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Why Sleep Breathing Techniques Will Change Your Life for Good

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Why Sleep Breathing Techniques Will Change Your Life for Good

Sleep issues have become a significant public health concern, affecting millions worldwide. In an era where stress, technology, and lifestyle changes are rampant, understanding and addressing the root causes of sleep disturbances is more crucial than ever. Over the past 25 years, we’ve seen a revolution in sleep research, revealing not just the importance of sleep duration, but its profound impact on everything from dream patterns to physical and mental health. This blog explores these complexities, introduces effective breathing techniques, and other tools that promise restorative sleep.

A major concern I encounter in coaching is clients experiencing poor sleep as a primary indicator of body dysregulation. This poor sleep affects hormones, gut health, the body’s repair mechanisms, and the ability to handle stress and conflict. Different life stages bring unique sleep challenges—parents of young children, shift workers, and individuals experiencing high stress are particularly susceptible. Resetting sleep patterns becomes critical yet complex and cannot be simplified to merely “taking a few deep breaths.”

Sleep issues have escalated into a global epidemic, with profound health implications. Factors such as stress, blue light exposure from screens, irregular sleep patterns, and lifestyle habits like caffeine and alcohol intake late at night contribute to this. These disturbances can lead to severe health consequences, including cognitive impairment, weakened immune response, and increased risks of heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.

Recognizing if you’re affected by sleep issues is vital. Common signs include difficulty falling asleep, frequent awakenings, feeling unrefreshed upon waking, and excessive daytime sleepiness. If these symptoms resonate, it’s crucial to reassess your sleep habits and implement strategies to improve sleep quality.

Lack of sleep disrupts not just your brain but also your metabolic health. It affects blood sugar levels, linking poor sleep with weight gain and diabetes. Sleep deprivation increases hunger hormones, making you feel less satiated, feeding into a vicious cycle of weight gain and poor sleep quality. Additionally, it suppresses sex hormone production, affecting libido and hormonal cycles.

Your brain isn’t the only thing affected by lack of sleep. Your blood sugar levels are also regulated with sleep which is why both weight gain and diabetes are connected with poor sleep.. Even two nights of sleeping 3 hours later than normal causes a spike in blood sugars and craving to snack! If you have been struggling with weight and health, one of the key areas you may need to look at is your sleep pattern. The good news is even one night of good sleep can bring your blood sugars back down. Poor sleep changes your hunger hormone making you feel less satisfied. The challenging thing is it is a vicious cycle as when you sleep poor you put on weight and when you have more weight around your neck and stomach you sleep poorly being more prone to snoring and sleep apnea.

As well as your mood being impacted from poor sleep our two main sex hormones, estrogen and testosterone production are suppressed. Not only does it impact your desire for some sexy time, it also impacts your hormone cycles throughout the month. On the plus side, more sleep increases your chance of feeling up for it.

While the internet offers numerous quick-fix sleep hacks, they often fail to address the root causes of sleep problems. It’s essential to use scientifically supported methods like breathing exercises, which can significantly influence the body’s physiological processes to induce sleep.

There’s a fascinating theory suggesting that biologically, we are programmed to sleep in two distinct phases, which might explain why many of us wake around 2 or 3 AM. Historically, before the industrial era, it was common for people to sleep in two shorter periods totaling around 6-10 hours each night, which might be a remnant of our hunter-gatherer past. Realizing this changed my perspective significantly during my own experiences of waking at night. Understanding that it’s natural not to sleep through the night every time has helped me adjust my mindset and manage these awakenings better.

It’s crucial during these wakeful periods not to engage in activities that stimulate the brain excessively. Checking your phone or iPad emits light that disrupts your circadian rhythm, making it harder to return to sleep. Instead, activities that bore the brain can be more beneficial. Utilizing breathing and relaxation techniques, which I’ll detail below, can effectively shift your body back into sleep mode, helping you embrace these natural sleep cycles without stress.

Having a snoring partner was once the bane of my existence, contributing significantly to my disrupted sleep and exhaustion. More than just an annoyance, snoring can indicate sleep apnea, a serious health condition. Sleep apnea occurs when relaxed throat muscles block airflow, causing temporary drops in blood oxygen levels and increasing blood pressure—factors that elevate the risk of a heart attack.

Many people with sleep apnea remain undiagnosed and untreated because they assume it’s merely snoring. It’s quite common, affecting one in four men and one in ten women. The challenge often lies in the interplay between being overweight and having a larger neck circumference, which exacerbates the condition. Tiredness from sleep apnea makes it difficult to engage in exercise or maintain healthy eating habits, creating a vicious cycle.

One of the most challenging experiences I had involved a snoring individual during a hike in New Zealand with my children. We settled into a small cabin for the night, and a woman apologized in advance for her husband’s snoring. Unfortunately, it was as bad as she warned. At 2 AM, the loud snoring woke us, sounding like a freight train, and I had to wake him, concerned for his health. The next morning, I advised them to consult a breathing physiotherapist immediately. They were unaware of the severity of the problem, which had serious implications for his and potentially others’ quality of life. I hope they followed up on the referral to the breathing physiotherapist.

For those not significantly overweight or who prefer not to focus on weight loss as a solution, a CPAP machine can be incredibly beneficial. Offering continuous positive airway pressure during sleep, a CPAP machine can be a lifesaver. I encourage anyone suspecting they might have sleep apnea to consult their doctor for testing and appropriate treatment.

Research indicates that new parents may take up to six years to revert to their pre-children sleeping patterns. In my case, with my parents having six children, I suspect my mother’s sleep was compromised for close to 20 years!

