Three science-backed breathing techniques that reduce stress

Are you plagued by panic attacks, or do you lie awake at night worrying? Try these three science-backed breathing techniques to reduce stress.

As the quarter finals saw England win on penalties, it has been revealed that breathing guru Stuart Sandeman, has been present in England’s camp teaching breathing techniques to introduce calm and manifest. Stuart has stated, ‘There’s no greater indication of the powerful link between breathing and performance than England including breathwork to aid the team’s recovery at Euro 2024 after Sunday’s win’.

But breathing can help with far more than performance on the sports field; it can also be a powerful tool in combating stress and anxiety.

In this article, Martin Seeley at Mattress Next Day shares three science-backed breathing techniques work to manipulate the fight or flight instinct, balance hormones and encourage REM sleep.

1) Box breathing

Box breathing is one of the simplest breathing techniques however, it’s very powerful. 


  • Breathe in for 4 counts
  • Hold your breath for 4 counts
  • Breathe out for 4 counts
  • Hold your breath for 4 counts
  • Repeat 4 times

Box breathing is a great tool to navigate the body’s fight or flight response. The Fight or flight mode clicks into action when the brain perceives a threat. As a result, the part of the brain that controls emotional processing, the amygdala sends a d signal to the hypothalamus.

The hypothalamus stirs the sympathetic nervous system and sends signals VIA the autonomic nerves to the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands then release adrenaline into the bloodstream. It’s here that the stress hormone cortisol is release, causing feelings of anxiety.

Box breathing helps combat the fight or flights response by releasing the feel-good hormone serotonin. This is a good technique to try if you feel a panic attack coming on.

2) 4-7-8 breathing

Here’s how to use 4-7-8 breathing.


  • Inhale through the nose for 4 seconds
  • Hold for 7 seconds
  • Exhale through the mouth for 8 seconds

The 4-7-8 breathing technique helps induce sleep, as it reduces heart rate, eases anxiety, lowers blood pressure, and ignites relaxation. In fact, introducing breathing techniques into your bedtime routine will soon signal to the brain that sleep is imminent and help with achieving sleep quickly.

The peripheral nervous system (PNS) is often referred to as the “rest and digest” system. Promoting relaxation and recovery the 4-7-8 breathing technique stimulates the vagus nerve, slowing down the heart rate, lowering blood pressure, and promoting calm.

As the 4-7-8 breathing technique requires prolonged exhalation, it helps regulate the balance of oxygen (O2) and carbon dioxide (CO2) in the blood.

Proper CO2 levels are crucial for maintaining the body’s pH balance and ensuring optimal function of hemoglobin in transporting oxygen.

3) Nadi Shodhana – alternate nostril breathing

Here’s how to use Nadi Shodhana – alternate nostril breathing.


  • Close your right nostril with your thumb, inhale through your left nostril
  • Close your left nostril with your ring finger, and exhale through your right nostril
  • Inhale through your right nostril, close your right nostril
  • Exhale through your left nostril
  • Repeat

Nadi Shodhana, is a pranayama technique in yoga and is believed to balance the body’s energy channels and promote mental clarity along with physical well-being, serving as the perfect foundation for manifesting.

Studies have shown that alternate nostril breathing influences the autonomic nervous system that controls functions such as heart rate, digestion, and respiratory rate. This technique has been proven to impacts the balance between the sympathetic (fight or flight) and parasympathetic (rest and digest) nervous systems.