Breathing exercises: reduce stress, improve sleep, and strengthen your health

Written by: Stefanie Broes



Time to read 13 min

Breathing is an essential part of our existence. We do it automatically, without really thinking about it. But did you know that  conscious  breathing can have an extraordinary impact on our well-being? Breathing exercises are a simple yet  powerful  way to improve our physical, mental, and emotional health. In this article, we will take you into the world of breathing exercises and discover the many benefits they have to offer.

The importance and benefits of breathing exercises

Whether you’re looking for stress relief, more inner peace, or better sleep quality, breathing exercises can help you achieve those goals. But how do I do that, and how does it work? Read this article and discover the positive impact of breathing exercises on various aspects of our lives, from managing stress and anxiety to promoting a good night’s sleep.

Breathing exercises for stress and anxiety

In our modern 24/7 society, stress and  anxiety  are common challenges. People struggling with stress and/or anxiety may suffer from increased heart rate, accelerated breathing, tension in the muscles, and irritability. Fortunately, breathing exercises can be an effective way to control those symptoms. Deep, slow breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system, relaxing the body and calming the mind.

Breathing exercises for hyperventilation or panic attacks

Hyperventilation or an acute  panic attack  usually occurs due to anxiety or panic, which causes us to breathe too quickly and too superficially. You then breathe in more air than necessary, causing carbon dioxide levels in the body to fall. That can lead to various physical and mental symptoms, such as dizziness, tingling in the hands and feet, palpitations, tightness in the chest, and a feeling of not being able to breathe properly. By consciously breathing and focusing on slow, regular breathing, we can normalize our breathing and reduce the symptoms of hyperventilation.

Breathing exercises for shortness of breath, COPD & asthma

People who suffer from  shortness of breath  due to breathing problems such as COPD, asthma or other conditions, may benefit from targeted breathing exercises that ease breathing and relieve symptoms. For asthma, ‘pursed-lip breathing’ or controlled exhalation can be a useful breathing exercise. If you are sitting or lying comfortably, breathe in slowly through your nose. You pucker your lips almost completely as if blowing out a candle, and slowly exhale through your mouth. Try to make the exhalation twice as long as the inhalation. This breathing technique helps to keep the airways open, reduces shortness of breath, and can help relax your breathing muscles.

Breathing exercises for long COVID

Breathing exercises can help recovery from COVID or lung problems due to the virus in several ways. They help improve and increase lung function, reduce shortness of breath to return to normal breathing and strengthen respiratory muscles. The exercises complement medical treatments. Always consult your healthcare provider before starting any new exercises or recovery programmes. One exercise you can do is  diaphragmatic breathing  .

Which breathing exercises can I do in case of…?

Breathing exercises for poor sleep

A good night’s sleep is essential for our physical and mental health. Some common complaints people can experience as a result of poor sleep include: fatigue, lethargy, difficulty concentrating and reduced productivity, irritability, headaches, muscle aches, a weakened immune system… An effective breathing exercise that can help against poor sleep is the  4-7-8 technique  . By performing slow breathing exercises before bedtime, you help your mind and body relax, making it easier to fall asleep and sleep deeper.

Breathing exercises for childbirth

During labor, women may experience painful contractions and strong uterine contractions. By taking controlled, deep breaths, you can better focus on releasing tension in the body and better prepare for the next contraction. Calm and deep breathing helps to calm the nervous system and stimulate the natural release of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers.

Breathing exercises for physiotherapy

During a recovery process and (re)building physical strength, your breathing can play an important role. Targeted breathing exercises could help regain lung capacity and strengthen respiratory muscles. As mentioned above, breathing exercises also cause endorphins to be released into the body and can help with pain during recovery.

Breathing exercises for the elderly

Breathing exercises can be useful for everyone, regardless of age. For the elderly, breathing exercises can help maintain healthy lung function and promote health. The elderly can also sometimes suffer from anxiety and loneliness. Here, breathing exercises can contribute to a calmer mind.

One exercise you can do is reclining slow breathing. Lying comfortably on your back, possibly with a pillow under your knees for extra support, place your hands on your belly and breathe in slowly and deeply through your nose, feeling your belly rise. Slowly exhale through your mouth and feel your belly sink again. Relax your body completely during this exercise and calmly take your time with each breath.

This slow breathing exercise can help older people relax, reduce stress; and improve their breathing. It’s a simple and safe way to regulate breathing and induce a sense of calm and well-being.

Breathing exercises for children

If a child is restless, suffering from stress; or unable to sleep, breathing exercises might make a difference. When a child does breathing exercises, they can help reduce stress and tension, creating a sense of calmness and relaxation. In addition, those exercises can help children better regulate emotions and reduce negative feelings. By becoming aware of their own breathing and body, children can also develop a greater sense of self-awareness.

A simple breathing exercise for children is Balloon Breathing. In this exercise, children are encouraged to breathe gently through their noses while allowing the abdomen to expand slowly like a balloon being filled with air. On exhaling through the mouth, the child gradually lets the abdomen collapse again, similar to deflating a balloon.

