Belly Breathing and Body Scan to Help you Sleep

Latest update: September 24, 2018

Author: Heidi Holvoet, PhD

Belly Breathing

Belly breathing is a super easy and effective way to help you relax.

Even a little bit of stress, fatigue or worrying, easily results in a tight belly, often unnoticed.

By concentrating on breathing through your belly, it will soften, relieving the stress. The deep breathing also enhances oxygen supply, making it a healthy breathing too.

Belly Breathing Lie down comfortably and check your breathing: notice how you are breathing for a few moments. Then start breathing slowly and deeply.

Take a slow deep inhale and expand your belly: actively send the air through your belly (think of pushing your navel upward).

Make your exhaling long, letting all the air escape and your belly sinking down (for many this is a very nice sensation, relaxing your whole lower body).

Double check on your shoulder and neck muscles to make sure you're not tightening them.

Deep Relaxation Body Scan

This is a personal favorite because it is very effective and like many I can report that it actually improves the quality of your sleep.

It is often taught in mindfulness meditation as a warm-up exercise, preparing the body for mediation.

But, since it relaxes your whole body very gently and comfortably, it is a perfect sleep aid. It can even be a challenge to not drift off before finishing the whole scan ...

Deep Relaxation Body Scan Lie down comfortably on your back and take a few slow, deep breaths. Place your arms alongside your body, stretch out your legs, wiggle your toes a few times, flex one foot, then the other.

The body scan will take you through all parts of your body: one by one you'll let them sink or melt down into the bed.

Whenever your mind drifts off, gently return to where you were and continue the scan. Or re-start if you lost track. There's no rush, no must get it done.

Start at your feet: imagine them heavy and gently let them melt down. Move upwards, let your lower legs weigh down, your knees, then your thighs. By weighing them down, release any tightened muscle you might feel.

Upwards, your hips sink down and then you reach your belly. Send your breath to expand your belly and then soften it when exhaling. Stick around your belly with belly breathing for a while, also when moving towards your stomach area.

Then you reach your chest. Lift and sink your chest with breathing here and also let your neck and shoulders sink down comfortably.

From here you move along your arms, becoming heaving and reaching your fingertips.

Then finish at your head: let it sink down and enjoy releasing the tension from your face.

If you feel you've tightened up some parts of your body again, go back and release them.

Experience how your body is all soft and sunk down. But you may well be off to sleep long before getting here ...

Try one or two of the suggested relaxation techniques a couple of times. One will probably suit you better than another or you may want to vary between them.