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5 breathing techniques to help you find calm and fall asleep quicker

Breathing has been coined the ‘new yoga’. 5 breathing techniques to help you cope with stress, find calm and fall into deep sleep.

Your body and brain need sleep to process thoughts, feel mentally clear, and face the day. Two thirds of UK adults suffer from disrupted sleep, and nearly a quarter manage less than 5 hours a night. There's plenty in the ‘always on’ lifestyle that gets in the way of good sleep: phone use before bed, stress and anxiety and our diet.
 
If you've eliminated sleep disrupters or you're struggling with stress-induced insomnia, these breathing techniques can help you slow down get the rest your brain and body needs.

1. The 4-7-8 technique

4-7-8 breathing is a simple exercise that you can do anywhere to help you relax, unwind, and prepare your brain to sleep. It can be performed lying down, sitting, or even standing up. The beauty of the 4-7-8 breathing technique is its simplicity:
  1. Breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds
  1. Hold the air in for 7 seconds
  1. Exhale slowly through pursed lips for 8 seconds
  1. Repeat 4 times or until you feel relaxed
Repeat this until you feel a release of tension from your body. This will help connect to your senses and stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system. The 4-7-8 technique is not only good for falling asleep — it helps to reduce stress and anxiety while improving concentration levels.
 
Listen to a Journey To Sleep episode by Rebecca Dennis here

2. Box breathing

Box breathing is an extremely simple exercise — one that's been proven to help your brain climb down from stressful experiences. It combines breathing exercises with a visualisation of a box with four sides, which serves to focus your mind on the 4 second pattern of breathing. You can do this when feeling stressed, or when you’re ready to fall asleep:
  1. Inhale slowly through your nose for 4 seconds
  1. Hold your breath for 4 seconds
  1. Slowly exhale through your mouth for 4 seconds
  1. Hold your breath for 4 seconds
You can repeat this breathing pattern until you feel calm. There's no time limit and no need to rush, taking it slowly is an important part of winding down and reducing stress.

3. Diaphragm or 'belly' breathing

In times of stress, most people tend to take shallow breaths that come from your neck and chest. However breathing more deeply from the diaphragm - or the 'belly' - is far better at calming you down in stressful situations. When feeling the need to calm down or fall asleep, try becoming more conscious of your breathing:
  1. Take a deep breath through your nose for 4 seconds
  1. Hold the breath for 7 seconds.
  1. Breathe out through your mouth slowly for 8 seconds
  1. Repeat this cycle for 5 minutes
This exercise will help you relax and fall asleep faster by focusing your body on slow and steady breaths instead of short gasps or hyperventilation, which can contribute to anxiety-induced insomnia.
 
“When you feel like life is out of focus, always return to the basics of life. Breathing. No breath, no life.” – Mr. Miyagi, The Karate Kid

4. Three-part breathing

Three-part breathing is one of the most simple and effective ways to calm your body before bed. It involves taking deep breaths in through the nose, holding your breath for a few seconds, and then exhaling slowly through the mouth:
  1. Take a deep breath in through your nose
  1. Hold it for a 3 or 4 seconds
  1. Breathe out slowly through your mouth
Repeat this cycle at least 6 times before slowly bringing yourself back up to normal breathing rhythm. This technique works best right before falling asleep — it's so simple, you can do it while reading or listening to calming music.

5. Alternate nasal breathing

Alternate nasal breathing is a shallow form of breathing that involves inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. It releases oxygen into your bloodstream which helps to relax your mind and body. As well as helping you fall asleep, this technique can be used whenever you feel the need for calm.
  1. Breathe in through your left nostril (while pinching your right)
  1. Breathe out through your right nostril (while pinching your left)
  1. Repeat for 5 to 10 breaths before switching sides
As this technique involves using your hands, and perhaps a little more coordination that others, it may not be for everyone.
Remove stress and find your calm (Credit: Rebecca Hope)
Remove stress and find your calm (Credit: Rebecca Hope)
Remember, the key to falling asleep is a calm and relaxed state of mind. Breathing is one of the most effective ways to achieve this, so try these techniques for yourself and see which one works best for you. Why not do so in your very own cabin, deep in the heart of the rolling countryside? Book your stay with Unplugged here.