Breathwork and Flow States

Use this breathwork technique to fall asleep

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About the author

This article was written by Flow Lab's Head of Content and MSc. psychologist Eva Siem. She studied at the University of Groningen (NL) and is specialized in the area of performance and motivational psychology. In her articles, she combines findings from psychological research with practical tips from her experience as mental fitness coach and workshop trainer.

You brushed your teeth, set the alarm clock and closed the curtains. Everything is set so you can finally fall asleep… If only there weren’t a thousand thoughts keeping you awake. Or nervousness because of the challenge that is awaiting you on the next day. Or maybe you haven’t moved a lot during the day and just don’t feel tired.
We all know those nights where we roll from one side to the other and just won’t fall asleep.

Breathwork influences the activity of the autonomic nervous system

But there are ways to trick our mind and body into winding down – without any sleeping pills.
As you may already know from our article about the science of breathing, breathwork is the only way to consciously influence your autonomic nervous system and, for example, trigger relaxation. And breathwork can even help you relax so deeply that you may fall asleep in no time 😉

Ditch counting sheep and use the 4-7-8 breathing to fall asleep

So to all the sleepless people out there, here comes the 4-7-8 breathing technique:
Breathe in deeply through your nose for 4 seconds.
Hold the air here for 7 seconds.
And then exhale evenly through the nose for 8 seconds.

Repeat this for a few breaths and observe how you gradually wind down. Find your own pace. Just make sure to maintain this ratio.

Why this technique work so well? Well, first of all, if you breathe in for 4 seconds, you will take in enough oxygen. By holding your breath for 7 seconds, the oxygen has enough time to enter the bloodstream. And finally, a long 8-second exhalation stimulates your parasympathetic nervous system. This branch of the autonomic nervous system triggers a relaxation response so you can wind down. It soothes a racing heart, decreases blood pressure and relaxes your muscles. According to research, this breathing technique indeed lowers cortisol levels.
And of course, it also works on a mental level. You stop replaying worries or other disturbing thoughts because you focus on your breathing instead.
Breathwork is so effective when it comes to winding down because breathing pauses and long exhalations stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system which triggers a relaxation response. Click To Tweet
Give it a try tonight and use the power of breathwork to fall asleep. And if you like to integrate this or other breathing exercises into your daily mental fitness routine, check out the Flow Lab app.
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