In the last several years the importance of sleep has become mainstream.  We used to praise the person who said they only needed four hours of sleep and could work all day long.  In reality, this is impossible for the majority of people.  Sleep is key to our health, longevity, and performance in life. 

When we sleep, we process and store information learned during the day.  Sleep is when our bodies, especially our central nervous system, recover from physical exercise and stress.   On the other hand, sleep deprivation causes our immune system to decrease, increases mood swings and junk food cravings.  Recent studies show that one week of sleep deprivation, which is considered, less than six hours per night, can impair fasting glucose levels resulting in pre-diabetes.

What are the best ways to get a good night’s sleep?  There are a multitude of tips out there right now but best practices include: going to bed and waking up the same time each day; getting early morning sunlight; turning off computers, phones, and bright lights an hour before bed; keeping your room cool, and avoiding caffeine after noon.  All of these tips will drastically improve your quality of sleep. 

We can also use our breath to improve our sleep. Spending 5 minutes before bed to focus on your breath calms the mind and allows you to go to sleep faster.  I challenge you to try this for one week.   After you get in bed, close your eyes and inhale and exhale through the nose and into your belly.  Next, begin to lengthen your inhales and exhales. For example, inhale for four seconds, exhale for eight seconds and hold for seven seconds after the exhale.  If this is stressful, take it down a notch to a three-second inhale, six-second exhale, and five-second hold after the exhale.  After a few minutes of this, your mind will be calm and you will relax into a deep sleep. 

In addition to the protocols you can incorporate to get to sleep, awareness of how we are breathing when we sleep will also improve our quality of sleep. While we can use the breath to help us get to sleep, we also need to be aware of how we are breathing when we sleep.  If you wake up with a dry mouth, lack energy, or snore through the night, you are most likely mouth breathing.   Incorporating nasal breathing while you sleep will greatly improve your sleep quality. 

The best way to ensure nasal breathing is by taping your mouth. I know this sounds crazy but trust me, it will drastically improve your sleep quality and energy. Somnifix makes tape specifically for taping your mouth.  You can also use 3M microfiber tape which can be purchased from Amazon.  I currently use Somnifix. They gave me their product to try and I really like it. I have used 3M tape in the past and it works well too. It can cause irritation if you have sensitive skin but is much cheaper. 

If you are nervous about trying it, tape your mouth for twenty minutes before bed and work up to using it while you sleep.  After taping your mouth for a few months, your body adapts and you will not need it to sleep.   There will be times you need to come back to it because old patterns will creep back in.  If you start waking up groggy or with a dry mouth, tape your mouth the next night.  While this can be very beneficial do not try it if you’ve been drinking, are sick, or pregnant.

To Sum it Up

Sleep is incredibly important to our health and overall well-being.  We can use the breath to help us get to sleep and increase the quality of our sleep.  If you are struggling with your sleep, try the methods discussed in this article.  I also have a short breath routine you can check out here to help get you to sleep. 

Call to Action

At Symmetry, we can develop an individualized plan to help you improve your aerobic efficiency and capacity, improve your breathing mechanics and your recovery, please contact us through our website to achieve your goals.  We have also created an Introduction to Breath downloadable program that will help you become more efficient using oxygen, better handle stress and improve your sleep.  You can purchase it here