8 Great Yoga Breathing Techniques for Sleep • Yoga Basics

Getting the right amount of sleep can be challenging, especially during a busy school or work week, or during times of stressful life changes. If you want to improve the quality and length of your sleep, consider doing an evening pranayama breathing exercise. Taking a few minutes to practice a calming and calming breathing exercise can be a simple but powerful way to calm your mind, ease your anxiety, and relax your body to improve your sleep. Yoga offers various breathing methods that can help you enter a deep and restful state of relaxation to prepare your body and mind for sleep.

How breathing affects sleep

Breath is one of the most fundamental ways to regulate our bodies and emotions, and is an important part of our health and wellbeing. It is so important that our bodies even have a self-regulating mechanism for this – the respiratory system automatically adjusts the rate and depth of breathing in response to external stimuli such as drowsiness, stress, movement, and even emotional states.

Breathing is an important part of yoga and has been used for hundreds of years to alter the flow of energy in the body. Pranayama uses the connection between the breath and our autonomic nervous system to change our mental, emotional and energetic states.

Oral vs. nasal breathing

Mouth breathing and nasal breathing have very different energetic and emotional effects. Exhaling through your mouth helps relieve pent-up emotions and stress and has a cooling effect on the body. Breathing through the nose is most commonly used in yoga because it has a calming and focusing effect. Mouth breathing is generally avoided as it can increase your heart rate and blood pressure and trigger a stress response.

Abdominal breathing

Abdominal breathing is the basis for all pranayama practices. Breathing in the abdomen engages the diaphragm and activates the parasympathetic nervous system and the natural relaxation response. Chest breathing requires more physical exertion and is associated with the “fight or flight” stress response.

Likewise, shallow breathing excites the mind and stirs fear. Slow, deep breathing has a calming, calming, and nourishing effect. Slow diaphragmatic breathing calms your mind, lowers your heart rate, and relaxes the body, which will help you reduce stress and fall asleep faster. Yoga breathing exercises can also help you improve your sleep by resetting your default breathing pattern so that you use abdominal breathing throughout the night.

Counting with your breath

Rhythmic breathing exercises are a common part of many yoga practices. Many people claim that counting their breathing cycles with certain timed rations improves their sleep because their mind is focused on the counting process. The main explanation for this is that breathing out longer, or breathing out longer than breathing in, has a calming and stress-reducing effect. The most popular of these techniques is the 4-7-8 breath ratio, which we explain below. On our main Pranayama page you can also see a table of all the different breathing conditions.

Breathing exercises to help you fall asleep

The following seven breathing exercises can all be easily performed by yourself to encourage relaxation and ease of sleep in the body and mind. These pranayamas can be practiced at any time, but they are most effective when done right before bed. The best time to practice is about 30 minutes to an hour before bed.

The following exercises are most effective for acute insomnia and temporary sleep disorders. While breathing yoga can be helpful for chronic insomnia, anxiety attacks, and other sleep disorders, it is not a substitute for professional medical care or help from a qualified sleep specialist.

Diaphragmatic breathing

Diaphragmatic breathing is the basic relaxed breathing exercise that beginners can learn and practice. Also known as abdominal breathing, as with this method the stomach rises and falls as you inhale deeply, while the chest usually remains still. This meditative breath relieves stress, promotes relaxation and increases lung capacity and performance.

Three-part breathing

Perfect for beginners, the three-part breathing method is traditionally known as Dirga Pranayama and builds on the diaphragmatic breath. It is considered to be one of the most calming breathing techniques as it allows you to clear your mind by paying all your attention to how your breath moves through your stomach and chest. Many people believe that by practicing this breathing technique regularly, it is possible to reduce chronic stress and prevent panic attacks.

4-7-8 breathing technique

The 4-7-8 breathing exercise popularized by Andrew Weil uses a count ratio with diaphragmatic breathing and breath holding. There are many people who believe that this 4-7-8 breathing exercise is a natural sedative and the best way to relax and fall asleep quickly. To practice, use abdominal breathing or the three-part breathing technique and inhale, count to 4, hold your breath, count to 7, and exhale eight times. Repeat for four cycles and slowly build up to a longer practice.

Box breathing or square breathing

Another method of counting the ratio with diaphragmatic breathing and breath holding is Sama Vritti Pranayama. It's known as box, square, or equal breathing because it uses a 4-4-4-4 ratio. This pranayama practice equates, harmonizes and balances the prana that flows through the nadis or energy channels of the body. This four-part breathing technique is primarily practiced to calm and balance the mind and body in order to reduce psychological stress and worry. Sama Vritti can also help slow your heart rate, increase oxygen supply to the brain, and reduce anxiety.

Alternative nostril breathing

Nadi Sodhana Pranayama, or alternative nostril breathing, uses your fingers to close one nostril and exhale the other. Alternating nasal breathing is calming and balancing, and puts your body in a much more relaxed state to prepare for sleep. It will be difficult to practice this technique when you are sick or have a cold.

Bhramari Pranayama

Bhramari Pranayama, which means "bee breath," uses a humming sound as you exhale. This type of slow deep breathing can reduce external distractions and help lower heart rate and blood pressure, and prepare the body for sleep.

Mantra or affirmation

A mantra is a sacred Sanskrit sound used in Japa or mantra meditation. An affirmation is a short positive phrase used to reduce negative thought patterns, similar to a repetitive prayer. Both can be used with the diaphragmatic or tripartite breath to create a deeper sense of calm and inner peace. When you go to bed and find that your mind is racing with thoughts, practice repeating a mantra or affirmation with deep breaths for a few minutes.

Yoga nidra

Yoga Nidra is a mindful body scan where you relax different parts of your body each time you inhale and exhale. This progressive relaxation technique is a great way to release deep-rooted anxiety, stress, and tension, and prepare the body to fall asleep. You can find free Yoga Nidra videos on YouTube that are 10 to 30 minutes long.

How long does it take to get results?

It depends on a few factors and can be very different for different people. You should see some results after a few days, but it may take weeks, months, or even years to see progress. The most important thing is to keep practicing. As with most things, the more often you do it, the faster you will see results.

How to choose the right breathing technique for you

There are so many different breathing techniques out there that it can be hard to know which are the best. When it comes to breathing, there is no one right technique that works for everyone. Different breathing techniques have different benefits and can help you accomplish different things. Start with the breathing technique that feels most natural to you. Notice how you feel mentally, physically, and emotionally with each exercise. Use a journal or other resource to keep track of which techniques are having the greatest impact on your sleep.

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