5 Effective Breathing Techniques for Insomnia

Focusing on your breathing is one of the best ways to handle sleep problems. In today's article we'll share 5 breathing techniques for insomnia.
5 Effective Breathing Techniques for Insomnia
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 15 December, 2022

A lot of the tension you build up during the day is concentrated into a ball of stress in the night, causing insomnia and the inability to get deep, restful sleep. So, we’d like to share 5 breathing techniques for insomnia to help you out.

While it’s true that this disorder can be caused by many other factors (chronic pain, age, or an unhealthy lifestyle), typically the inability to get good rest is due to daily stress and anxiety.

Regardless of the cause, something as simple as taking a little better care of your routine and practicing some easy breathing techniques just before you go to bed can help you achieve inner calm and harmony that helps your brain prepare for rest.

It doesn’t matter what the source of your insomnia may be. If you incorporate these breathing exercises into your life just one hour before going to bed, little by little you’ll notice the benefits.

5 Breathing Techniques For Insomnia:

1. Concentrated breathing to end insomnia



This type of breathing is the simplest and at the same time most useful because you focus your attention on just one aspect: breathing itself. It’s one of the most effective breathing techniques for insomnia.

In this way, you will “vaporize” the concerns of the day and manage your stress a little better.

Follow these simple steps:

  • Lay in bed with your back straight.
  • Try to wear comfortable, roomy clothing.
  • Inhale deeply through your nose, counting your breath.
  • Hold it in for three seconds, then exhale.
  • Repeat this eight times.

Here’s what you should be doing:

Breathe in (1) – hold it in, exhale, breathe in (2) – hold it in, exhale, breathe in (3) – hold it in, exhale…

After the cycle of eight breaths, relax for five minutes and repeat.

2. Breathing from the diaphragm


Breathing from your diaphragm or abdomen is the most classic way to relax your mind and body.

Not only can you practice this to relieve insomnia, but it’s also very useful for channeling stress, improving your attention span, having better digestion, speeding up the metabolism (and the list goes on)!

We’ll share some of the key steps below:

  • Sit with your back straight, in a comfortable position.
  • Place one hand over your abdomen and the other on your chest.
  • Now, take a deep breath through your nose. You should notice how your abdomen swells (the diaphragm lowers and fills the belly due to the pressure you have exerted).
  • Hold in your breath for a few seconds and then exhale heavily through the mouth.
  • Repeat this process eight times, rest, and then repeat.

3. Alternative nasal respiration


This exercise requires a little extra practice. Although it might seem somewhat complex or strange at first, it’s actually a very relaxing, cathartic, and beneficial way to fight insomnia.

Here are the steps:

  • Sit comfortably with your back straight.
  • Close your right nostril with your thumb and breathe in only with your left.
  • When you’ve breathed in as much as you can, release the right nostril and close off the left with your ring finger. Now exhale.
  • Repeat this cycle again, alternating your right and left nostrils.

4. Intense breathing

This next breathing technique for insomnia is less well known. Nevertheless, it’s a great idea when you combine it with any of the above strategies.

Pay attention and don’t hesitate to try it:

  • As always, sit in a comfortable position with your back straight.
  • Take a deep breath while counting to seven.
  • Hold in your breath for four seconds.
  • Now comes the most important part: exhale quickly and loudly. Do it as fast a possible.
  • Repeat these steps five times and then breathe normally. Then, continue to do any of the previous breathing techniques.

5. Squared breathing

This is simple and useful, and if you get used to doing it every night you’ll notice a deep inner calm after just 10 days. It’s one of the most relaxing breathing techniques for insomnia.

Without realizing it, it will lull your brain into a very relaxed state to help you fall asleep.

Do you want to learn how to do it? Here are the steps:

  • Get into a comfortable position (you can either be sitting or lying down).
  • Breathe in for four seconds.
  • Hold your breath for four seconds.
  • Exhale for another four seconds.
  • Wait four seconds before taking another breath.
  • Repeat these steps.

Finally, as you can see these exercises are easy to perform at home. If you decide to practice the entire series, it will take you just a little bit over 20 minutes. However, these breathing techniques for insomnia will help you a lot.

Try it!

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Konsta, A., Dikeos, D., Bonakis, A., Economou, N., Chrousos, G., & Darviri, C. (2013). Stress management techniques in primary insomnia: a randomized controlled trial. Sleep Medicine. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sleep.2013.11.405

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.