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6 Types of Breathwork To Get Better Sleep

Using Breathwork to Get Better Sleep

Using breathwork means to focus on using some breathing exercises that help you relax and fall asleep. Breathing exercises are useful to reduce anxiety and stress and also to help you relax at bedtime. Before trying any of these breathwork techniques, it is a good idea to close your eyes to help minimize any disturbances. You should just focus on your breathing and think about how your breath has healing power. Each of these different breathing exercises has different benefits, and you should practice one that is the best match for your needs to get a good night’s sleep.

6 Types of Breathwork To Get Better Sleep

6 Types of Breathwork To Get Better Sleep

  1. Diaphragmatic Breathing

    The diaphragm is a muscle located just below the lungs. It helps you in breathing. When you practice diaphragmatic breathing, you learn how to breathe from the area around the diaphragm instead of breathing from your chest. The technique of diaphragmatic breathing helps strengthen the diaphragm, reduce the body’s oxygen needs, and also slows down your breathing.(1, 2, 3)

    Here are the steps to practice diaphragmatic breathing:

    • Lie down on your back and keep your knees bent.
    • Keep a pillow under your knees.
    • Or you can even sit up straight in a chair.
    • Place one hand flat on your upper chest and the other hand on your stomach.
    • Take a slow deep breath through your nose.
    • The hand kept on your stomach should move, but the hand on your chest should remain still.
    • Now breathe out slowly while keeping your lips pursed.

    You should keep practicing this breathing technique until you are able to breathe in and out without your chest moving. This will make you become well-versed with diaphragmatic breathing.

  2. Buteyko Breathing Technique

    The Buteyko breathing technique was developed in 1956 by Dr. Konstantin Buteyko. Dr. Buteyko observed that both healthy and unhealthy people have different types of breathing patterns. He noticed that less unhealthy people were breathing with their mouths open and also had a higher respiration rate. On the other hand, those who were healthy had a regular, quiet, and effortless breathing pattern even when they were at rest. They were able to breathe through the nose, and their breathing was driven by the diaphragm. Dr. Buteyko created a breathing technique that focused on controlling the rate of inhalation and exhalation in order to teach people how to better manage their breathing patterns. The focus of his breathing technique was to take in less air into the lungs.(4, 5, 6)

    The Buteyko breathing technique is a therapeutic breathing method that makes use of certain breath retention or breath controlling exercises to control the volume and speed of your breathing. This technique helps you learn how to breathe more calmly, slowly, and also effectively.

    The biggest benefit of practicing the Buteyko breathing technique is that it helps regulate your breathing.

    Here are the steps to practice the Buteyko breathing technique:

    • Sit down straight on a comfortable chair.
    • Relax your chest and abdominal muscles while taking a deep breath.
    • Keep your eyes closed and face straight as you do so.
    • Take a deep breath through your nose, making sure to keep your mouth closed.
    • Take a deep and shallow breath, and slowly breathe out until you can feel that there is no more air left in your lungs.
    • Now hold your breath as long as you can before returning back to gentle breathing.
  3. Papworth Method

    The Papworth method of breathing has been in use since the 1960s. It combines many different types of breathing with relaxation exercises. The Papworth method trains you to breathe slowly and steadily from the diaphragm and through the nose. It also helps you learn to control stress so that it does not impact your breathing.(7)

    Here are the steps to practice the Papworth method of breathing:

    • Sit down comfortably and slowly inhale through the nose.
    • Exhale through your pursed lips, similar to how you would if you were blowing out a candle.
    • It is important to remember that your exhalation should be twice as long as the inhalation.
    • Repeat this breathing cycle at least three to five times.
  4. 4-7-8 Breathing Technique

    The 4-7-8 is a breathing technique developed by Dr. Andrew Weil. The technique is based on the ancient yogic technique of pranayama breathing exercises that help practitioners develop control over their breathing. When the 4-7-8 breathing technique is practiced regularly, it gives several benefits, including helping you fall asleep in a shorter period of time.(8, 9, 10)

    The 4-7-8 breathing technique can be practiced anywhere and at any time. It is a good idea that when you first start practicing this exercise, try to do it at least twice a day, but you can also do it as many times as you want. However, do not do it for more than four cycles in a row in the starting. As you get used to it, it is possible to work your way up to eight breathing cycles. It is possible to feel lightheaded at first, but this will pass as you continue doing it.  

