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How Changing The Way You Breathe Can Transform The Way You Sleep
IF Insider No. 61
In our last issue (IF Insider No. 60), we looked at reishi, the medicinal fungus known as the Mushroom of Immortality! This remarkable mushroom has been used to support health for over 2000 years in China and is now gaining more widespread use in the U.S. So, if you haven’t checked this out, do so!
Today, we are going to have a look at the interplay between your breathing and sleep and give you a simple, powerful breathing exercise that can help you get the rest you need.
For our premium subscribers, in this week’s Research Spotlight, we are bringing you a new study that shows exactly why eating late in the day increases your risk of obesity. For all you late-night eaters heads up!
Our paid subscribers also get one of Ellen’s recipes each month. Last month, to welcome in autumn, we featured Ellen’s warming and delicious Clam Chowder. This month, we will get a bit more adventurous with her easy-to-make spicy hot Fire Cider Shots and Mocktail Mix! The concept of Fire Cider, a spicy hot concoction designed to warm you and boost your immune system, was developed by legendary herbalist Rosemary Gladstar and usually takes weeks to make. This is a quick, 15-minute version that you can have ready today.
Looking for a supportive group that “gets” your interest in IF and other cutting-edge health information? Our free intermittent fasting Facebook group, with over 1800 members, is a wealth of info, in addition to our new Longevity Experience membership.
Sleep And Breathing - How To Breathe To Improve Your Sleep
The relationship between how you sleep and how you breathe is fascinating.
Let’s take a look at what happens to your breathing as you sleep and also talk about how to affect the quality of your sleep by simply changing the way you breathe.
Even in normal, healthy individuals, sleep actually impairs your breathing a bit. This impairment includes worsening gas exchange with an increase in the carbon dioxide in your blood, decreased body oxygen stores, and as you move into the dreaming stage of REM sleep the total amount of air you take in and out between each inhale and exhale also decreases.
If you already have a respiratory disorder such as emphysema, asthma or another lung disease, sleep can make your symptoms worse. And, if your breathing is already irregular, as it is in people who have to cope with sleep apnea, going to sleep will also exaggerate those symptoms. Unlike asthma or other lung diseases, sleep apnea is not a lung disorder. It is a sleep disorder...one in which you stop breathing for short periods over and over again throughout the night, sometimes hundreds of times! If you are not receiving treatment, then your body and your brain are simply not getting enough oxygen.
There are two types of sleep apnea. The most common type is obstructive sleep apnea, and the other type is central sleep apnea. In obstructive sleep apnea, the soft tissues toward the back of the throat collapse and obstruct the airway. In the central type, that part of the brain which is in charge of respiration fails to send a crucial signal to the muscles to breathe. But whichever type the patient has, the result is the same. The brain and body don’t get enough oxygen and sleep is severely disrupted. Over time this can result in cardiovascular disease and even memory loss.
In 2013, researchers in the UK found that not getting enough sleep also plays a role in developing sleep apnea. Their research showed that healthy study participants, when restricted to only four hours of sleep a night, developed abnormal breathing patterns. When participants caught up on sleep, their breathing normalized. More research from the US shows a clear association between insomnia and the development of sleep apnea.
If your breathing patterns are related to sleep, then it seems that adopting a particular breathing pattern might well be helping in getting to sleep. Many holistic medical practitioners endorse using an easy and effective breathing technique known as the ‘4-7-8’ breath, also known as The Relaxing Breath. Doing this breathing exercise can quickly bring on a deep sense of relaxation and make it much easier for you to get to sleep.
All breathing techniques, including the Relaxing breath, have their roots in ancient Indian yoga and are known collectively as pranayama or regulation of the breath. Ancient yogis knew what our modern scientific research is confirming...that breathing is the bridge between your mind and body.
Your breath is a very special tool that is under your control. If you think about it, the other parts of your autonomic nervous system, that’s the part that acts automatically like your heartbeat, digestion, regulation of eye pupil size and so forth, is out of your conscious control.
But breathing is different...you can think about it and consciously control it or you can just go about doing what you have to do or go to sleep and your breathing becomes automatic. So you can see how breathing is a natural bridge between the conscious mind and your involuntary or unconscious mind.
We’ll teach you the 4-7-8 breathing pattern so you can relax and quickly and effortlessly fall asleep.
Practice this way of breathing with the tip of your tongue lightly resting just behind your upper teeth, and you will exhale through your mouth around your tongue.
Ok, place your tongue just behind your teeth and breath out completely through your mouth with a ‘whoosh’
At the end of the exhale, then close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four
Now hold your breath for a count of seven
Then exhale completely again through your mouth making the “whoosh” sound to the count of eight
You have now completed one breath. Just inhale again and repeat this cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.
The relaxing breath, once you get the hang of it, is simple to do, so don’t underestimate its power to help you relax and get to sleep. Each part is important, including the placement of your tongue. In Chinese medicine as well as martial arts, placing your tongue in this position serves to connect the body’s energetic centers and balance your body’s energy meridians.
The part about holding your breath is important because this keeps oxygen in your lungs to let your body absorb as much as possible and also allows your paranasal sinuses to produce a gas called nitric oxide, which has the effect of making the blood vessels in the air sacs of your lungs expand which increases oxygenation.
So now you have a powerful yet extremely simple breathing technique you can use just about anytime to relieve stress, relax and use at bedtime to help you get to sleep more easily.
Ong JC, Crawford MR. Insomnia and Obstructive Sleep Apnea. Sleep Med Clin. 2013;8(3):389-398. doi:10.1016/j.jsmc.2013.04.004
Why It Matters
“Breathe deeply, until sweet air extinguishes the burn of fear in your lungs and every breath is a beautiful refusal to become anything less than infinite.”
~ D. Antoinette Foy - Writer and poet. Her Facebook page simply says: “Hey, I'm Danielle. I write things. ♥ Stay kind, babies. ♥
What We Are Reading 📚
With each issue, we bring you a short blurb on what we are currently reading or watching, including books, articles, podcasts, videos, movies, and research papers of value.
Denise - I’ve just started reading Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals by Oliver Burkeman. In the bigger scheme of things, it’s not a long time, and when I ponder my life, I can’t help but calculate where I come up on that spectrum at this very moment. My mother is 85. If I live at least that long, I have approximately 1,144 weeks left. That’s sobering.
Now’s the time to figure out exactly how I can experience more of the awe and wonder of the world before my weeks are up. I’ll keep you posted.
Ellen - I am reading a very thought-provoking book titled Sane Asylums: The Success of Homeopathy Before Psychiatry Lost Its Mind by Jerry M. Kantor and Eric Leskowitz. Homeopathy, after allopathic (conventional medicine), is the second most widely practiced form of health care in the world. However, it is soundly rejected by today’s Western medicine, whose worldview is strictly materialist.
Dana Ullman, perhaps one of the most well-known professional homeopaths today, has this to say about Kantor’s book:
“Sane Asylums is a brilliant stroll through medical history, showing that homeopathic physicians were more than a hundred years ahead of their time. The homeopathic mental health institutions were truly sane asylums; that is, they integrated homeopathic treatment with nutritional therapy, physical exercise, play therapy, and respectful and caring personalized treatment. In terms of mental health care, we can now say that there really were the ‘good old days’ in this medical specialty.”
Also, here’s a fantastic interview with Jerry Kantor on Rune Soup:
Did you like this article and learn something new? If so, please let us know in the comments! Questions and suggestions for future articles are welcome, too!
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