As we age, the primary sleep disturbances often include frequent awakenings with difficulty returning to sleep and the need to urinate during the night. These issues can significantly impact sleep quality. An important factor to consider is the function of our digestive system and liver in this process. Emerging research into the gut microbiome suggests that it plays a crucial role in sleep regulation. Simple lifestyle adjustments aimed at enhancing gut health can substantially improve sleep, highlighting the potential for targeted interventions to benefit our overall sleep quality as we age.

One key reason why your gut health is vital for improving sleep is that about 95% of serotonin—a hormone that boosts your mood—is produced in the gut. Recent advancements in research have shed light on the microbiome, illustrating its crucial role in managing stress, boosting immunity, and maintaining overall gut health. Nourishing the beneficial bacteria in our gut is essential; without proper care, an imbalance can lead to anxiety, depression, sleep disturbances, and weight gain, all of which are interlinked.

However, there’s no need for immediate concern, as you can gradually enhance your gut microbiome. By nurturing and restoring its function over time, you can improve its overall health, which in turn, can lead to better quality sleep.

  1. Timing: Try to get to sleep well before midnight, as the deepest phases of sleep typically occur earlier in the night.

  2. Environment: Keep your bedroom cool to facilitate better sleep.

  3. Journaling: Write in a journal before bed. Documenting your day can accelerate your sleep onset by about 9 minutes—comparable to the effect of a sleeping pill. Consider starting a gratitude journal and note three things you’re grateful for each night.

  4. Caffeine Intake: Avoid caffeine after 1pm. Caffeine metabolism varies from person to person, so it’s important to find your ideal cutoff time.

  5. Melatonin: Consult with your doctor about using melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep-wake cycles and could enhance sleep quality.

  6. Magnesium: Discuss with your pharmacist the possibility of taking magnesium supplements, especially if you’re undergoing stress, experiencing poor sleep, or consuming excess alcohol which can reduce magnesium levels.

  7. Earplugs: If you are sensitive to noise use earplugs, especially in noisy environments, to improve sleep quality.

  8. Diet and Gut Health: Your diet influences gut bacteria, which in turn can affect sleep quality. A diverse range of gut bacteria is associated with better sleep. Incorporate high-protein and high-fiber foods into your diet to support sleep.

  9. Eating Times: Avoid eating within three hours before bedtime, especially sugary foods that can spike your blood sugar levels.

  10. If Sleep Eludes You: If you can’t fall asleep within 20 minutes, leave the bedroom and engage in a calming activity until you feel sleepy. Avoid screens and stimulating activities during this time.

  11. Wind-Down Routine: Establish a nightly routine to signal to your brain that it’s time to wind down and prepare for sleep.

  12. Alcohol Consumption: Alcohol can disrupt sleep quality and increase snoring. Abstaining from alcohol for a week can help you assess its impact on your sleep.

  13. Diet Adjustment: Pay attention to how different foods affect your sleep and adjust your diet accordingly to ensure it supports rather than hinders your sleep.

  14. Morning Exercise: Engage in resistance exercise in the morning. It has been proven to enhance sleep quality and help you start the day positively.

  15. Sleep Tracking: Use a sleep tracker to monitor your sleep patterns and identify what helps or hinders your sleep. Shuteye is a highly recommended app for this purpose.

  16. Regular Sleep Routine: Maintain a consistent sleep schedule, even on weekends, to support your circadian rhythm. Exposure to natural light in the morning can also help synchronize your body’s internal clock.

  17. Professional Help: For more severe sleep issues, consider consulting a sleep specialist. Techniques like Sleep Restriction Therapy, discussed in Dr. Michael Mosley’s book Fast Asleep, can be effective for resetting sleep patterns. You can also work with me on my Transform 12-week Coaching course and teach you breathing and resilience tools to help you sleep better. 

Incorporating specific breathing techniques before bedtime can significantly improve the transition to sleep by activating the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes relaxation:

  1. 4-7-8 Breathing Technique: This involves inhaling for 4 seconds, holding for 7, and exhaling for 8. It’s beneficial for reducing anxiety and easing into sleep.
  2. Diaphragmatic Breathing: Focuses on deep belly breathing to enhance oxygen exchange and relaxation.
  3. Nostril Breathing (Alternate Nostril Breathing): This technique balances bodily energies and calms the mind, useful for pre-sleep relaxation.

Embracing breathing techniques and other sleep-improving practices can transform your sleep experiences, positively impacting your overall health. These strategies, coupled with an understanding of the science behind sleep, offer robust tools against the challenges of insomnia and other sleep disturbances. Start these practices tonight to pave your way toward more restful nights and vibrant, energized days.

Are You Ready for a Transformation?

Burnout, overwhelm, and the complexities of everyday life can take a toll on us. My journey began with a desire to blend the science of stress with practical, everyday tools. Through this, I’ve crafted a path to guide others, just like you, through transformative healing and personal growth.

Why Embark on the Transform Journey with Emma?

From Overwhelm to Empowerment : My approach is deeply rooted in understanding the mechanics of stress and the profound effects it has on our lives. We’ll tackle these challenges head-on, transforming overwhelm into empowerment.

Practical Tools for Everyday Life : Discover practical tools and strategies that seamlessly integrate into your daily routine, fostering a balanced and vibrant life.

Science Meets Compassion : Experience the perfect blend of scientifically-backed knowledge and heartfelt coaching. We’ll navigate the intricacies of stress and trauma with understanding and care.

If you’ve felt weighed down by life’s challenges and are ready for change, I invite you to join me for an exclusive 12-week ‘Transform’ coaching journey. Spots are limited, and they’re filling fast.

Take the First Step : Embark on a transformative journey crafted for your holistic well-being. Click [here] to learn more about the ‘Transform’ coaching program and secure your spot!

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