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How To Breathe Your Way To A Better Night’s Sleep

For many, getting those all-important seven-to-nine hours of sleep a night has never been harder. As many as 16 million adults suffer from slumberless nights in the UK. That’s a statistic that’s worth losing sleep over.

Although we can all take a pretty confident guess at what might be causing the deficit – work stress, everyday anxieties, blue screens, that habitual afternoon caffeine injection – what we’re pretty bad at is knowing how to fix it.

Performance coach Richie Norton (opens in new tab) has shared this breathing exercise that’s designed to help. Give the video a watch and find out more in the interview with Norton below, before taking your learnings to bed with you tonight.

How does this breathing technique work?

Studies have shown that breathing is an effective way of triggering the parasympathetic nervous system, otherwise known as the “rest and digest system”, which creates a calm and relaxed state. Controlled breathing through the nose, in particular, plays a key role in switching on this system – it’s a more efficient way of activating the diaphragm, breathing from the belly and finding the fuller breaths that bring a sense of calm.

How will it help?

Personally, this breathing exercise has not only changed the way I train for performance, but it has also had a huge impact on my overall wellbeing. I use it most nights now. After a busy or active day, I may need to go through a few cycles of the practice to switch off my monkey mind, but if I’m feeling pretty chilled out, I might not even make it past the first round of the exercise.

What is going to be the hardest part about learning this technique?

As with learning anything, adjusting your breathing takes time and practice. Some people will find it easy to adjust, others might find it takes a little longer – it’s all about persevering and finding what works for you. Don’t force it or feel rushed. Take your time and play with a steady tempo and rhythm that suits your level and current state. It will eventually feel more instinctive with more practice and experimentation. If you are still struggling, maybe go for a walk and get some fresh air, or even do some very slow, light stretching.

And when I’ve nailed it, what can I do next?

The next level is beginning to deepen your connection to every single part of your body until every breath is capable of slowing down your heartbeat, quieting down your thoughts, and transforming a highly stressed situation to a calm and peaceful one.

Richie Norton is working with AXA PPP healthcare on the launch of Headstrong, an initiative that promotes an active approach to mental health. Visit axappphealthcare.co.uk/headstrong (opens in new tab) to watch the video series

Chris Sayer

Craft beer drinker, Devonian, fisherman and former content director of Coach online, Chris contributed style coverage and features between 2016 and 2019.