It is estimated that 50 to 70 million Americans have issues with their sleep patterns. I often hear people say they don't sleep well at night because they either wake up often, stay up to late and get up early, or it takes them FOREVER to fall asleep. During restorative sleep, the body cleans house and performs needed maintenance and repairs. When our sleep gets delayed or interrupted, we don't get that deep restorative sleep and general maintenance and repairs are postponed. Over time, this leads to sleep deprivation which has been associated with a higher risk of blood pressure and blood sugar imbalances, poor weight management, mood swings, and even events like a heart attack or stroke.
While there are MANY factors that affect sleep, this post will focus on just one - breathing. Breathing is something that takes place without us thinking about it. We don't have to tell ourselves to take a breath. It just happens naturally. It is a very basic function that is crucial for life. In fact, Genesis 2:7 tells us God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed life into the lungs of man. It was with this breath, God's breath, that man became a living being. I imagine this was a full, solid breath that reached the very bottom of his lungs and filled them to capacity, richly oxygenating his blood. Oxygen isn't just something that fills our lungs, it travels through the bloodstream to every organ and tissue. It helps to give it life. Without oxygen rich blood, the body can become oxygen-starved.
To fully fill your lungs with oxygen, its important to purposefully take deep breathes. By taking deep breathes, our blood becomes infused with oxygen as it passes through our lungs before traveling through our entire body, including our brain.
I learned of this breathing technique several years ago, but just recently discovered that Dr. Andrew Weil came up with it. There are 3 breathing techniques he mentions on his website.
Take a moment and practice this as you read through this Deep Breathing Exercise. Print it out and keep it handy until it becomes a natural thing to do.
Sit with your back straight. Exhale completely through your mouth.
Close your mouth and inhale through your nose to a mental count of 4.
Hold your breathe to a count of 7.
Exhale completely through your mouth to a count of 8.
Repeat for a total of 4 breaths. Step 1-4 is considered 1 breath. It is ok if you can't get to the suggested counts at first, but according to Dr. Weil, it is important to keep the ratios the same. With practice, you will improve.
*During the first month, do not complete more than 4 breath cycles at one time as you may feel winded or faint. This is normal and will pass.