Breathing Techniques to Help you Sleep
As we age, we are more likely to develop respiratory complications and experience breathing difficulties. Along with this inability to breathe freely and sustain our oxygen levels comes a host of other ailments, including elevated anxiety and emotional stress, reduced energy levels, troubles sleeping and compromised immune function.
You can alleviate some of these symptoms through focused breathing techniques that increase the body’s oxygen levels and ease physical and mental stress. These exercises can alleviate some of the symptoms associated with asthma attacks, high blood pressure, shortness of breath, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and sleep apnea. Furthermore, even healthy individuals can benefit from the calming and rejuvenating effects of controlled breathing.
There is actually a right way to breathe, but most people don’t practice it. Patients with limited lung capacity often fall into the habit of taking short, shallow breaths into their chest. If a person’s chest rises as they take a breath, it is a likely indicator of improper breathing. A proper breath will draw air into the lungs, pushing the diaphragm down and visibly expanding the belly. Follow these steps to engage in deep, diaphragmatic breathing:
1. Sit up straight, with one hand on your chest and the other on the stomach.
2. Inhale slowly and deeply through the nostrils, feeling the stomach expand with each full diaphragmatic breath.
3. Exhale slowly through you mouth.
4. repeat six or more times each minute up to 15 minutes.
This breathing method has been touted as one of the most effective (and speedy) ways to fall asleep. Some studies suggest that a person can drift off in less than a minute using this approach. Part of the 4-7-8 technique’s success lies in its ability to ease tension and promote relaxation. Practicing the following focused breathing exercise twice a day will help minimize food cravings, reduce anxiety and provide relief from insomnia.
1. Breathe out fully through your mouth making a wind-like "whoosh" sound.
2. Keeping your mouth closed, inhale through the nose while counting silently to 4 (four).
3. Hold your breathe to the count of 7 (seven)
4. Exhale through your mouth to the count of 8 (eight) , repeating the "whoosh" sound.
5. Repeat steps 2 through 4, five times.
BUTEYKO NOSE BREATHING
Invented by a Russian scientist in the 1950s to curb asthma attacks and treat other respiratory problems. Unfortunately, the medical field resisted a breathing technique that could ease symptoms without the help of medication. Since then, people around the world have embraced Buteyko breathing specifically because it is natural and very effective.
Thousand report relief from asthma, sleep apnea and hypertension by integrating this proven method, which balances the body’s oxygen and carbon dioxide levels, into their daily routine. As a note, it is best to have senior patients initially perform this exercise under supervision to avoid improper technique that can result in hyperventilation.
1. In a quiet, comfortable place sit up straight and focus on your breathing.
2. Keep your mouth closed and inhale slowly through the nostrils to fill the lungs.
3. Exhale slowly through the nostrils, until you feel forced to inhale.
4. repeat steps 2 through 3, five times.
When people begin using daily breathing techniques and notice the positive results, they often stick with the program. Missing a day or two isn't concerning unless it causes a slip back into bad breathing habits again. Tracking your progress in a journal can help you stick to this healthy routine, recognize improvements and note any significant changes to your health.
We breath more than 25,000 time a day, so it is easy to get lazy when it comes to this largely involuntary process. Using breathing techniques leads to improved physical health and renew sense of mental alertness in only a few weeks.
Dr. Abhijit Shinde is the Medical Director of Aayu Clinics at Lakeview Immediate Care.