Breathing and Sleep
The right breathing techniques can help you a great deal to fall asleep.
The Military Secret Of Falling Asleep In Two Minutes
There's a brilliant military technique that is said to help anyone fall asleep in just two
minutes - and it might just change your life. The trick is reportedly used by the US army to help them fall asleep in situations that are less than peaceful, such battlefields. Detailed in the book Relax and Win: Championship Performance, 1981, the technique is thought to have been developed by army chiefs to ensure soldiers didn’t make life-threatening mistakes due to exhaustion.
Here’s how to do it:
- Relax the muscles in your face, including tongue, jaw and the muscles around the eyes
- Drop your shoulders as far down as they’ll go, followed by your upper and lower arm, one side at a time
- Breathe out, relaxing your chest followed by your legs, starting from the thighs and working down
- You should then spend 10 seconds trying to clear your mind before thinking about one of the three following images:
- You’re lying in a canoe on a calm lake with nothing but a clear blue sky above you
- You’re lying in a black velvet hammock in a pitch-black room
- You say “don’t think, don’t think, don’t think” to yourself over and over for about 10 seconds.
The technique is said to work for 96 per cent of people after six weeks of practice The NHS currently recommends the average person needs around eight hours of good-quality sleep every night to function properly.It warns a lack of sleep can make people more prone to a number of medical conditions, including obesity, high blood pressure and heart disease.With one in three people in the UK suffering from poor sleep, the army trick could provide some sweet relief.If that doesn’t work, sleep expert Dr Neil Stanley says the most important factor when it comes to falling asleep is quieting your mind. “In order to get to sleep you need three things: a bedroom conducive to sleep’ a relaxed body and most importantly a quiet mind. You can’t go to sleep if your mind is racing and so anything you can do to slow it down will help you sleep,” he tells The Independent.
“There is no magic way of doing this, you have to find what works for you, be that reading, a warm bath, camomile tea, mindfulness, aromatherapy or listening to Pink Floyd. It doesn’t matter what you do as long as it stops you worrying about the stresses of the day.”
4-7-8 breathing technique
Here’s how to practice the 4-7-8 breathing technique:
- Allow your lips to gently part.
- Exhale completely, making a breathy whoosh sound as you do.
- Press your lips together as you silently inhale through the nose for a count of 4 seconds.
- Hold your breath for a count of 7.
- Exhale again for a full 8 seconds, making a whooshing sound throughout.
- Repeat 4 times when you first start. Eventually work up to 8 repetitions.
Dr. Andrew Weil developed this technique as a variation of pranayama, an ancient yogic technique that helps people relax as it replenishes oxygen in the body.
Bhramari pranayama breathing exercise
These steps will help you perform the original Bhramari pranayama breathing exercise:
- Close your eyes and breathe deeply in and out.
- Cover your ears with your hands.
- Place your index fingers one each above your eyebrows and the rest of your fingers over your eyes.
- Next, put gentle pressure to the sides of your nose and focus on your brow area.
- Keep your mouth closed and breathe out slowly through your nose, making the humming “Om” sound.
- Repeat the process 5 times.
In clinical studiesTrusted Source, Bhramari pranayama has been shown to quickly reduce breathing and heart rate. This tends to be very calming and can prepare your body for sleep.
Three-part breathing exercise
To practice the three-part breathing exercise, follow these three steps:
- Take a long, deep inhale.
- Exhale fully while focusing intently on your body and how it feels.
- After doing this a few times, slow down your exhale so that it’s twice as long as your inhale.
Some people prefer this technique over others because of its sheer simplicity.
Diaphragmatic breathing exercise
To do diaphragmatic breathing exercises:
- Lie on your back and either bend your knees over a pillow or sit in a chair.
- Place one hand flat against your chest and the other on your stomach.
- Take slow, deep breaths through your nose, keeping the hand on your chest still as the hand on your stomach rises and falls with your breaths.
- Next, breath slowly through pursed lips.
- Eventually, you want to be able to breath in and out without your chest moving.
This technique slows your breathing and decreases your oxygen needs as it strengthens your diaphragm.
Alternate nasal breathing exercise
Here are the steps for the alternate nasal or alternate nostril breathing exercise, also called nadi shodhana pranayama:
- Sit with your legs crossed.
- Place your left hand on your knee and your right thumb against your nose.
- Exhale fully and then close the right nostril.
- Inhale through your left nostril.
- Open your right nostril and exhale through it, while closing the left.
- Continue this rotation for 5 minutes, finishing by exhaling through your left nostril.
A 2013 study reported that people who tried nasal breathing exercises felt less stressed afterward.
To practice buteyko breathing for sleep:
- Sit in bed with your mouth gently closed (not pursed) and breathe through your nose at a natural pace for about 30 seconds.
- Breathe a bit more intentionally in and out through your nose once.
- Gently pinch your nose closed with your thumb and forefinger, keeping your mouth closed as well, until you feel that you need to take a breath again.
- With your mouth still closed, take a deep breath in and out through your nose again.
Many people don’t realize that they are hyperventilating. This exercise helps you to reset to a normal breathing rhythm.
The Papworth method
In the Papworth method, you focus on your diaphragm to breathe more naturally:
- Sit up straight, perhaps in bed if using this to fall asleep.
- Take deep, methodical breaths in and out, counting to 4 with each inhale — through your mouth or nose — and each exhale, which should be through your nose.
- Focus on your abdomen rising and falling, and listen for your breath sounds to come from your stomach.
This relaxing method is helpful for reducing habits of yawning and sighing.
Kapalbhati breathing exercise
Kapalbhati breathing involves a series and inhaling and exhaling exercises, involving these steps, as outlined by the Art of Living:
- Sit in a comfortable position with your spine straight. Place your hands on your knees, palms facing the sky. You may choose to sit cross-legged on the floor, on a chair with feet flat on the floor, or in Virasana Pose (sitting on your heals with knees bent and shins tucked beneath the thighs).
- Take a deep breath in.
- As you exhale, contract your belly, forcing the breath out in a short burst. You may keep a hand on your stomach to feel your abdominal muscles contract.
- As you quickly release your abdomen, your breath should flow into your lungs automatically.
- Take 20 such breaths to complete one round of Kapalbhati pranayama.
- After completing one round, relax with your eyes closed and observe the sensations in your body.
- Do two more rounds to complete your practice.
Kapalbhati breathing has been reported as helping open the sinuses and improving concentration. It’s considered an advanced breathing technique. It’s advisable to master other techniques, such as Bhramari pranayama, before attempting this one.
During box breathing, you want to focus intently on the oxygen you’re bringing in and pushing out:
- Sit with your back straight, breathe in, and then try to push all the air out of your lungs as you exhale.
- Inhale slowly through your nose and count to 4 in your head, filling your lungs with more air with each number.
- Hold your breath and count to 4 in your head.
- Slowly exhale through your mouth, focusing on getting all the oxygen out of your lungs.
Box breathing is a common technique during meditation, a very popular method of finding mental focus and relaxing. Meditation has a variety of known benefits for your overall health.
No matter which type of breathing exercise you prefer, the evidence is clear that breathing exercises can help you:
- breathe more naturally and effectively
With so many varieties to choose from, you may find yourself fast asleep before you know it