Moreover, Balloon Breathing can contribute to improved concentration and focus, as well as better sleep when practiced before bedtime. In the long term, regular practice can help children manage stress and anxiety more effectively, making them more resilient in challenging situations. It is important to introduce the exercise in a playful and positive way so that children enjoy it. Encourage children to repeat this exercise regularly, especially at times when they feel overwhelmed or need some rest.

Breathing exercises for stuttering

Breathing exercises can help with stuttering as they regulate the flow of breath, giving speakers a steady and even flow of air while speaking. In addition, stress and tension can be reduced, allowing you to speak more relaxed. With breathing exercises, you will learn to pay better attention to your breathing while speaking. Because of the increased control over your speech, these exercises can make you more confident.

One exercise you can do is sliding breathing. Sit or stand comfortably and relax your shoulders. Breathe gently through your nose while counting to three in your head. Then exhale slowly and evenly through your mouth while counting to six in your head. Try to have a “sliding” exhalation, as if you’re gently letting the air out. Wait a few seconds before inhaling again and repeat this exercise.

This gliding breathing can help you breathe in a calm and relaxed manner, which can help reduce the tension and anxiety that often accompany stuttering. It can also help relax the muscles around your speech organs, which can be beneficial when speaking.

Breathing exercises for tinnitus

Tinnitus can have a significant impact on how somebody experiences their life, but with the help of breathing exercises, symptoms can be managed effectively and naturally.

Stress is a known factor that can worsen tinnitus. While stress itself does not directly cause tinnitus, it can make the symptoms worse and more annoying for those already suffering from the condition.

Performing specific exercises to improve your posture and take deep breaths can reduce stress and promote relaxation. That can lead to the reduction of tinnitus symptoms. One exercise you can do is  diaphragmatic breathing  .

Breathing exercises for headaches or migraine

Breathing exercises can also help relieve  migraines and headaches  by promoting relaxation and reducing stress. Stress is often a trigger for migraine attacks. These exercises can also regulate blood flow to the brain and improve oxygenation, potentially reducing migraine symptoms.

One effective breathing exercise to try is  diaphragmatic breathing  . Performing this breathing exercise regularly, on a daily basis or whenever you feel a migraine attack coming on, can relieve migraine symptoms and reduce the frequency of attacks.

Breathing exercises for depression

Breathing exercises can be a valuable addition to the treatment of depression. People suffering from depression often experience feelings of emotional exhaustion and disturbed breathing patterns.

Through breathing exercises, you can focus your attention on the present moment and quiet your thoughts. In addition, slow and deep breathing techniques can help reduce the production of stress hormones and induce a sense of calmness. By doing regular breathing exercises, you can regain your resilience and improve your overall mental health. A simple breathing exercise you can try is the  4-7-8 breathing  .

Breathing exercises for dizziness

Dizziness can be an unsettling feeling and can be caused by an imbalance in the body. Breathing exercises can help address this problem. Simple abdominal breathing techniques can help restore balance and calm the nervous system.

By consciously breathing and slowing our breathing, we can improve blood flow and oxygen circulation to the brain, which can lead to a reduction in dizziness. Consistently practicing these techniques can be a valuable and simple way for people prone to dizziness and balance problems.  Diaphragmatic breathing  helps to reduce dizziness.

Breathing exercises for autism and ADHD

Breathing exercises can support people with  autism  or ADHD by reducing stress, improving concentration, and promoting emotional regulation. These exercises can help reduce overactivity in the brain and give you a sense of peace and calmness. A useful breathing exercise is  diaphragmatic breathing  , also known as abdominal breathing.

Not every breathing exercise is suitable for everyone. It can be helpful to try different exercises and discover which ones are most effective and comfortable for the person with autism or ADHD.

Special breathing techniques and tools

You may have already heard of abdominal breathing exercises. But what exactly is that? In this section, we will discuss the important differences between chest breathing and abdominal breathing and discover how those two approaches can make a profound difference to our stress levels and inner peace. We will also explore how heart coherence, mindfulness, and yoga can contribute to healthier breathing and how well-known breathing exercises can help us relax easily. Additionally, we will look at helpful apps and devices that can guide and support us in improving our breathing.

If you have any health issues or have any doubts about doing breathing exercises, it is highly recommended to consult a healthcare provider or doctor for personal advice and guidance.

Abdominal breathing vs. chest breathing

A crucial distinction within breathing exercises is the focus on chest breathing versus abdominal breathing. Abdominal breathing, also known as diaphragmatic breathing, involves drawing your breath deep into your abdomen and making full use of the diaphragm. This method stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system and promotes relaxation. It lowers stress levels and improves oxygen uptake by getting more oxygen into the lower part of the lungs, where most of the lung alveoli are located.

Chest breathing, in which primarily the chest expands, tends to be shallower and higher. This technique is often associated with stress and anxiety because it activates the sympathetic nervous system. Consciously choosing abdominal breathing can help a person relax more deeply and get more in touch with their inner peace.

