• Stretch
  • Posts
  • Breathe better. Sleep better.

Breathe better. Sleep better.

🤸‍♀️ Stretch 68

The more I learn about our breath, the more confused I am about why breathwork isn’t more popular.

I read somewhere that it might be because there’s no big money in it. Companies and institutes aren’t throwing cash at researching the benefits of breathwork because well, there’s not much they can sell us on.

Think about it. Wherever there’s a big problem, someone’s trying to sell a big solution. Like with sleep issues. So many of us struggle with sleep, ending up grumpy, tired and not at our sharpest. But, not to worry!

We have pills, $10k temperature-controlled mattresses, black-out curtains, rings and watches that track your every movement, air diffusers, baby sea lion sounds, you name it.

All in the name of helping us sleep better.

But maybe, juuuust maybe, we’re overlooking something super simple and free… our breath.


It’s really simple:

Here are three ideas you can immediately start experimenting with:

1. Calm down your mind and body before going to sleep

It’s kind of funny when you think about it:

We run around all day like maniacs and then we expect our brains and bodies to calm down the second we put our heads on the pillow.

Of course, there needs to be a transition period. One of the things you should do to prepare for deep sleep, and discourage heavy breathing at night, is taking time to “down-regulate” before going to bed. That means activating our body’s parasympathetic nervous system, which is our relaxation response. Heart rate goes down, blood pressure goes down, digestion increases, body temperature increases.

Here’s how you can start doing this:

  • Go to bed 10-15 minutes earlier than usual

  • Place one hand on your chest, one hand above your navel

  • Bring your attention from the mind onto the breath

  • Pay attention to cold air coming into the nose and warm air going out

  • Gently soften the speed of your breathing

  • Create a slight feeling of air hunger by taking smaller inhales

  • Have a very relaxed and slow exhale

  • Feel your hand by your navel moving up as you inhale and your hand moving down as you exhale. Keep the hand on your chest still.

  • Keep doing that—soft, slow breaths—for 10-15 minutes or until you fall asleep

  • Whenever you notice you're lost in thought, just gently bring your attention back to your breath. And don’t beat yourself up, this is entirely normal.

The idea of creating a slight feeling of air hunger takes a little bit of practice, and is a key element of the Oxygen Advantage Functional Breathing re-training.

It’s all about taking in less air than you normally would. You don't want to be breathless and it definitely shouldn’t be stressful. You should just feel like you would like to take a deeper breath but in a way that's tolerable.

The point of breathing light and slow right before bed is two-fold:

  • Increase carbon dioxide in your system, improving oxygen uptake and oxygen delivery to the brain, reducing racing thoughts. Increased oxygenation of the blood and improved blood circulation will also have a direct impact on sleep quality, helping you wake up feeling alert and energized.

  • Stimulate the vagus nerve, increasing parasympathetic activation and bringing your mind and body into relaxation.

I admit, after a long day, I don’t always feel like spending 10 minutes just lying there. So I often combine this breathing exercise with reading a book. Try it and you’ll see, it’s perfectly possible to have say 20% of your attention on slowing down your breathing and 80% of your attention on your book.

2. If you wake up in the middle of the night, use your breath.

The brain’s primary focus is protecting the body and ensuring survival. Whenever we breathe rapidly or irregularly, our brain interprets this as a potential threat and wakes us up. I’ve been chatting to lots of friends about their sleep and it seems like pretty much everyone struggles with the experience of waking up at least once during the night or early morning, and finding it difficult to fall back asleep.

Here’s the key thing to keep in mind when that happens:

Immediately bring your attention from your thoughts to your breathing. You want to re-activate your body’s relaxation response by focusing on slow and gentle breathing, with a prolonged exhalation.

If your mind is whirring, try not to panic or get annoyed. Just keep bringing your attention back to the breath, over and over again, until you fall back asleep.

One of my tricks is "think of the black." I focus on staring into the black space behind my eyes and letting myself "fall" into the darkness. I allow the feeling of sinking into the bed by breathing slowly and relaxing the tension in my body. It's a strange feeling, but it works every time.

3. Make sure you’re breathing through your nose

“It’s a good idea to be a nose breather unless you need to mouth breathe. It’s a great idea to be a nose breather in sleep. One way to get good at that, is to get a bit of medical tape and to tape your mouth shut before going to sleep.”—Andrew Huberman in Sleep Toolkit episode.

The only reason we've evolved to be able to breathe through two channels is to increase our chances of survival. Should the nose get obstructed, the mouth becomes a backup ventilation system. But that’s all the mouth was ever meant to be: backup.

So, train yourself to breathe through your nose as much as possible—also during sleep. It’s essential for maintaining optimal sleep quality, and in lots of cases, it will prevent snoring and improve sleep apnea.

The nose acts as a natural filter, removing allergens, dust, and other particles from the air we breathe in. It also warms and humidifies the air, making it more comfortable to breathe in while we sleep.

Nose breathing also increases the amount of nitric oxide (NO) you produce—a gas only produced in your nasal cavities. NO is a vasodilator, which means it helps to widen blood vessels and improve oxygen circulation in your body.

I know, it’s not the sexiest thing to do plus it can be a bit uncomfortable at the beginning, but I got used to it very quickly. If need be, you could start with taping your mouth for 10-20 minute breaks throughout the day to get used to the feeling.

(Disclaimer: Don’t do this if you’re feeling nauseous, have an upset stomach or have been drinking alcohol!)


  • Down-regulate before going to sleep to calm down your body and mind. Slow down your breathing, and focus on making the exhale longer than the inhale.

  • Use your breath as an anchor when you wake up in the middle of the night. Bring your focus from your thoughts to your breath, over and over, until you fall back asleep.

  • Ensure nose breathing, if necessary with mouth tape. Nose breathing is one of the key factors to ensure optimal sleep quality, and if you’re a snorer, this is a must-try!

Want to keep experimenting with me?

There are two ways we can work together:

  1. Create your Breathwork Toolkit. Book a free 1-1 session here. In the lovely words of Hesam Panahi, "In just 45 minutes, I was able to walk away with clarity about what I could accomplish by being more intentional with my breathing. Charlotte's advice was not only actionable, but also personalized based on my questions and interests. Talking with Charlotte saved me the hours of endless searching and dead-ends I would have experienced if I had tried to explore on my own.”

  2. Body-Based Productivity. BBP is based on two fundamental principles: i. Take care of your body and your mind will follow. ii. Leverage your body as a tool to think and feel better. I offer personalized coaching and group workshops (I recently co-created a session for a Fortune500 cosmetics company.) Send me a note if you’d like more info.

(If you’re not looking for any of the above but do enjoy this newsletter and want to support my work, you’re more than welcome to help me cover some of the platform fees it takes to keep this newsletter running. 🥰)

P.S. Next week’s Stretch is all about understanding your autonomic nervous system to effortlessly manage stress. If you think of someone who might benefit from learning a few body-based tools to get better at dealing with stress, you can invite them to sign up here.


or to participate.