How to fall deeply asleep quickly even after a stressful day (Exhale-Emphasized Breathing)


85% of people don’t get sufficient quality sleep at night, which kills their productivity and resilience during the day. To get a good night’s sleep, being able to fall deeply asleep quickly is crucial.

What to do

Instead of merely focusing on 8 hours of total sleep, get 90 minutes of deep sleep a night — by using exhale-emphasized breathing to fall deeply asleep quickly.

Why it works

A great night’s sleep starts with 90 minutes of deep sleep. It can increase productivity by up to 150% – and prevent acute stress from turning into chronic stress, according to Prof. Andrew Huberman (pictured above).  Against this background, “8 hours of sleep a night” is as terrible advice as “2000 calories a day”. If you eat junk food (think burgers, fries and soda), you’ll end up sick and miserable. Junk sleep is similar. It looks like the real thing, but lacks the “nutrients” you need.

Mastering deep sleep is like landing a plane, which takes three steps: preparing the descent (i.e., setting up your system for deep sleep), setting up the landing strip (i.e., your bedroom), and finally touching ground (i.e., falling asleep). In the last two weeks, I shared how to prepare that plane’s descent and set up its landing strip. Today, you’ll learn three brutally-effective and science-based methods to touch ground (i.e., fall deeply asleep quickly) even after a stressful day.

All three involve exhale-emphasized breathing. They work because exhaling more than inhaling activates our parasympathetic nervous system. Also known as the “calmness system”, its high activation is vital to get to 90 minutes of deep sleep a night. Let’s delve right in.

How to do it

The first method is three-six breathing. It’s a dead-simple and effective way to fall deeply asleep quickly and involves three steps. First, inhale through the nose for three seconds. Second, exhale through the mouth for six seconds. Third, repeat this process three times – for a total of 36 seconds. With three-six breathing, you can effortlessly activate your calmness system in real-time.

The second method is the physiological sigh. First, inhale deeply through the nose for two seconds. Second, add a second inhale through the nose on top of the first for one second. Third, exhale fully through the mouth for six seconds. In this video, Prof. Huberman demonstrates how to do a physiological sigh. Its second inhale lets your lungs release much more carbon dioxide during the subsequent exhale, which activates your “calmness system” very effectively and quickly.

The third method is cycling sighing. It’s a sure-fire way to trigger your “calmness system” and fall deeply asleep quickly after a particularly stressful day. Fortunately, cyclic sighing is also easy. Simply perform physiological sighs – which take about nine seconds each – consecutively for five minutes. This works because cycling sighing leverages exhale-emphasized breathing and carbon dioxide release persistently to strongly activate your “calmness system”. A 2023 study by Prof. Huberman and colleagues found that it’s the most effective method to calm down and improve mood – even more than mindfulness meditation.

Again, getting to 90 minutes of deep sleep is like landing a plane. 

Today, I’ve shared three brutally-effective and science-based methods to touch ground (i.e., fall deeply asleep quickly). 

Next week, I’ll explain how to use these and many other methods to master stress.