Posts Tagged ‘Breathing’

There are many reasons why you might wake up during the night and not be able to get back to sleep. To start, as the night wears on, your body naturally moves into lighter stages of slumber, during which it’s easier to be roused. That’s why wakeups are more likely to happen in the early morning hours.
Poor sleep hygiene can also play a role. Drinking caffeine in the afternoon or evening can prevent you from sleeping deeply. And having an alcoholic nightcap may make you fall asleep quickly, but often causes wake-ups later on in the night as your body metabolizes the alcohol. A less-than-ideal sleep environment—for example: a room that’s not dark enough, too noisy, or too warm—can result in fitful sleep, too. Over-the-counter sleep aids or prescriptions rarely offer significant help for this problem.

Various underlying conditions might also be to blame. People with sleep apnea, who experience pauses in breathing or shallow breaths as they sleep, often wake up countless times during the night. An enlarged prostate can cause men to wake up frequently to go to the bathroom. Restless leg syndrome, and the jumpiness associated with it, can jolt you awake, and chronic stress or anxiety can cause you to awaken frequently, too. And heartburn or a chronic cough associated with gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD) can cause you to wake suddenly through the night. These are all serious conditions, so if you suspect that you might have one of them, speak to your doctor right away.

One reason older adults may be at higher risk for insomnia is that sleep itself changes with advancing age. Sleep latency (time to fall asleep) increases, early morning awakenings are more common, deep sleep (stages 3–4) decreases, and sleep efficiency (time asleep while in bed) is reduced. Because older people spend less time in the deeper stages of sleep and more time in the lighter stages of sleep, they are more likely to awaken, for example, from noise in the environment.

To help stay asleep through the night, try some of these strategies to relieve insomnia:
• Establish a quiet, relaxing bedtime routine. For example, drink a cup of non-caffeinated tea, take a warm shower or listen to soft music.
• Relax your body. Gentle yoga or progressive muscle relaxation can ease tension and help tight muscles to relax. Deep diaphragmatic breathing with longer exhales than inhales is very helpful.
• Make your bedroom conducive to sleep. Keep light, noise and temperature at levels that are comfortable and won’t disturb your rest. Don’t engage in activities other than sleeping or sex in your bedroom. This will help your body know this room is for sleeping.
• Put clocks in your bedroom out of sight. Clock-watching causes stress and makes it harder to go back to sleep if you wake up during the night.
• Avoid caffeine after noon, and limit alcohol to 1 drink several hours before bedtime. Both caffeine and alcohol can interfere with sleep.
• Get regular exercise. But keep in mind, exercising too close to bedtime may interfere with sleep.
• Go to bed only when you’re sleepy. If you aren’t sleepy at bedtime, do something relaxing that will help you wind down.
• Wake up at the same time every day. If you go to sleep later than usual, resist the urge to sleep in.
• Avoid daytime napping. Napping can throw off your sleep cycle.
• If you wake up and can’t fall back to sleep within 20 minutes or so, get out of bed. Go to another room and read or do other quiet activities until you feel sleepy.



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For 30 Days try this ‘breathing minutes’ exercise 10 or more times a day. For a minute at a time, practise diaphragmatic breathing whenever you are waiting for something. Remember, you don’t need to be standing or lying down.

You can do this whenever:

  • You are stopped at a stoplight
  • You are on hold on the phone
  • You are waiting in line at a store
  • You are watching the commercials during a television show
  • You are waiting for the microwave to heat some food
  • You are waiting for a friend at work or school
  • You are waiting for the computer to boot
  • You are waiting for the teacher to hand out the test papers
  • You are waiting for an instant message or a phone or text message
  • You are waiting for a meeting to start

While this suggestion requires you to be mindful, the results are worth it.

You will feel calmer, and less stressed throughout the day.

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Author Tom Rath who wrote, “Eat Move Sleep,” firmly states that “one of the biggest impediments to sleep is what you do in the hour before you go to bed.”

I agree. Checking emails, racing around trying to get everything finished, watching violent or disturbing television shows is not the relaxing, decompressing message you want to send to your nervous system. At the very least, practicing slow diaphragmatic breathing will switch you from sympathetic ‘fight or flight’ into parasympathetic ‘rest and digest’ nervous system. You will then signal your body that you are slowing down preparing for your sleep journey.

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In the book “A Calm Brain, Unlocking Your Natural Relaxation System” neurologist Gayatri Devi explains that the brain is most at peace when you take 6 breaths per minute.  The usual number of breaths is 12-15 breaths per minute.  In order to slow your breathing down to 6 breaths,  each in-breath and out-breath cycle should be slowed down to approximately 10 seconds.  Its not easy to do, however we know that many meditative traditions use focused and slow breathing to achieve a calm state.
Try this for one minute today: using a stop watch, time your breathing for one minute and see how many breaths you take.  See if you can slow it down to 6 breaths.
You will immediately notice a calm feeling.  Make this a daily practice.  It’s the best strategy for stress reduction!

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