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Deep Breathing Exercises for Sleep

author image Julia Michelle
Julia Michelle has been writing professionally since January 2009. Her specialties include massage therapy, computer tech support, land and aquatic personal training, aquatic group fitness and Reiki. She has an Associate in Applied Science from Cincinnati State Technical and Community College in integrative medical massage therapy.
Deep Breathing Exercises for Sleep
Deep-breathing exercises help you sleep. Photo Credit Nick White/Digital Vision/Getty Images


One of the biggest obstacles to getting to sleep is effectively shutting your mind down for the evening. Deep breathing exercises serve two purposes: They calm the central nervous system and act as a meditation to quiet the mind. While deep breathing works well on its own, it is doubly effective when combined with other relaxation techniques. Always do sleep exercises at bedtime, when you are already in bed. If you have to get up and move to the bed, you'll wake yourself up and undo your work.

Normal Breathing

To feel a proper breath, lie on your back, and place one hand on your belly and the other on your chest. Breathe normally, and feel your stomach and lungs expand and contract with each breath. Try only letting your stomach expand. Then try only letting your chest expand, and explore how your lungs feel with each breath. Practicing a normal breath fosters awareness of your breathing patterns and will better prepare you for other breathing exercises.

Nose Breathing

Although some individuals are mouth breathers while sleeping, breathing through your nose is beneficial to falling asleep. Unless you are congested, practice deep breathing using your nose for inhales and your mouth for exhales. According to Dr. Marcelle Pick, breathing through your nose stimulates your parasympathetic nervous system and induces relaxation. Nose breathing also conditions your breath, filtering the air and adding moisture to your breath before it enters your lungs.

Breathing & Relaxing

Progressive muscle relaxation, or PMR, is a technique in which you contract and relax different muscle groups, starting with your feet and moving up to your head. By exaggerating, then relieving, tension, you can feel when the muscle is relaxed. This exercise is best done lying on your back, but if you are congested or uncomfortable, lie on your side. Start with your toes and do one full inhale through your nose. Hold the inhale for three seconds and squeeze your toes. Release your toes and exhale through your mouth at the same time. Inhale again while flexing your feet. Hold the breath for three seconds. Continue breathing, flexing and releasing as you move up your body to your calves, thighs and so on.

Breathing With Visualization

Lie on your back with your arms relaxed at your sides. Take one full inhale through your nose, and hold it for three seconds. Slowly release your breath through your mouth. As you release your breath, imagine that the pull of gravity has increased by 1 percent, and let your body sink into the bed.

Inhale again and, with each release, let your body sink deeper into the bed. Focus only on your breath and the heaviness in your limbs. If you start to drift off to sleep, do not fight it; just let go of the breath and start breathing normally.

If you have nasal congestion, lie on your side and breathe through your mouth.

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