This is the third blog post in our Better Breathing series. Your breathing is the link between a healthier body and mind. That’s why each month, we’ve focused on tips for improving the effectiveness of each breath you take.
Some people struggle to either commit or have trouble falling asleep. Does one of those sound like you? We all wish we could get more sleep!
Tens of millions of Americans claim they have trouble falling asleep, studies show. If you’re in that category, or even if you’re not, using breathing exercises for sleep may change your world.
Studies now show the harmful effects of sleep deprivation, including several conditions which may prove chronic or even fatal.
Sleep deprivation is linked to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and depression. It is also one of the strongest risk factors for obesity.
What can you do to sleep more?
Obviously, the first step is making that commitment to get to bed earlier, put down the electronic device, and turn out the light. But, when that fails to bring you the necessary Zzzzs, there’s more you can do.
There are countless sleep tips you can try, but stick to the ones that work:
- Create a relaxing nightly bedtime ritual
- Go to bed at the same time each night
- Exercise daily
- Limit consumption of alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine before bed
- Avoid extensive napping or sleeping late
- Don’t use smartphones or other blue-light emitting devices before bed
Unmasking the risks of sleeping pills
Sleeping pills have long been a go-to aid for millions of troubled sleepers, but the more you learn about these pharmaceuticals, the more you realize how destructive they are.
People who take sleeping pills face cancer and mortality rates significantly higher – in some cases, three times more according to the Scripps Health Foundation. This is a considerable health risk to take, especially when you consider pills aren’t especially effective at providing quality sleep and can’t match the restorative effects of natural sleep.
These factors of course lend favor to trying non-medical sleeping remedies before resorting to medications. Breathing exercises for sleep have been a popular and effective method due to your ability to relax the mind and body simultaneously and naturally.
Try these 3 breathing exercises for better sleep
There are a variety of breathing techniques for sleep. What works for you may be different for the next person, so try one until you find the perfect routine.
Here are three effective breathing techniques for getting better sleep:
The 4-7-8 Method
We’ve previously discussed this method as a breathing exercise to reduce stress. You’ll find it easy to perform because you concentrate on counting and measuring your breath.
- Situate yourself either sitting upright or lying down flat.
- Start with one hand on your belly and the other on your chest.
- Take a deep, slow breath from your belly, and silently count to 4 as you breathe in.
- Hold your breath and silently count from 1 to 7.
- Breathe out completely as you silently count from 1 to 8. Try to get all the air out of your lungs by the time you reach 8.
- Repeat 3-7 times, or until you feel calm.
Long used as a means of fighting anxiety, Double-Exhale Breathing is a simple method that allows you to slow your heart rate and relax your muscles.
How is it done? Easy… exhale for twice as long as you inhale.
For example, if you inhale for four counts, then exhale for eight. It works because in slowing your breathing rate you’re actually tricking your body into thinking it’s calmly at rest.
Maintain your Double-Exhale Breathing until you feel the calmness take over or you fall asleep –whichever comes first.
This is another form of mindful breathing where you concentrate on slowing the rate of breathing.
- Start by taking a deep exaggerated inhale through your nostrils for a 3 count
- Now, hold your breath for a 2 count
- Then exhale through your mouth for a 4 count
- Otherwise, simply observe each breath without trying to adjust it; it may help to focus on the rise and fall of your chest or the sensation through your nostrils
- Repeat this process for 15 minutes
This is a great breathing exercise to practice during the day. If you find your mind wandering, simply restart your counting and continue.
Getting proper sleep isn’t just a matter of avoiding that groggy feeling the next day, it could make a huge impact on your quality of life. Studies show sleep deprivation can lead to diabetes, depression, and obesity.
Hopefully, you’re also now aware that sleeping pills aren’t the answer. In fact, they are linked to higher mortality and cancer rates.
Try one of the three breathing exercises for sleep we’ve listed above and you’ll find a deep natural sleep that keeps you healthy and strong.
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