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Japanese breathing technique promises a better night's sleep

The Independent logo The Independent 7/11/2019 Chelsea Ritschel
a woman lying on a bed © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited

From teas and essential oils to blue-light bans, there are countless insomnia cures that promise a better night’s sleep.

But if you’re still lying awake counting sheep, a new Japanese breathing technique called "moon breathing" may be the answer - and all it requires is closing one nostril and breathing through the other.

To moon breathe, also known as Chandra Bhedana in Sanskrit, all you need to do is lie down and use your right thumb to gently close your right nostril. You then breathe in and out through just your left nostril.

The technique, which promises to help you achieve a good night’s sleep by calming your mind enough to drift off, was recently described in the book Kaizen: The Japanese Method for Transforming Habits, One Small Step at a Time, by publishing consultant Sarah Harvey.

“For the times when you can’t sleep, I am going to share with you a short breathing exercise that I find helps me when it is 3am and my mind is racing with nonsense thoughts,” Harvey writes.

Moon breathing is a popular relaxation method among yogis, who believe that it improves the sleep cycle.

If that doesn’t work, Harvey also recommends trying out the same technique, but alternating nostrils.

“This is called Nadi Shodhana or alternate nostril breathing and is a really simple way to quickly quiet the mind and settle your emotions, so is a useful exercise to have up your sleeve during moments of anxiety or stress,” she explains. “It really helps to focus the mind and press the reset button on your nervous system.”

According to researchers, breath-focused practises, which have long been used by yogis and Buddhists, have known cognitive benefits, including increased ability to focus, decreased mind wandering, and more positive emotions, among others.

Recently, researchers at Trinity College in Dublin also found a neurophysiological link between breathing techniques and attention, showing for the first time that “breathing directly affects the levels of a natural chemical messenger in the brain called noradrenaline, which is released when we are challenged, curious, exercised, focused or emotionally aroused”.

With bad sleep linked to an increase in emotional stress levels, moon breathing is worth trying if you’re tired of not being able to fall asleep.

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