THE INFORMED SLEEPER
Sleep Science

Breath Work In Bed

BY FURTHERMORE / AN EQUINOX DIGITAL PUBLICATION • JANUARY 19, 2018

Furthermore and DUXIANA present Life, Awakened - a series of videos and articles promoting deep, regenerative sleep as the foundation for an active, healthy lifestyle.

Breathing—it’s one of the thousands of bodily functions we don’t have to think about. And that’s a huge relief: Adults take around 25,000 breaths per day, so if we had to remind ourselves to do it, we wouldn’t have time for anything else. But just because breathing comes easy doesn’t mean that we can’t improve or tweak it to help change our emotional or physical states. Breathing can bring on relaxation and sleep, or even boost your energy, depending on how you do it.

Here are two types of breath exercises ideal for before bed and when you wake up, respectively.

 

P.M.

TYPE OF BREATHING:
Deep breathing can help us relax, lower heart rate and blood pressure, and decrease anxiety. If you’re searching for some zen, try the 4-7-8 technique, which is an easy and effective way to breathe deeply, says Matthew Berenc, director of education for the Equinox Fitness Training Institute.

HOW TO DO IT:
To get started, find a comfortable position, sitting up straight or even lying down. Inhale through the nose for four counts, breathing so that your belly expands, not your chest. Hold for seven counts, then exhale for eight. You can hold the breaths for longer, just remember to keep the exhalation longer than the inhalation. “Doing so will activate your parasympathetic nervous system which propels the body to slow the heart rate, lower blood pressure, and relax,” Berenc says.

WHY IT WORKS:
Deep, slow breathing is great any time you are feeling stressed and it can also help you get to sleep, whether it’s done before bed or during the day, says Susan Hart, a Tier X coach at Equinox in Boston and a certified yoga teacher. “Each time you’re breathing deeply, you’re quieting your inner chatter and conditioning your mind not to be in a million places. That adds up, so by the time you’re going to bed, you naturally feel more centered and calm, and it becomes easier to fall asleep,” she says.

 

A.M.

TYPE OF BREATHING:
If you’re looking for a quick hit of energy during the day, you can try the Breath of Fire.

HOW TO DO IT:
“During the Breath of Fire, which is common in Kundalini yoga practices, you’re doing short, powerful exhales for around 30 seconds at a time,” says Berenc. "These can be performed either through the nose or mouth and should be equal in length with no pause in between. You want to make sure that the driving force of the breath is your diaphragm." It’s a tricky tactic to master, however. Hart adds that high-stress individuals, pregnant women, and people who have high blood pressure or asthma should skip it. “Breath of fire requires a lot of practice, so if you’re interested in trying it, seek out a seasoned yoga teacher or breathing instructor who can help guide you,” she says.

WHY IT WORKS:
Although there hasn't been much research on this type of breathing, it's thought to increase circulation, replenish the lungs with fresh air, and tone the abdominal muscles.

 

 

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