"You're having a hard time falling asleep? Well, have you tried breathing?"
It's a funny question that deserves a smart-ass response.
"Yes, I've been breathing since the day I was born. Thanks for your input, Einstein!"
But have you really tried it? The type of breathing that takes your focus away from the thoughts and worries that commonly keep you awake at night?
By simply focusing your attention on your breathing, without doing anything to change it, you can prepare your mind and body for sleep. Combine a breathing exercise with a stress-relieving activity, and you've got yourself one beautiful evening ritual!
Here are two types of deep breathing that can help with evening relaxation. I commonly practice these while lying in bed.
Breathing from the abdomen and putting your attention on those breaths can help you relax both during the day and in bed at night. Also called “Diaphragmatic Breathing,” it has been known to increase energy and mental clarity, while decreasing stress.
While sitting or lying in bed, place your hands on your belly. When you breathe in and breathe out, your hands should be rising and falling. Focusing on this movement gets your mind off of your busy thoughts and onto your body. It also causes oxygen to enter your bloodstream at the base of your lungs near your diaphragm, which is called lung perfusion. The deeper the breath, the more oxygen is entering your blood.
“4-7-8 BREATHING EXERCISE”
Dr. Andrew Weil, a Harvard trained medical doctor, believes getting the best sleep is as simple as breathing in and breathing out. His well-known 4-7-8 Breathing Exercise also called The Relaxing Breath is described as “a natural tranquilizer for the nervous system that eases the body into a state of calmness and relaxation.”
Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
Hold your breath for a count of seven.
Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.
Dr. Weil emphasizes the most important part is holding your breath for seven seconds. He says this is because keeping the breath will allow oxygen to fill your lungs and then circulate it throughout the body. This is what produces a relaxing effect in the body.
I would like to add that the whoosh sounds aren’t necessary, especially if you’re worried about waking your bed partner. Although, it might be fun to find out the next morning if they had a dream they were caught in a wind storm?
If you'd like to try a short, simple meditation in bed tonight, download my free 5-minute sleep meditation HERE!