How To Breathe Your Way To Better Sleep

meditation before bedtime

If you find it difficult to sleep at night, you’re not alone. In a fast-paced modern world, the stress of everyday life can make it difficult to calm and unwind the mind and get restful sleep. You’re supposed to be resting, but your thoughts won’t let you fall asleep, or they can wake you up in the middle of the night.

When you’re having trouble to sleep, breathing exercises can help. With mindful breathing, you can slow down your thoughts and relax your body to improve your sleep. Moreover, some breathing exercises can also help minimize snoring and sleep apnea, which is some of the leading causes of poor sleep quality.

In this article, you’ll learn some of the common breathing exercises you can use to help you fall asleep. Read on.

1. Abdominal Breathing

This breathing exercise refers to deep breathing from the abdomen instead of shallow breaths from the chest. It helps slow down various functions in your body, which tends to keep you anxious and tense. It also helps slow down your heart rate, making it easier to drift off. 

To practice abdominal breathing, follow the instructions below:

  • Lie down straight.
  • Close your eyes.
  • Place one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach. See which hand rises the most when inhaling.
  • If your chest rises more as you inhale, focus on breathing and filling your stomach. To do this, force your abdomen to rise as you inhale.
  • When breathing, inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth.
  • Continue breathing for five to ten minutes.

Doing this exercise can be difficult at first. However, practicing at least once a day can help it get easier over time.

2. Alternate Nasal Breathing

Alternate nostril breathing is a type of pranayama or yoga breathing practice. It’s also known as Nadi Shodhana and is focused on breathing through the nostrils, one side at a time. As with other breathing techniques, alternate nasal breathing helps lower your blood pressure, anxiety, and fear.

What’s more, this breathing practice helps lung function. Some variations of this breathing technique may also help stabilize your airway during sleep, reducing snoring and sleep apnea. 

Here’s how to do this:

  • Sit with your legs crossed. 
  • Place one hand on your knee and the other toward your nose. 
  • Exhale completely.
  • Use your thumb to close the left nostril. 
  • Inhale from the right nostril, then close it. 
  • Open your left nostril and exhale through it. 
  • Continue the cycle for at least five minutes. 
  • Always finish the practice with an exhale on the right nostril. 

For the Nadi Shodhana variation, hold each inhales for two to three seconds before exhaling. Over time, you can increase the pause length in two-second increments. 

a young female sleeping soundly

3. 4-7-8 Breathing

Developed by Dr. Andrew Weil, the 4-7-8 breathing exercise is referred to as the nervous system’s natural tranquilizer. This breathing technique is based on pranayama and is known to help you fall asleep in just a short period. 

To practice 4-7-8 breathing, follow these steps:

  • Sit with your back straight.
  • Position your tongue against the back of your front top teeth. 
  • Exhale through the mouth and around your tongue. 
  • Close your lips, then inhale through the nose for four counts. 
  • Hold your breath for the 7th count. 
  • And exhale through the mouth for the 8th count. 
  • Repeat the cycle three times. 

You can practice 4-7-8 breathing anywhere, anytime. But practice it at home since you may feel lightheaded at first. Also, keep your tongue in the same spot throughout the exercise. 

4. Buteyko Breathing

Buteyko breathing was named after the Ukrainian doctor who developed this technique in the 1950s, Dr. Konstantin Buteyko. It uses breath retention exercises to control the volume and speed of your breath. Doing so may help you learn to breathe more calmly, slowly, and effectively.  

This breathing exercise may also enhance breath control, prevent breathlessness, and promote proper breathing cycles. As such, it’s often used to manage and improve various conditions, including anxiety, asthma, and other sleep concerns such as snoring and sleep apnea.  

Here’s how to do it:

  • Sit comfortably. 
  • With your mouth closed, breathe through the nose naturally for about 30 seconds. 
  • After a relaxed inhale, hold your breath. You can use your fingers to plug your nose. Hold it until you feel the urge to breathe, then inhale. 
  • Breathe normally for 10 seconds. 
  • Repeat the cycle. 

For best results, seeking out an instructor trained in Buteyko breathing is recommended. Experts recommend that you attempt at least five hours of training while you practice on your own for 15-20 minutes three times a day for six weeks. 


As you can see, you don’t have to struggle to force yourself to sleep at night. You can slowly lull yourself to deep sleep with a few breathing techniques. Try any of the above breathing exercises, and you’ll soon enjoy a well-rest night, leaving you refreshed to face the next day.