There are few things more frustrating than wanting to sleep and not being able too. Insomnia, the inability to fall asleep, can range from mild and occasional to severe. If insomnia interferes with your day-to-day life you should consult a doctor, but for mild or occasional insomnia use breathing techniques to help achieve a relaxed state and induce slumber.
Belly breathing is the conscious use of the lower part of your lungs to breathe. When done properly your stomach, as opposed to your chest, will rise and lower as you breathe. In a report for NPR, Allison Aubrey likens this to baby breathing because it emulates the pattern of a sleeping infant. The article goes on to cite Jon Seskevich, a stress management educator at Duke University, who promotes this technique. The relaxing effect of proper breathing enhances calm, takes stress off of the heart and can help ease you into sleep.
An article by James Kennedy on yoga breathing techniques describes another type of breathing that will enhance calm and contribute to falling asleep. The technique is called the complete breath or three-part breathing technique. The article also points out that yogic breathing has even been shown to alter brainwave patterns, improving anxiety and response to stress. In order to perform this technique, the individual expands the chest in three stages: first the lower area, then the middle and finally the top. Exhaling in the reverse order achieves a breath that makes maximum use of lung capacity. Singular focus on the task as well as the deep rhythmic breathing can help overcome nagging thoughts that may keep you awake.
Left Nostril Breathing
Another breathing technique that can help bring on slumber and finds its roots in yoga is alternate nostril breathing. Kundalini Yoga states that the two nostrils are tied to different kinds of energy. Breathing through the right nostril causes stimulation and the left relaxation. In this technique, place a finger against the right nostril and breathe deeply though the left. If possible, slow your breathing to a rate of four breaths a minute, which is a count to seven or eight for each inhale and then again for the exhale.
A method promoted by the Cleveland Clinic combines controlled breathing with a mental exercise that can help you relax. It begins with a few deep breaths after which you begin a metal exercise. Consciously scan your body for tension and lets it go one area at a time. Roll the head slowly, then the shoulders. Finally spend a few moments thinking of something pleasant. Finish with more slow controlled breaths, possibly using another relaxing breathing technique.
Breathing Disorders and Insomnia
Insomnia is linked to breathing patterns. A large amount of research links problems such as sleep apnea, which is when an individual stops breathing during sleep, to other health problems such as insomnia, depression and even cardiovascular disease. The University of California, San Diego even has a sleep medicine center that can help sufferers achieve normal breathing patters that allow normal, restful sleep. Consult a physician right away if you are suffering from any of these conditions.