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A biological solution to insomnia
You can’t sleep………………………… ouch !
What to do ?
You’ve tried some / most of the usual recommendations i.e. cutting back on the coffee, avoiding stimulating activities, even counting sheep etc.
They’re NOT WORKING………….
You’re at the point you NEED, a SLEEP AID.
Sleep aids for insomnia
Now when “we” think sleep aids, we typically think of swallowing something.
Maybe it is a pill. Maybe it’s a tea.
Natural is preferable.
But, hey……………….when the problem is BIG ENOUGH, you’ll take ANYTHING !
So why not try BREATHING !
The biological solution to insomnia
There are a multitude of routes, to get to insomnia……………. but when you’re there, the biological problem is you’re suffering from HYPERARROUSAL.
Which translated in neurological speak, amounts to
TOO MUCH sympathetic nerve activity
and NOT ENOUGH parasympathetic nervous activity.
So you want to go TO VAGUS……
Going to Vegas
Not that Vegas – Las Vegas, is a city that NEVER SLEEPS. The vagus you want to go to, is the main nerve, that runs the parasympathetic nervous system.
It’s other name, is cranial nerve NUMBER 10 !
It runs the length of your spine, branching off, at all the major organ systems along the way. It’s designated job, is to help you live and let live.
Which amounts to FEEDing and then BREEDing !
Eish ! Mother Nature has a one track mind.
Are dotted all along the spinal cord, they run your body………………BEHIND THE SCENES i.e. they’re automatic / autonomic.
The gut connections, get a lot of air time, in the medical world.
For obvious reasons……..
It’s not called the FEED and BREED system, for nothing.
But, the lung connection, is actually one of the most malleable connections…….
Breathing is automatic
There is NO thinking required, but you can CONTROL, the depth of your breathing.
You probably don’t !
But if you are having trouble falling asleep, then this is a lever you want to be tweaking. This is what a group of researchers from Germany, recently demonstrated.
The team enlisted the help of 64 university students, ranging in age from 18 – 29 years old, to show just how, breathing can be used as a sleep aid.
The students were divided into two groups.
- Group 1, were introduced to a paced breathing app and told to use it, for 15 minutes, every night just before bed.
- Group 2, were also using their mobile phone, for 15 minutes before bed, but they were socializing instead.
The sleep assessment
At the start of the study and then a month later, the participants sleep was measured.
Both directly, in the lab, as well, on paper.
NOTE : The paper measure reflects their perception of the quality of their sleep.
So what happened ?
Breathing your way to vagus stimulation
Those using the breathing app……………… slept better.
Their Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index score dropped from an average of 3.31 to 2.91. This didn’t happen in the control group, there sleep got marginally worse.
So why does it work ?
Sleepers go to vagus
When you fall asleep, the respiratory rate slows.
This slowing marks the transition towards a more parasympathetic dominant state.
The good sleeper, makes the transition, seamlessly.
In the bad sleeper, the sympathetic nervous system, think monkey mind, fights to keep control…………….. delaying or stopping, the transition to sleep.
By, deliberately slowing your breathing frequency, before you fall asleep, you effectively unseat the the sympathetic nervous system, increasing the odds…….
The parasympathetic system will take control – whisking you off to dreamland.
The goal is slow breathing
In this study, a very modern, pretty cool technique was used to induce slow breathing.
The cell phone app, they used, added petals to a flower, to set the breathing pace. .
Unfortunately, using an app was probably less than ideal, the problem being, as a mobile phone app, it requires you stare at a digital screen.
Digital screens are a big NO NO, for anyone hoping to enter dreamland…..
Digital devices are NOT sleep aids
The problem is they emit blue light and this upsets melatonin, your night valet…….. the poor guy is so freaked out, he hides away in pineal cupboard, neglecting to draw the curtains and pull down the covers.
It didn’t matter much in this study……………
Both groups of people, participating in the study, were subject to blue light exposure in the moments before bed……….. the slow breathing, gave the app users an advantage.
But in the ideal world………
Insomniacs should avoid bedtime exposure to blue light.
Is possible……in fact, traditional slow breathing routines use sound or counting techniques, to promote slower breathing.
If you WANT THE COOL, visual prompts, modern technology offers, no worries.
Pop on a pair of blue blocking glasses, before building daisies in the cloud.
Otherwise, breath in for 6 counts…..1,2,3,4,5,6. Pause. Breath out for six counts…..1,2,3,4,5,6.
Good night, sleep tight !
A hot bath, on a cold night, is a sleep aid that works. It’s a lot safer than sleep meds and probably equally effective.
If SLEEP eludes you, do a head count of who is in the bedroom. Sharing your bedroom with your pets, can end up impacting the quality of your sleep.
Electronic devices spit blue light. Since…………..blue light is something that in nature, is a morning thing, you’re more likely to have trouble falling asleep.