10 Tips for Better Sleep

Better breathing means better quality sleep so that you wake up feeling refreshed

No one knows exactly what sleep is for, but suffice to say it must be necessary because all animals do it and people feel out of sorts when they do not get sufficient sound sleep.

Healthy breathing during sleep

Breathing increases and decreases automatically in line with the level of metabolism, or how much work the body is doing at any given time. Because sleep lowers metabolism, healthy breathing during this time is quiet, effortless and through the nose, except perhaps for short periods while dreaming, or on waking in the morning, when breathing becomes faster or deeper.

This means that sleeping and breathing are therefore intimately tied together, and when you breathe badly you, and those around you, generally do not have sound, refreshing sleep.

What is snoring?

When air is inhaled or exhaled forcefully, soft tissue in the throat and at the back of the mouth vibrate, making the snoring sound. The noise is generally louder when the upper airways are narrowed more than usual, such as when the person has a cold or a blocked nose.

Loud snoring is nothing like the breathing pattern of healthy sleep. In fact, it is more likely to resemble the way a person would breathe during heavy exercise, which means that it is far in excess of that required for sleep and why it is called Sleep Disordered Breathing.

The forceful breathing of snoring increases the volume of inhaled irritants, encourages the airways to dry out, increasing mucus production and inflammation that further compound the problem, and it also lowers air pressure more than normal within the smaller airways.

Find out more about sleep and the breathing connection by going to our Sleep Disorders page.

TIPS for YOU to get BETTER SLEEP: 

1. Go to bed when you are feeling tired rather than at an exact time.

2. When you wake up feeling refreshed, get out of bed rather than continuing to doze.

3. If possible, do not eat more than a small snack in the 2-hour window before going to sleep.

4. Carbon dioxide pressure within the body needs to climb slightly in order for you to go to sleep and stay asleep because this relaxes the nervous system. In order for this to happen your breathing should not be too fast or forceful, so try to relax yourself before getting into bed.

5. Aim to breathe through your nose when preparing for sleep, so that you become more atuned to breathing this way. Before nodding off, check which nostril is the most blocked and lie on this side as you start to fall asleep. After a while the nostril that is doing most of the breathing will want a rest and you will automatically roll over, swapping sides many times during the night. By doing this, you place less pressure on shoulder and hip joints during the night.

6.Try to keep the airway as open as possible by having a long, but relaxed neck and torso. i.e. do not curl up with your chin on your chest or your stomach bent in the middle.

7. If you need to lie on your back when sleeping, see if you can raise your head slightly higher than your feet. Rather than using two pillows piled on top of each other, which tends to push your chin towards your chest, making it difficult to breathe; try putting an extra pillow length-wise under the mattress to raise most of your torso, neck and head.

8. The body needs to cool down slightly during sleep, so use sufficient bed-covers to feel warm, but not too hot.

9. If you suffer from insomnia, try not to get too frustrated because there is very little that happens during sleep that doesn't happen while you have full body rest. This means that just lying in bed waiting to fall asleep or for when it is time to get up is almost as good as being asleep. Getting frustrated because you can't go to sleep, is the part that is not good for you.

10. When you are worried about your safety, you are less likely to go to sleep than when you feel perfectly relaxed. Similarly if your body is stressed for any other reason, such as being too hot or ill, you are also less likely to sleep soundly. Hyperventilation, or breathing too much, is stressful on the body, so try to breathe gently and at a reasonable pace when you are going to sleep, rather than deeply or forcefully.

You can learn more about sleep and how breathing affects it by attending a Buteyko seminar

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