Alaska Sleep Education Center

9 Breathing Exercises for Sleep: Techniques that Work

Posted by Sandra Manson on Feb 15, 2021 4:12:00 AM

Relaxed young woman at home with raised arms 

When the night falls, everybody wishes to relax the body and catch some sleep. There are numerous benefits of having good sleep. First, sleep minimizes the chances of one getting health problems such as diabetes and heart problems. It lowers the stress level and enhances good moods. It also helps people to focus better on whatever they are doing. Another benefit of sleep is that it helps one to keep the body healthy by boosting the immune system, making it hard for one to fall sick often.

Yet with all these benefits, the number of people who are having difficulty sleeping is horrifying. They just cannot shut down their brains. The recent health statistics indicated that 30% of adults are suffering from acute insomnia, which makes them pass wakeful nights; and 10% of adults are struggling with chronic insomnia. Regardless of your situation, practicing these nine breathing exercises for sleep will help you unwind, relax, and sleep like a baby.


  1.     Three-Part Breathing

This is the simplest and easiest technique to learn, especially for beginners. In this technique, the focus is majorly on the chest, diaphragm, and abdomen. 

  1.       Breathe in slowly through the nostrils to the full capacity of your lungs. Make sure that your belly moves outwards as you breathe. 
  2.     Breath out slowly, drawing your stomach inwards.

iii.    Repeat (i) and (ii), increasing the length of time you take to exhale.

  1.     Do this until the amount of time you take a breath is half the exhalation time.


  1.     Body Scan

This technique is known for its numerous benefits, namely:

  1.       Improving one’s sleep
  2.     Reducing physical pain in the muscles and joints

iii.    Relieving one from stress and anxiety

  1.     For cigar smokers who are struggling to quit, this technique reduces cravings, hence one can quit smoking faster.

For this practice to be effective, the following steps should be followed.

  1.       Lie flat on your bed, with your belly facing upwards.
  1. Breathe in slowly and deeply, allowing your brain to scan your entire body for tension or pain.
  2. Repeat (ii) above, to ensure you are thorough in your scan.
  3. In case you identify tension anywhere, take another deep breath and release it slowly, imagining that the tension is disappearing as you breathe out.
  4. Practice this over and over until all of your muscles are relieved from tension.


  1.     Diaphragmatic Breathing

The diaphragm separates your chest and abdomen. Mainly, this practice helps you to fill your lungs with air without moving your chest an inch. Other benefits include strengthening the diaphragm itself, thus boosting its ability to function better. The technique involves the following.

  1.       While lying down on your back, prop a pillow under the knees.
  1. Put one hand on your stomach and the other one on your chest.
  2. Breathe in slowly without moving your chest. The purpose of the hand on your chest is to help you know whether you have achieved this.
  3. Breathe out slowly, through pursed lips.
  4. Repeat this process at least three times.

  1.     4-7-8 Breathing Technique

This is the best practice to use when dealing with anxiety. Do not worry if you find difficulty maintaining the ratio. Using lesser ratios can also give good results. 

  1.       Lie down on your back and breathe out all the air in your lungs.
  1. Take a nasal breath for 4 seconds, and hold it for 7 seconds.
  2. Breathe out through your mouth in a whooshing sound for 8 seconds.
  3. Work up to 3 repetitions.


  1.     Alternate nostril Method

In this method, one inhales through one nostril and exhales through the other. Note that this method is not suitable for people with sinusitis as their breath may be short, thus supplying insufficient air to the lungs.

  1.       You can practice this method while sitting upright or lying down.
  1. Block one nostril and breathe in through the other.
  2. Unblock the nostril and block the other one. Breathe out slowly. 
  3. Repeat this process for at least 4 minutes.

  1.     Papworth Practice

This practice is highly recommended for people with asthmatic conditions, as it helps one to breathe out naturally through the nose. Secondly, it helps one reduce yawning.

  1.       While sitting upright on a chair, take a long breath lasting for 4 seconds.
  1. Then exhale slowly, focusing on the outward and inward movement of your stomach.
  2. Practice this method repeatedly for some time.

  1.     Square Breathing Method 

It is also known as box breathing practice. This method aims at reducing the level of stress, especially in those people whose jobs involve a lot of stress, such as doctors. 

  1.       You can practice this method while sitting upright or lying down.
  1. Take a long breath lasting for 4 seconds.
  2. Breathe out through your mouth for 4 seconds, before holding your breath for another 4 seconds.
  3. Repeat steps (i) to (iii) severally.


  1.     Bhramari Pranayama practice

This method is clinically proven to reduce breathing and slowing the rate of heartbeat.

  1.       With your eyes shut, inhale deeply and exhale.
  1. Using your hands, block both of your ears.
  2. Then, cover your eyes with your fingers, with the index fingers placed slightly above the eyebrows.
  3. Press gently on the upper nose region. Do not let your focus shift from the brow area.
  4. Take a deep breath and release it through your nose, making an “mmm” sound.
  5. Practice this practice 3 to 5 times.

  1.     Buteyko Method

Hyperventilation is common among people, but only a few people realize it. This practice is recommended for returning your breathing rhythm to normal.

  1.       Sit upright with your mouth opened in a slit. 
  1. Inhale and exhale naturally for 20 to 30 seconds.
  2. Close your mouth tightly and your nose pinched using your fingers, only taking a breath when you direly need to.
  3. Repeat this exercise several times.


These methods work more effectively when people practice them with their eyes shut. Closing your eyes helps you avoid distractions, thus concentrating on your breathing and the effect it is bringing on your body parts.

It is possible to achieve a beautiful state of relaxed, deep sleep. Practicing these tried and true tips to improve your breathing will calm your mind, relax the body, and bring you to dreamland faster than you've ever imagined.

The best advice for finding ways to enhance your sleep method and get your body in a more relaxed state is to visit us here at Alaska Sleep Clinic. If you live in the Anchorage area, click on the link below to schedule an appointment to visit with sleep professionals.



Author's Bio: Sandra Manson is a passionate journalist who has been contributing to major media publications. She enjoys writing about human psychology and lifestyle, as well as the tech industry. Sandra also runs her blog where she covers topics of great interest in modern society.

Topics: breathing, relax, deep sleep

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