," she explains. "Close your eyes, and plug your ears using your index fingers. With your mouth closed, inhale for six counts through the nostrils."
After a full inhalation, Piper tells Elite Daily, begin making a gentle, soothing humming sound in your throat as you exhale six counts through the nostrils. Do a few regular humming breaths, keeping the inhales and exhales equal as you do so. Then, gradually lengthen the exhalation, if possible, to make it twice as long as the inhalation.
Ujjayi (Ocean) Breathing
Ocean breathing (or "ujjayi", in Sanskrit) is my personal favorite technique when it comes to relaxation.
"In ujjayi breathing, both inhalation and and exhalation are through the nose," Piper explains. "Start by lying comfortably on your back. Inhale and exhale deeply through your nostrils, slightly constricting your throat so that you can bringing attention to the sound of the breath in your throat."
Feel and hear the air as it passes through; IMO, it usually makes a kind of whooshing sound, similar to when you fog up a mirror with your breath, or the general sound of the ocean.
"This allows you to clear the mind, bringing all attention to your breathing," says Piper. "Continue until you are calm, about a minute or two."