My previous newsletter looked at how diet can influence our sleeping patterns. For this newsletter, I will describe a breathing technique taught to new (U.S. Navy) pilots, that helps them fall asleep under any circumstances.
Now, sleeping problems can be exacerbated by too much light in the bedroom, so using blackout curtains can be a worthwhile investment. And, for some people ear plugs or white noise machines can be helpful, while for others, help can be found through physical therapies, such as acupuncture or acupressure.
Finally, one thing I point out to anyone who consistently wakes at around 3 or 4 a.m, is that (according to Chinese medicine) this is a sign of adrenal fatigue. This form of insomnia is often solved after spending a month, or so, taking a good adrenal support product (such as our AdrenalStart). Now let’s have a look at that breathing technique.
A Breathing Technique for Sleep Disorders
In the book, “Relax and Win: Championship Performance”, author Sharon Ackerman recounts two methods developed by the U.S. