Pranayama for Sleep Disorders| Breathing Activities to Heal Your Sleep

Mar 18, 2019

When we were kids, we didn’t appreciate how easy it was to fall asleep. In grown-up real life, there are many culprits behind our shut-eye struggles, from worrying about work to a snoring bedmate and general anxiety. And let’s be honest, most of us have been at one point or another- we have likely fantasized about crawling into bed between our working hours and sleeping for, like, an avocado’s entire lifespan.

We understand that sleep can be an elusive thing which is why we are constantly on the hunt for the end-all and be-all trick to nodding off. In the quest of a good night’s sleep, it’s hard to switch off the daily stress. But the answer lies in something as simple as we breathe.

We can take charge of our breathing as and when we wish. In Eastern health exercises, controlled breathing has multiple benefits, with many finding their way to the practice via Yoga. In yogic discipline, Pranayama can induce a beautiful, relaxing sleep. It has deep breathing techniques which will relax the body, slow the heart rate, and calm the mind.

Let’s look at 5 Pranayama exercises which we can do before bed for several minutes to fight sleeping disorders. Make sure that the phone is off and lights are dimmed.

Humming Bee Breath- Bhramari Pranayama

The breathing technique Bhramari derives its name from the black Indian bee called Bhramari. It is a calming breathing practice that soothes the nervous system and helps to connect us with our truest inner nature.

Bhramari Pranayama is one of the best breathing exercises to free the mind of frustration, agitation or anxiety and get rid of anger to a great extent. The calming effect of this Pranayama helps in curing sleeplessness. The Sanskrit word Bhramari means “Bee”, and this is similar to the sound created when we practice this breath. It can be practiced anywhere- at work or home and is an instant option to de-stress.


  • Choose a calm surrounding. Straighten your back and close your eyes. Keep a smile on your face.
  • Start with the natural breathing process. Observe the quietness within and the sensations in the body.
  • Now place your index fingers on the cartilage between the cheek and ear.
  • Take a long inhalation and on the exhalation create a humming sound. The process should be steady and slow. As you breathe out, gently press the cartilage.
  • Press in and out the cartilage with your fingers while humming the bee sound. As blowing through the lips while chanting “Mmmmmmm”.
  • Breath in again and keep continuing the same pattern 3-4 times.

Anyone from a small child to an elderly person can practice this pranayama. The only prerequisite is that it should be done on an empty stomach. It is best for soothing the mind and the nervous system.

Left Nostril Breathing-Surya/ Chandra Bhedana Pranayama

One of the most effective breathing technique, Surya Bhedana Pranayama, is beneficial in inducing sleep as it stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system. It puts a calming and soothing effect on the body.

The Sanskrit word Surya means the “Sun” and Bhedana means “piercing” or “penetrating”. This Pranayama activates the Ida Nerve Ending in the left nostril, which relates to calming and relaxation. Breathing through the left nostril can calm you and lower the blood pressure. For a mindful sleep practice this Pranayama every evening before the bed and use this breathing technique to settle down at the end of the day.


  • Sit straight in a calming position and close your eyes. Now put the right thumb on your right nostril.
  • Close the right nostril off and breath in through your left nostril only.
  • Inhale through the left nostril and exhale through the left only.
  • Be slow and even while deeply breathing in and out.
  • Practice this technique as slowly as possible with your eyes closed.
  • Continue this practice for 10-15 minutes.

We encourage you to try to incorporate this breathing technique into your daily life. The changes will be evident in your general level of anxiety and your sleeping pattern.

Alternate Nostril Breathing- Anulom Vilom Pranayama

Anulom Vilom Pranayama is designed to balance the nadis (energetic channels in the body), purify the energy body, and activate the higher consciousness. In this Pranayama, the yogi inhales and holds the breath, breaks the hold to exhale, then inhales and holds again.

The benefits of alternative breathing technique are an increased capacity to be with uncomfortable experiences; a stronger sense of self that is separate from feelings, thoughts, and events; a profound sense of meditative awareness and greater distance from events happening around the world.


  • Sit comfortably in a crossed leg position, preferably on the ground. Choose the setting that helps you unplug from the surroundings.
  • Keep your spine and head straight. Close your eyes and relax until you are ready for the pranayama.
  • Put your right hand on the right nostril so that the airflow is temporarily obstructed and place your left hand on the left knee.
  • Take a deep breath from the left nostril and shut both the nostrils. Hold the breath for a few seconds.
  • Now release your finger from the right nostril and allow the air to exhale from it. Make sure that the left nostril is shut with the help of your ring and little finger.
  • Deeply inhale from the right nostril while shutting the other one.
  • In this process, hold your breath for a few seconds.
  • Repeat this cycle and ensure that the exhalation is slow and takes longer than the inhalation.

This pranayama is like a natural relaxing tablet, which will help in inducing deep sleep. However, if you experience any pain in the chest, it is recommended to see a physician immediately.

Ocean Breath- Ujjayi Breathing Pranayama

Ujjayi Pranayama derives its name from the Sanskrit word Ujjayi, which means to conquer or to be victorious.  It is a part of Ashtanga yoga and Vinyasa yoga practices used by the ancient yogis in India. This Pranayama is also referred to as ocean breath or hissing breath.

This particular breathing technique aims to keep the mind cool and the body warm. The steadiness, sound, and depth of the practice help to link our mind, body, and spirit to the present moment. While releasing all the thoughts and worries, the muscles and mind relax which helps in deep sleep.


  • Sit in a comfortable position.
  • Close your eyes and relax your mouth and the jawline part.
  • Practice deep inhalations and exhalations. Feel the air passing through your windpipe.
  • While exhaling, try to utter the sound “ahh” from your mouth.
  • While inhaling maintain a contraction at the back of your throat.
  • When comfortable, use the nose only for breathing, keeping your mouth shut, and maintain the contract.
  • Once you become familiar with the setup, increase the time period up to 15 minutes.

Ujjayi Pranayama must be practiced frequently to reap up the benefits faster. A patient of hypertension should refrain from this practice. In the case of dizziness, discontinue the process.

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