Spiraling Thoughts Keeping You Up at Night? Try This Breathwork Exercise for Sleep


With so much happening in the world—a pandemic, the climate crisis, widespread inequality, and hate crimes, to name a few—it’s really not surprising if spiraling thoughts often occupy your headspace. But while unsurprising, these bouts of overwhelm don’t do your mind or body any favors—especially considering that they can prevent us from getting the quality shut eye we so badly need in order to maintain optimum health. Thankfully, strategies like breathwork for sleep can help put the swirling thoughts in your mind to sleep so you can doze off peacefully.

Breathwork for sleep is a tip that yoga nida practitioner Tracee Stanley highlights during a recent episode of Glowing Live With Latham on Well+Good’s IGTV. While practicing breathwork, she says, the mind is centered and connected—and that’s important. “The breath is a direct reflection of the quality of the mind,” Stanley says. “So if the mind is busy and the mind is active, your breath is going to be shaky—it’s going to feel like it has hitches and breaks in it.” The effect of that feeling? A lack of mental calm that supports spiraling thoughts to root…and potentially compromise your sleep.

“The breath is a direct reflection of the quality of the mind. So if the mind is busy and the mind is active, your breath is going to be shaky.” —Tracee Stanely, yoga nidra practioner

Because there’s no magic switch to turn off spiraling thoughts at night (though strategies like thought stopping and journaling might help), Stanley suggests turning to breathwork for sleep as an option that may work. To practice it, she says, focus your attention on your breath, which will bring awareness to the body and help you to regain control over the mind.

A specific breathwork for sleep technique she recommends you try is one-to-two ratio breathing, which combines three-second counts as you inhale, and six-second counts as you as you exhale. The goal is to reduce the gap between the inhale and exhale so that the breath is smooth and continuous.

To start, put both hands on your belly and slowly close your eyes. Let your naval inflate as you inhale and shrink as you exhale. As you inhale, count three seconds, and then as you exhale, count six seconds. After a few minutes, Stanley says you will start to feel more calm and settled. “If we shift our breath, it shifts the quality of the mind. Thats why the one-to-two breathing is so powerful,” Stanley says. Do this breathwork for sleep exercise for about five minutes, and you’ll be dozing off in no time.

To watch the full discussion, check out the full episode of Glowing Live With Latham below:


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