breathing techniques for sleep
How we breathe has a direct correlation to the quality of our sleep. As a Functional Breath Practitioner, sleep improvement is a top goal for nearly all of my clients. I myself spent the majority of my life sleeping poorly without even realizing that I wasn't getting into a restful state– waking up every morning with congestion, low energy and a sore throat. Brain fog and multiple wake ups in the night were consistent and part of my sleep experience. I even stopped dreaming.
My relationship with breath-work began with The Wim Hof Method. When I started waking up every morning to practice Wim Hof breathing is when I began to notice a shift in the quality of my sleep and overall energy. Developing a morning ritual was key in changing how I felt on a daily basis. Waking up with the sunrise seeing it from my balcony and jumping into a breathing practice before using my phone helped set the tone for a good day and helped my circadian rhythm for sleep at night.
When I talk with clients about sleep, I remind them that there isn't a single cure-all trick that's going to get them optimal shuteye. There are many factors that contribute to sleeping well consistently– balancing your lifestyle, creating a morning ritual, and developing a daily breath practice all work in harmony to enhance sleep.
Here are five tips for better, more restorative sleep:
1. Breathe the right way
One of the best things you can do for not only sleep, but for your overall health and stress levels is to aim for nasal breathing only. Your nose is a clever little mechanism designed solely for breathing. Your nose not only filters the air you breathe, but it also activates neural pathways which promote cognitive function and nitric oxide production. Another vital function of the nose is that it's packed with antiviral cavities that clean the air you breathe. Try tuning into your breath pattern throughout the day to become aware of how you're breathing– fast, slow, through the mouth, through the nose and also check in with your body– how's your heart rate, are you breathing tightly in your chest, can you notice tension anywhere in your body? We are all unique and the more you can become aware of your own breath and body the better suited you are for creating breathing habits that serve you.
2. Change how you start your day
We are all guilty of reaching for our phones as soon as we wake up in the morning, in fact, many of our devices double as alarm clocks. The truth is looking at our phones keeps us in a low level of stress, so when you wake up and the first thing you start your day with are emails, seeing who watched your Instagram story, and news headlines you are overloading your nervous system with stress without even noticing it. Swap your bluelight for some actual sunlight, aligning your circadian which directly impacts your sleep cycles at night. If your mornings are tight with time, even giving yourself five to 10 minutes before it's go-time to do some slow nasal breathing is a sufficient practice.
3. Balance the bad stress with good stress
Low level stress (toxic everyday stress) like looking at your phone shouldn't be constant and should be tempered with good stress (eustress) like exercise or even an ice bath and/or sauna. Cutting back on low level stress can be as easy as going for a walk and leaving the phone at home, which can be an important way to start the day.
4. Implement breathing practice before bed
Breathing before bed to relax and fall asleep can be as simple as inhaling through the nose for 5 and exhaling through the nose for 5 until you fall asleep. One of the more popular cadences for sleep is 4-7-8 (inhale for 4 nasal, hold for 7, and exhale through the nose for 8). Typically extending the exhale to double the length of your inhale is a good rule of thumb to calm down and slow down.
5. Keep your mouth closed
Keeping your mouth closed while you sleep is paramount to waking up feeling rested. 90% of sleep awakenings are preceded by sleep breathing.events. A biohack that I stand by and recommend to all of my clients is a practice called mouth-taping. It's not as scary as it sounds, in fact, Somni Fix is a great item to insure that your mouth stays closed while you sleep and that you breathe exclusively through your nose. If you notice that you wake up groggy, congested, or with a sore throat chances are you are guilty of breathing through your nose at night. And for those of you who snore, your partner will thank you for taping up!
If you're in a low level of constant stress with work, family, life it will be hard to implement good sleeping routines to have a restorative night of sleep. Look at ways to minimize the daily constant stream of low level stress., and start your morning early with direct sunlight. You can go for walks without your phone, start a breathing practice, develop a positive relationship with the good forms of stress like The Wim Hof Method.