Did You Know…you can breathe yourself to sleep using a simple relaxation technique?
According to the Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Sleep Medicine and Research, between 50 and 70 million Americans suffer from a sleep disorder. Lack of quality sleep is much more dangerous than you may realize. Chronic insomnia increases your risk for many dangerous health issues, including:
- Weight gain
- Impaired cognitive function
- Increased stress hormone levels
- Chronic inflammation
- Increased blood sugar levels
- Type 2 diabetes
- Heart attack
- Stroke Sleeping pills offer a short-term solution to insomnia at best, and can cause some very serious health problems. Chronic insomnia requires a long-term fix, and implementing breathing relaxation techniques may be the answer to your sleep setbacks. Before we detail a few breathing techniques, let’s delve into the danger of sleeping pills, just so you’re not tempted to reach for the pill bottle on one of those restless nights.
Sleeping pills, or “sedative hypnotics” as they’re called, carry many health risks beyond the obvious threat of addiction and dependency. Sleeping pills have been proven to cause:Tingling burning of the hands, arms, feet, or legsAppetite fluctuations
Gastrointestinal complications: constipation, diarrhea, gas, stomach pain
Loss of balance
Dry mouth or throat
Concentration and memory problems
Because sleeping pills slow your breathing while making it shallower, they carry an even greater risk for complication for people with lung problems, such as asthma or COPD. Insomnia is definitely best solved with natural solutions, such as the relaxation breathing techniques below.
Breathe Yourself to Sleep
Breathing techniques stem from an ancient Indian practice called pranayama, which translates to “regulation of breath.” By regulating your breath you can control many physiological processes, including slowing your heart rate, improving circulation, lowering blood pressure, and stabilizing hormone production and stress levels.
Dr. Andrew Weil, founder and director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine and clinical professor of medicine at the University of Arizona, recommends the following breathing exercise to help induce sleep:
- Exhale a deep breath through your mouth
- With your mouth closed, inhale deeply for a count of 4
- Hold the breath for 7 counts
- Exhale the breath for 8 counts
- Repeat this breath cycle 3 times
Need a little more? Try this longer breath series:
- Inhale through your nose (with your mouth closed) for 6 counts
- Hold the breath for 3 counts
- Exhale through your nose for 6 counts
- Hold for 3 counts
- Repeat this series 4 times
- Inhale through the nose for 6 counts
- Exhale through the nose for 6 counts
- Repeat 4 times
Breathe deep into your belly rather than your chest for the full relaxation benefit. Some experts also recommend breathing in some essential oils, such as lavender, dispensed through an aromatherapy diffuser. This can help sleep come that much quicker.