Heart coherence

Heart coherence focuses on bringing our breathing and heart rate into harmony. When we consciously breathe slowly and deeply, we can synchronize our breathing pattern with our heartbeat, leading to inner peace and calmness. This technique has been proven to reduce stress, improve concentration, and increase our resilience to emotional challenges.

Mindfulness and yoga

Mindfulness is about consciously paying attention to the present moment and developing the mind. Yoga focuses on an individual’s physical, mental, and spiritual development. In breathing exercises, during mindfulness and yoga, we turn our full attention to our breathing as we gently inhale and exhale. This helps quiet our thoughts and creates space for relaxation and inner peace. These exercises also promote a deeper connection with ourselves and our environment.

Well-known breathing exercises

  • The  4-7-8 technique  is a simple yet effective breathing exercise to achieve relaxation quickly. This exercise stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, resulting in a calming effect on your body and mind.
  •  Box breathing  , also known as square breathing, is a breathing technique that helps to calm your mind and reduce stress. It’s a quick and effective way to relax in stressful situations.
  •  Alternate nostril breathing  is a breathing exercise in which you alternately inhale through one nostril and exhale through the other. It helps balance the energy in your body and provides a sense of inner peace and tranquility.
  • The  diaphragmatic breathing technique  has many benefits, including helping you relax, reducing stress and anxiety, increasing oxygen intake, and improving lung function.


Today there are numerous apps available to help us practice breathing exercises. These apps offer guided sessions, personal progress logs; and various breathing techniques to meet our individual needs. Using a breathing exercise app makes it easy to practice regularly and experience the benefits of breathing techniques in our daily lives.


In addition to apps, there are also  devices  available that can provide support during breathing exercises. Those devices range from simple tools that help us track our breathing, to more advanced devices that provide feedback on our breathing patterns and help us optimize them. These devices can be especially helpful for people who need more structure and guidance during their breathing exercises.

FAQ section

How many times a day am I allowed to do breathing exercises?

The  frequency of breathing exercises  can vary depending on your personal needs and lifestyle. It’s usually recommended to do breathing exercises a few times each day, in order to get the most benefits. A good starting point is to take a break from breathing exercises at least two to three times a day. For example, these times can be in the morning when you wake up, during a break in the afternoon, and before going to bed.

The important thing is to be consistent. By practicing regularly, you will get a better grasp of the breathing techniques, experiencing their positive effects on your body and strengthening your mind. Eventually, you can experiment with the frequency and timing of the exercises to discover what works best for you and what fits into your daily routine. Even short sessions of a few minutes at a time can already be of value to your health.

Why should I do breathing exercises?

Breathing exercises have numerous benefits. For example, they can reduce your stress, reduce your anxiety, and improve your sleep by helping you relax. These techniques are very easy to apply and offer many benefits to your body and mind. Doing breathing exercises regularly can have a positive impact on your overall health and well-being.

How much time should I spend doing breathing exercises?

The ideal duration of breathing exercises can vary, but it’s usually recommended to spend at least 5 to 10 minutes each day doing them. These short breaks may be enough to experience the benefits of the exercises, such as stress reduction, improved sleep, reduced anxiety, and relaxation. If you have more time, you can extend the sessions to 15-20 minutes for a deeper experience. The important thing is to be consistent and incorporate breathing exercises into your daily routine, regardless of the length of each session.

How long should I do breathing exercises in case of hyperventilation?

When hyperventilation occurs, it is important to get your breathing under control. It’s recommended to do slow, deep breathing exercises for at least 5 to 10 minutes. Focus on slowing down your breathing and consciously breathe in and out, preferably through your nose. This can help normalize excessive breathing and restore carbon dioxide levels in your body. If the symptoms persist, seek medical attention immediately. Breathing exercises can be helpful as an initial response, but professional advice and counseling are important in severe cases of hyperventilation.

Breathing exercises are thus a powerful way to improve our physical and mental health. Although we often breathe unconsciously, consciously practicing breathing techniques can offer a wide range of benefits. Whether it’s reducing stress, promoting a good night’s sleep, dealing with anxiety, or strengthening our health, breathing exercises can have a positive impact on various aspects of our lives.

Want to experience the benefits of breathing exercises for yourself? No matter where you are in your life, there is an appropriate exercise for you! Try regularly taking a few minutes to consciously breathe and discover which techniques work best for you. Start taking a break to breathe today and enjoy the countless positive effects on your health.

Do you need extra guidance or find it difficult to keep your attention during breathing exercises? At moonbird, we developed a tactile breathing coach that fits in the palm of your hand. Feel how the device expands and contracts, indicating the ideal breathing pace. Wherever you are. Also, make sure to download our accompanying app with various guided breathing exercises and live biofeedback.

  Try moonbird for 30 days    without any risks or obligations. You’ll only pay if you decide to keep moonbird. The most important thing for us is that moonbird really works for you. 

Wondering what moonbird can do for you? See   how breathing with moonbird works.

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