The Best Relaxation & Breathing Techniques For Sleep

7 min read

Last Modified 23 November 2021 First Added 3 March 2017

By Chris Clark

Relaxation and breathing techniques come in all shapes and sizes, and people will often fine tune a particular method to suit their needs. Below are ten relaxation techniques that are tailored to helping you fall asleep – from setting the room to the right temperature to mastering the 4-7-8 breathing technique, we hope this infographic with things to help you sleep can get you some much-needed shut eye.

relaxation techniques


10 Sleep Relaxation Techniques You May Not Have Heard Of – Transcript

Getting to sleep can be hard, and according to Dream’s UK Sleep Survey, 63.1% of people are unhappy with the amount of sleep they get. Here are ten sleep relaxation techniques to help you master your night time slumber.

1. Prepare your bedroom

Room temperature should be set between 15.5 and 19.4 degrees Celsius, if the room is too hot or too cold, you may wake up in the night. Noise disturbances should be kept at a minimum, switch off your TV, put your phone on silent, invest in some thicker curtains to help block outside sounds. Finally, invest in a decent mattress and pillow to support your natural sleeping position.

2. Progressive Muscle Relaxation

This relieves any tension in your body from the day’s activities.

Foot (curl your toes downward)

Lower leg and foot (tighten your calf muscle by pulling toes towards you)

Entire leg (squeeze thigh muscles while doing above)

Hand (clench your fist)

Entire right arm (tighten your biceps by drawing your forearm up towards your

shoulder and “make a muscle”, while clenching fist)

Buttocks (tighten by pulling your buttocks together)

Stomach (suck your stomach in)

Chest (tighten by taking a deep breath)

Neck and shoulders (raise your shoulders up to touch your ears)

Mouth (open your mouth wide enough to stretch the hinges of your jaw)

Eyes (clench your eyelids tightly shut)

Forehead (raise your eyebrows as far as you can)

3. Humming

Humming has the same calming effect on the nervous system as deep breathing. It also makes your face, neck and shoulder muscles more relaxed and soothed- almost like a mini massage.

4. Keep a notepad nearby

Sleep can often elude those who worry about the next day’s tasks and worrying about forgetting something. If you write-downs your jobs and worries, they can be left to rest on paper instead of your mind.

5. Guided imagery

Focus your attention on an image or story that you find relaxing. Get comfortable and concentrate on this image, whether it’s a calming beach or starry night sky. Think of all the details in that picture and what makes it relaxing. If you get distracted, calmly move your thoughts back. This will takecategorisedtime to master, but more you try, the more relaxed you’ll be.

6. Sound meditation

Some sounds such as ocean waves or wind through trees are categorized by our brain as ‘non-threat’ sounds. That means you can more easily fall asleep if you set your phone or radio to play soothing sounds. There are even apps that will time out and switch off after a certain time.

8. The 4-7-8 Breathing Technique

Dr Andrew Weil, pioneer of ‘integrative medicine’, He advises people perform a breathing exercise involving breathing in for 4 seconds, holding your breath for 7 seconds, and breathing out for 8 seconds. Repeat four times and you will have a profound sense of inner relaxation. Practice makes perfect though!

9. Bed is for Sleep

Make sure you never lie in bed wide awake, if you find yourself unable to doze off, then get up and repeat your bedtime routine.

10. Have the right drink or snack before bed

The last thing you want is to wake up hungry at 4 am. It’s important to stay hydrated, and a warm drink such as a herbal tea can help you drift off into a deep sleep. Some of our favourites are [chamomile, peppermint and lavender]. Some foods are also great for helping your body relax at night, particularly those containing calcium, magnesium and tryptophan. We recommend you try a [low-fat yoghurt, a handful of berries and a banana].

11. Mindfulness

Vietnamese Buddhist monk, poet, scholar and human activist Thich Nhat Hanh says that ‘mindfulness is the energy that helps us recognise the conditions of happiness that are already present in our lives’. The practice of mindfulness involves many of the relaxation techniques already covered, but all are working in sync:

–       Mindful breathing

–       Concentration and awareness of your thoughts

–       Awareness of your body

–       Releasing tension

–       Meditation through walking

‘Bring your mind home to your body, become alive, and perform the miracle of walking on Earth.’

12. Meditative breathing

Image of woman meditating

The very first step in mindfulness meditation is learning to regulate your breathing. It requires some concentration, but it’s worth it once the relaxing effect takes hold. Connect with the rise and fall of your breath within your body, where you feel movement as you breathe and how the sensation of breathing feels. You should feel your muscles relax and loosen as you practise this for 8 to 10 minutes.

13. Double exhalation

This technique helps to keep us from thinking about stressful things and is much more effective than counting sheep! Slow breathing such as this also helps to reset the autonomic nervous system by synchronising neural elements in the brain, heart and lungs. To do this yourself, simply exhale twice as long as you inhale. The practice is particularly common in yoga.

14 – Alternate your nostrils

Image of woman alternate nostril breathing

It might seem a little odd but breathing through your nose sends signals of relaxation to the brain. Breathing through your mouth, however, is an indication of stress. Commonly you breathe through your mouth when unwell, scared, fatigued and when your heart rate is elevated.

To try this sit in a relaxed position and close your left nostril with your right ring finger to inhale. Swap your nostrils to exhale. Keep your eyes closed throughout and practice until you begin to feel calmer.

15 – Deep breathing

This routine is ideal as you get to lie down while doing it, putting you in the perfect position to fall right to sleep. Lie on your back, legs hip distance apart, arms relaxing at the side of your body. Take a few deep inhales through the nose and exhale through your mouth. Each time you inhale aim to fill your lungs and rid them entirely of air when you exhale.

After you have done this three times, take a deep nose inhalation for four counts, constricting the back of the throat, so it feels like you are breathing through a straw. It should sound a little bit like snoring. Hold the breath for a count of four before exhaling through the nose in the same way for a count of four again. Each time you repeat the breath try to breathe and hold the breath for an excess of two more counts until you reach the maximum you can manage. Then begin holding less until you are back to 4 counts at which point you should be ready for sleep.

If you tried any of these breathing techniques let us know what you thought in the comments section.


The key is to be aware of body’s need for 8 hours sleep, and of the benefits of helping your circadian rhythm perform at its very best. Sleep well!

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