Expert Advice | Unforgettable Excellence

Breathing and sleeping your way to successful Stress Relief

Breathing and sleeping your way to successful Stress Relief | Mr Vitamins
  In our day to day life we tend to focus more on water, food, exercise than breathing. However, breathing is more important than all of these because, as an adult, after five to ten minutes of not breathing, you are likely to develop serious and possibly irreversible brain damage.
  • 1 minute: brain cells begin to die, but survival is possible
  • 3 minutes: Series brain damage likely
  • 10 minutes: many brain cells have died; the patient is unlikely to recover
  • 15 minutes: recovery is virtually impossible

Using breath to reduce stress

In the 1970s at Harvard Medical School cardiologist Dr. Herbert Benson developed techniques to promote the relaxation response - a state of profound rest that can be elicited in many ways, including meditation, yoga, and progressive muscle relaxation. The first step, in all of these techniques, is learning how to breathe deeply. Other ways to describe deep breathing are belly breathing, diaphragmatic breathing, or abdominal breathing.

So how do you breathe deeply?

You breathe in through your nose until it fully fills your lungs and your lower belly rises. Then you naturally breathe out, through your mouth, letting the air escape from your belly and lungs. With clients I add to this by suggesting you breathe in for a shorter time than you breathe out. For example breathe in for 3 seconds and then out for 5 seconds. Or breathe in for 4 seconds and then out for 6 seconds.

Using breath to promote relaxation and sleep

And here is another technique to help you relax and sleep that was developed by a wellness practitioner, Harvard-educated Dr.Andrew Weil, who studies meditation, breathing, and how it can be used to counteract stress. It’s easy to do.
  • You breathe in through your nose for four seconds
  • Hold it for seven seconds
  • And exhale through your mouth for eight seconds.

Deep breathing also supports your heart and clears your mind

This is good for more than just falling asleep though, it slows down your heart rate and it also releases chemicals in our brains that soothe you. This is how it works. When we’re stressed, our endocrine system releases adrenaline through our adrenal glands. This elevates your heart rate and can make you feel jittery and unwell. Often times, your breathing also becomes rapid and shallow. By using this breathing method, you counteract the natural effects of adrenaline and your body is forced to slow down your heart rate. It simply doesn’t have a choice!

Use it in the middle of the night too

And for those of you who don’t have any problems falling asleep, but wake up in the middle of the night and can’t go back to sleep. Try the same 4 / 7 /8 technique. You breathe in through your nose for four seconds, hold it for seven seconds, and exhale through your mouth for eight seconds. Dr Weill suggests that when you exhale through your mouth you make a woosh sounds to the count of 8.  

Article by Karin Amali

    University of Michigan: