Did you know that doing a breathing exercise is a great way to relax yourself when you are feeling stressed and anxious? It can be especially be helpful at night, when you may be having difficulty slowing down and getting to sleep.
One of my favorites, which I often use when I’m feeling too anxious to sleep, is below. I can actually feel my heartbeat slowing down as I do this, allowing me to relax and fall asleep much easier. It can be done at times other than bedtime, however. Anytime you are anxious and feel your heart pounding in your chest is a good time for this breathing exercise.
How to Do the Breathing Exercise
- Lie down or sit in a comfortable position.
- Allowing your stomach to rise rather than your chest, inhale to a count of five heartbeats.
- Gradually exhale for another count of five heartbeats.
- Continue the pattern, noting how your heartbeats are slowing.
- Stop when you feel your heart is no longer racing.
Why Does It Help?
Without getting into too complicated an explanation, this breathing exercise works because it leads you to take slow, deep breaths. Slow, deep breathing triggers a physiological response that calms your heart rate.
Need More Help With Sleep?
If you are looking for other strategies to help you relax and fall asleep, you may want to check out this article about sleep. It gives a variety of tips to help you easily fall asleep each night. And, if you tend to have trouble with getting your mind to quiet down at bedtime, another article you may want to read is this one dealing specifically with rumination. It gives a simple technique that you can use that may help shut off those intrusive thoughts that are keeping you awake.
Russo, M. A., Santarelli, D. M., & O’Rourke, D. (2017). The physiological effects of slow breathing in the healthy human. Breathe (Sheffield, England), 13(4), 298–309. doi:10.1183/20734735.009817
Nancy Schimelpfening has a master’s degree in community health education from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA.
She was the About.com (now Verywell.com) expert in depression for 18 years, providing her readers with reliable, evidence-based answers to their many questions and concerns about their illness.
Nancy is the founder of the non-profit organization Depression Sanctuary, which provides a free, online peer support group for those with depression. She has served as its president since 2016.
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