It’s 11:30 pm and you still haven’t turned off your lights. You’re folding the last of the laundry, putting together your to-do list for tomorrow, and then you’ve got your 20 minute skin, hair, and teeth routine. When you finally get into bed you just sit there and stare into the darkness wondering if you forgot something.
Sound familiar? Most of us have had a few nights like this and many of us have them more often than we’d like. But don’t worry, you are not alone. A lot of us have trouble turning off our over-active brains when it’s time to sleep. But how can we relax when work, kids, homes, committees, family, health, and money issues monopolize our thoughts? Sometimes right before bed is the only time we can actually process all that we have going on in our busy lives.
Unfortunately, that is the worst time to be thinking about all of that because it is a time when we should be calming our minds and bodies. Anyone who has raised a baby or a child knows that you don’t let your baby listen to stimulating music or play with loud toys right before bed. And why is that? Because it engages the brain and senses instead of relaxing them.
So why do we do this to ourselves as adults? We stimulate our minds with all of the chaos that we encounter in our daily routine and practically guarantee ourselves a restless night sleep. If you don’t have insomnia you are probably clenching your teeth or experiencing sleep apnea (abnormally low breathing during sleep causing frequent waking during sleep cycle) and you may not even know it. The result is feeling tired, sluggish, irritable and tense the next day.
How to Improve Your Sleep with Breathing Techniques
Start by avoiding to-do lists into your bedroom. Get yourself organized for the next day a little earlier in the evening so that when you make your way to bed it is nothing but “down time”. Like a baby, you may need to put on some soothing music, read for a little (something that doesn’t stress you out), and then there is the breathing techniques.
Correct breathing techniques is something many health care professionals teach their clients as a way to encourage relaxation and improved oxygenation to your body and it is a great way to settle into a restful night sleep.
Try following these steps:
1. Lie on back with head and neck supported in a comfortable position. Do not use more than one pillow as this flexes your neck and compresses your teeth and TMJ. If needed for your lower back place a small pillow under your knees.
2. Rest one hand on your chest and another on your abdomen (around your solar plexsus). Feel the way you breathe by taking note of which hand moves more. Your chest moves more when you have a shallow breathing pattern and your abdomen moves more when you have deep breathing. Note: Oxygen enters your bloodstream at the base of your lungs near your diaphragm, this is called lung perfusion. The deeper the breath, the more oxygen is entering your blood.
3. To execute deeper breathing, often called diaphragmatic breathing, you need to relax your entire body. Allow your arms and legs to be heavy against the mattress. Feel your head and neck sinking into the pillow. Let your face relax by separating your teeth and resting your tongue gently behind your two front teeth. When you’ve achieved this the hollow of your throat will open more widely.
4. As you use your diaphragm to breathe, you may feel the lower back of your ribs expanding and contracting with each breath. Picture your fingers spreading apart for inhalation and coming back together for exhalation.
5. Focus on your breathing for 5-10 minutes and see how long it takes you to fall asleep.
6. Improved Sleep and Oxygenation = Increased Energy, Mental Clarity, Decreased Stress!
Have you tried breathing techniques for a better sleep? Let us know what you think!