One. Two. Three. Four…. Counting sheep never really worked for me. I’ve even tried other methods like naming all the joints in my body from head to toe or even just simply taking a melatonin supplement before bed. Falling asleep in a timely manner has always been a huge issue of mine especially since I have struggled with anxiety for years. My feelings of angst tend to carry over into my nightly routine which regularly throws me off. You should find yourself dozing off in less than 30 minutes, but for me, my mind is constantly running and I can never seem to find that “off” switch so falling asleep sometimes takes upwards of 2 hours! Exploring other options was often difficult because I’ve tried them all before. That of course was before I was introduced to the method of Wim Hof Breathing (thanks Nick!).
The Wim Hof Breathing Technique focuses on controlled hyperventilation (rhythmic inhalation/exhalation) and breath holds. Following this technique is easy to understand and anyone can do it. From what I have learned, most people do it first thing in the morning as a way to “wake up” their nervous system but I have benefitted by practicing before sleep! There are only 4 simple steps to this technique:
Step 1 - Get comfortable. Always breath when in a seated position or when laying down as if you are preparing to meditate. Doing this allows you to fully expand your lungs without any restriction.
Step 2 - Close your eyes, relax your whole body, and start with 30 to 40 deep breaths. During this portion of breathing, you really want to focus on filling your belly with oxygen. Breathe deep in through either your nose or mouth, then exhale through your mouth. Full breath in, full breath out. Continue this 30-40 times making sure these breaths are short, powerful “bursts”, similar to how it feels when you hyperventilate. My first time trying this, I started to feel my hands and feet tingle and I felt somewhat lightheaded but this is totally normal! So if you give this a try and you feel similar reactions in your body, don’t be alarmed, they are completely harmless.
Step 3 - Breath hold. After you reach that 30th or 40th breath, take one more super deep inhale and immediately exhale forcing all the air out of your lungs and hold. At this point you want to “stop breathing” until you feel the urge to breath again. My first go at this, I was only able to hold for about 20-25 seconds, but the more I practice and focus on relaxation of my body, your able to put the fact that you’re not breathing to the side and hold longer. I am up to 1 minute and 57 seconds!
Step 4 - This is your “recovery” breath and the last step to this process! Once that urge to breath again presents itself, take another deep breath to completely fill your lungs again and hold that breath for 15 seconds before exhaling. After that final release, repeat steps 2-4 for another 3 or 4 rounds to get the full effects of this breathing style.
That’s it! Super simple and trust me, you’ll feel SO GOOD even after just 1 time trying Wim Hof Breathing! Because I feel so good with this type of breathing, I have been doing 2-3 rounds as soon as I get into bed. My mind clears completely and I am able to shut my whole body down to relax and get the sleep that I deserve. The next morning I feel so rested and I can tell that my body is forever grateful.