Plenty of research can be found on the benefits of sleep. The quality of your sleep has a direct impact on your physical and mental well-being. Sleep is as important to humans as is a good diet and physical exercise. The following benefits are associated with good sleep:
- Improved productivity and concentration
- Better weight control
- Better calorie regulation
- An improvement in athletic performance
- Lower risk of heart disease
- Better social and emotional intelligence
- Helps prevent depression
- A stronger immune system
Strong as the case is for the need to have better sleep quality, there are still many people who are unable to achieve this. According to an article by Healthline, there are many causes that contribute to lack of sleep – some of which are:
- Consuming too much caffeine
- Noise disturbances
- Sleep disorders e.g. insomnia & sleep apnea
- An uncomfortable bedroom
The quality of bedding, making adjustments to your bedroom environment (e.g. keeping a cooler sleeping temperature), improving bed hygiene, reducing caffeine intake etc. can all help in improving sleep… but what about relaxing your body and mind to prepare it for sleep?
This is an often over-looked aspect, which is very important nonetheless. Meditation and breathing techniques can make a huge difference in your sleep quality and your ability to function well mentally & physically. Breathing helps to lower your heart rate. To enter a state of deep sleep, your heart rate needs to be at 60 beats per minute – whereas most people’s heart rate is closer to 75-80.
Stress and anxiety can also impact on our ability to sleep well. After all, most of us are faced with different daily life challenges – financial, emotional or physical (or a combination), which can cause a lot of stress and anxiety. Dealing with daily stresses induces a “flight or fight” response from our body. While this type of response can be healthy to identify and deal with physical danger, problems arise when this response is triggered with non- life threating events like traffic jams, relationship & financial pressures. Breathing techniques help to negate these “flight or fight” responses and thereby helping the body to relax.
It is often quite difficult to sleep well in an uncomfortable environment – whether physical or emotional. A well-documented breathing technique known as the “4-7-8”, can help you improve your sleep quality.
The 4-7-8 breathing technique requires the following to be done:
- Breathe in for a count of 4 seconds
- Hold the breath for a count of 7 seconds
- Exhale forcefully, through the mouth by pursing your lips together – making a “whoosh” sound – for a count of 8 seconds
- Repeat the above cycle 4 times – up to 2 times a day
Deep breathing can help achieve many benefits including: reduced fatigue, reduced hypertension, better stress management & reduced anxiety – among others.
The 4-7-8 breathing technique, is just one of many breathing techniques. However what makes it unique is that it is very easy to remember the sequence (i.e. breathe in for “4 seconds”, Hold for “7 seconds” and breathe out for “8 seconds”), it is not time consuming to perform it daily – and moreover if the “4-7-8” sequence is not suitable, then a shorter “2-4-4” sequence can be performed (i.e. shorten the 4-7-8 sequence by half), as you gradually build up to a level that is suitable for you.Happy breathing, and wishing you deep and restful sleep!