'Moon breathing' revealed as the latest sleep hack, but what exactly is it?

It apparently calms the parasympathetic nervous system, sending you off into a deep sleep

couple sleeping
(Image credit: Viacheslav Peretiatko / iStock)

Ever woken up to find a full moon looking back at you through the window? You're not the only one. As beautiful as a full moon is, it's known to affect some people's sleep for up to five days. There's even a dedicated name for it - lunar insomnia. This means that even if you have one of the best mattresses going, losing sleep isn't always down to what you're doing. 

People who struggle with lunar insomnia, or just insomnia in general, often turn to a myriad of sleep hacks to help get them through it. Some of these involve eating pineapple before bed, sewing a tennis ball onto the back of your pyjamas or taping your mouth, but they're not guaranteed to help everyone. 

There is however a new sleep hack making the rounds, and it's certainly made an impression on those looking for advice. Searches for ‘moon breathing techniques’ have increased by a staggering 100% in the last year, mostly due to people wanting to find out what it is. So, what actually is it and how can it help you sleep during a full moon? Keep reading to find out. 

Before you do, check out these steps to creating the perfect night-time routine for the best night's sleep. 

What is moon breathing?

Overall, moon breathing is quite a simple practice. It works by closing off the right nostril and inhaling through the left. The left nostril has been proven to help calm the parasympathetic nervous system (responsible for controlling the body's ability to relax) rather than the sympathetic nervous system, which controls the body's fight or flight response. 

The technique is particularly popular with yoga lovers, who claim it drastically improves the sleep cycle. It is more commonly used as a calming and relaxation technique in parts of Asia, including Japan.  

Does moon breathing actually work?

Breathing through your left nostril is thought to slow down your fight or flight, helping your body to relax, but does it actually work? The answer, according to the scientific research, is yes.

One study aimed to test the effects of moon breathing on sleep quality for medical students. It found that the individuals who practised left nostril breathing had a better score of sleep quality after four weeks, compared to those who did not breathe through their left nostril.

A further study suggested that yoga breathing techniques can also improve the strength of respiratory muscles which, in turn, can improve oxygen saturation. Given that around one billion experience a form of sleep apnea - associated with reduced oxygen saturation - this breathing technique could significantly improve sleep quality for a large proportion of people. 

How to practise moon breathing

MattressNextDay spoke with Yoga Teacher, Gemma Nice, for advice on how to practise moon breathing. She shared the below tips:

1. Come to a seated or laying down position, closing your eyes.

2. Push your shoulders down away from your ears and take in one breath to feel fully centred and calm.

3. Bring your right thumb to close off your right nostril. Rest your other fingers around your hand or extend the fourth and fifth fingers.

4. Inhale through your left nostril and close it off with your fourth finger.

5. Exhale out through the right nostril and keep this pattern going.

6. Repeat for a few minutes or until your mind has settled and you feel calmer and more relaxed. Notice where your shoulders are and how you feel.

This is a practice anyone can do, even during the day if you begin to feel rushed or stressed. If you opt to do this during the day, make sure you choose a comfortable spot and a peaceful area to truly focus on your breathing and eliminate any distractions.

Lizzie Wilmot
Staff Writer, Home

Lizzie is T3's Home Staff Writer, also covering style, living and wellness. She works closely with Bethan Girdler-Maslen, T3's Home Editor, ensuring all the latest news, trends and recommendations are covered. Outside of T3, Lizzie can be found mooching around Bath, attempting (or at least trying to) a new DIY project or spending time with family and friends.