    To start the 4-7-8 breathing exercise, find a place where you can sit or lie down comfortably. If you want to practice this technique to fall asleep, doing it lying down would be best. Make sure to practice it while maintaining good posture, especially when you are just starting out.(11)

    Here are the steps you should follow in the cycle of one breath:

    • Allow your lips to part and make a whooshing sound. While doing so, exhale completely through your mouth.
    • Now, close your lips and inhale silently through your nose while counting to four in your mind.
    • Hold your breath for seven seconds or while counting to seven in your mind.
    • Exhale completely from your mouth by making another whooshing sound for eight seconds. Again, you can count to eight in your mind as you do this.
    • When you now inhale again, you will start a new cycle of breath. You should practice this breathing pattern for four full breaths. It is important to understand that the part where you hold your breath for seven seconds, that is the most critical part of this technique.
    • Do not practice the 4-7-8 breathing technique in a setting where you won’t be able to fully relax. While this technique does not necessarily have to be used to fall asleep, it can still put you into a state of deep relaxation, and if you are not in a comfortable location, it might not be safe.
  5. Bhramari Pranayama Breathing Exercise

    The term pranayama is a Sanskrit word that translates to mean an extension of breath. The Bhramari Pranayama teaches you how to calm down and keep your breathing still so that you can steady your mind and make it easier to fall asleep. Practicing this yoga asana before going to bed helps your mind relax, and it enters a calm state, which helps you get better sleep throughout the night.(12, 13)

    The Bhramari Pranayama is named after the Black Indian Bee, which is known as Bhramari. This is due to the sound one makes while practicing this exercise, resembling the humming sound of a bee.

    Here are the steps to help you perform this breathing exercise:

    • Sit down comfortably.
    • Close your eyes and practice breathing deeply in and out.
    • Cover your ears with your hands.
    • Place your index fingers, one each above the eyebrows, and the rest of your fingers should be over your eyes.
    • Apply gentle pressure to the sides of your nose and keep your focus on the brow area.
    • Keep your mouth closed and breathe out slowly through the nose while making the humming sound of OM.
    • Repeat this process five times.

    In many clinical studies, the Bhramari pranayama has been found to help slow down breathing and heart rate quickly. This extends a very calming effect and prepares your body for sleep.(14)

  6. Box Breathing Exercise

    Box breathing is a simple and powerful relaxation technique that helps to return your breathing back to a normal rhythm. This beneficial breathing exercise helps clear the mind, improve concentration levels, and relaxes the body.(15, 16, 17) Also known as square breathing, four-square breathing, or resetting your breath, it is an easy to do, quick to learn, and highly effective breathing technique for people who are stressed. People with any type of lung disease such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) will find it especially helpful to practice the box breathing technique.(18)

    Here are the steps to the box breathing method:

    • Close your eyes and breathe in through your nose while slowly counting to four. You should feel the air entering your lungs.
    • Hold the breath inside while again counting slowly to four. At this stage, try not to clamp your nose or mouth shut. Just avoid inhaling or exhaling for four seconds.
    • Now, begin to exhale slowly for four seconds or while counting till four.
    • Repeat steps 1 to 3 for at least three to four times. Ideally, you should try to repeat the three steps for four minutes or until you feel calm again.
    • If you find it challenging to follow this technique all the way to the count of four, you can even begin it by counting to three instead of four.

    Box breathing can decrease stress levels and significantly improve your mood. This has made this technique an exceptional treatment for conditions like panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression. It can also help in the treatment of insomnia by letting you calm your nervous system at night before going to sleep. Box breathing is also known to be efficient in helping with pain management.(19, 20, 21)


No matter which kind of breathing exercise you decide to practice, there is plenty of evidence to show that following these breathwork techniques will help you relax, breathe more effectively and naturally, and also help you sleep. With so many varieties to choose from, you will be sure to find a technique that works for you and enables you to go to sleep.


