Reduce stress, improve sleep with police academy breathing technique

The tool isn’t just for police officers. It can be beneficial for anyone – even children – so share the concept with those close to you.

police1.com – Combat breathing, also known as tactical or box breathing, is a tool taught to help reduce physiological stress levels before, during and after high-risk encounters.

Combat breathing can help someone who is experiencing peak levels of stress rapidly regain control of their mind and body.

On day two of academy training, my cadre taught the concept of combat breathing to police recruits during the “Introduction to Physical Training and Defensive Tactics” session.

Police recruits need to learn to be effective and measured while controlling subjects during stressful encounters, and introducing them to this critical skill early in training helps ensure they get a head start in managing their emotions.

“Combat breathing can positively impact the time we spend with others, our ability to focus and the quality of our sleep”


Several years ago, my training team realized how important it was to refresh members on the basics of combat breathing.

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We began to review the concept with sworn members and detention officers at yearly in-service training as part of our broader stress management program, which also includes yoga, or as I, say, tactical stretching.

These annual refreshers have proven extremely valuable for understanding how officers handle stress in the field. Members share real-world examples of combat breathing positively affecting their performance during critical incidents and other stressful circumstances.

As a result of feedback from members, firearms instructors also included box breathing as a part of annual in-service training last year, providing officers an additional opportunity to receive refresher training.


There are some variations of the technique, but here are the basics:

  • Breathe in through your nose for a count of four;
  • Hold your breath for a count of four;
  • Exhale through your mouth for a count of four;
  • Hold your breath at the bottom of the exhale for a count of four;
  • Restart the cycle.

Imagine a friend who is quick to anger while driving on the road spending a few breaths resetting themselves in rush hour traffic …

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