  1. Gosselink, R.A., Wagenaar, R.C., Rijswijk, H., Sargeant, A.J. and Decramer, M.L., 1995. Diaphragmatic breathing reduces efficiency of breathing in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. American journal of respiratory and critical care medicine, 151(4), pp.1136-1142.
  2. Hamasaki, H., 2020. Effects of diaphragmatic breathing on health: a narrative review. Medicines, 7(10), p.65.
  3. Ma, X., Yue, Z.Q., Gong, Z.Q., Zhang, H., Duan, N.Y., Shi, Y.T., Wei, G.X. and Li, Y.F., 2017. The effect of diaphragmatic breathing on attention, negative affect and stress in healthy adults. Frontiers in psychology, p.874.
  4. Bruton, A. and Lewith, G.T., 2005. The Buteyko breathing technique for asthma: a review. Complementary therapies in medicine, 13(1), pp.41-46.
  5. McHugh, P., Aitcheson, F., Duncan, B. and Houghton, F., 2003. Buteyko Breathing Technique for asthma: an effective intervention. Journal of the new zealand medical association, 116(1187).
  6. Opat, A.J., Cohen, M.M., Bailey, M.J. and Abramson, M.J., 2000. A clinical trial of the Buteyko breathing technique in asthma as taught by a video. Journal of Asthma, 37(7), pp.557-564.
  7. Anon, Papworth breathing. Papworth Breathing – Respiratory Treatment – Treatments – Physio.co.uk. Available at: https://www.physio.co.uk/treatments/respiratory-treatment/papworth-breathing.php#:~:text=The%20Papworth%20breathing%20technique%20consists,fast%20by%20emphasising%20nose%20breathing. [Accessed August 19, 2022].
  8. Singh, V., Wisniewski, A., Britton, J. and Tattersfield, A., 1990. Effect of yoga breathing exercises (pranayama) on airway reactivity in subjects with asthma. The Lancet, 335(8702), pp.1381-1383.
  9. Jayawardena, R., Ranasinghe, P., Ranawaka, H., Gamage, N., Dissanayake, D. and Misra, A., 2020. Exploring the therapeutic benefits of Pranayama (yogic breathing): A systematic review. International Journal of Yoga, 13(2), p.99.
  10. Pramanik, T., Pudasaini, B. and Prajapati, R., 2010. Immediate effect of a slow pace breathing exercise Bhramari pranayama on blood pressure and heart rate. Nepal Med Coll J, 12(3), pp.154-157.
  11. Features, V., 2022. Video: Dr. Weil’s Breathing Exercises: 4-7-8 Breath. [online] DrWeil.com. Available at: <https://www.drweil.com/videos-features/videos/breathing-exercises-4-7-8-breath/> [Accessed 4 January 2022].
  12. Kuppusamy, M., Kamaldeen, D., Pitani, R., Amaldas, J. and Shanmugam, P., 2018. Effects of Bhramari Pranayama on health–a systematic review. Journal of traditional and complementary medicine, 8(1), pp.11-16.
  13. Pramanik, T., Pudasaini, B. and Prajapati, R., 2010. Immediate effect of a slow pace breathing exercise Bhramari pranayama on blood pressure and heart rate. Nepal Med Coll J, 12(3), pp.154-157.
  14. Kuppusamy, M., Kamaldeen, D., Pitani, R. and Amaldas, J., 2016. Immediate effects of Bhramari pranayama on resting cardiovascular parameters in healthy adolescents.
  15. Journal of clinical and diagnostic research: JCDR, 10(5), p.CC17.
  16. Del Negro, C.A., Funk, G.D. and Feldman, J.L., 2018. Breathing matters. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 19(6), pp.351-367.
  17. Specht, R., 2020. Examining the Immediate Effects of an Online Breathing Meditation Practice on Working Memory Capacity (Doctoral dissertation, Arizona State University).
    Berson, A.M., Emery, R., Rodriguez, L., Richards, G.M., Ng, T., Sanghavi, S. and Barsa, J., 2004. Clinical experience using respiratory gated radiation therapy: comparison of free-breathing and breath-hold techniques. International Journal of Radiation Oncology* Biology* Physics, 60(2), pp.419-426.
  18. Qin, Y., Vincent, C.J., Bianchi-Berthouze, N. and Shi, Y., 2014. AirFlow: designing immersive breathing training games for COPD. In CHI’14 Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 2419-2424).
  19. Busch, V., Magerl, W., Kern, U., Haas, J., Hajak, G. and Eichhammer, P., 2012. The effect of deep and slow breathing on pain perception, autonomic activity, and mood processing—an experimental study. Pain Medicine, 13(2), pp.215-228.
  20. Hopkinsmedicine.org. 2021. Sleepless Nights? Try Stress Relief Techniques. [online] Available at: <https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/sleepless-nights-try-stress-relief-techniques> [Accessed 14 December 2021].
  21. Seppälä, E.M., Nitschke, J.B., Tudorascu, D.L., Hayes, A., Goldstein, M.R., Nguyen, D.T., Perlman, D. and Davidson, R.J., 2014. Breathing‐based meditation decreases posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms in US Military veterans: A randomized controlled longitudinal study. Journal of traumatic stress, 27(4), pp.397-405.
Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:September 23, 2022

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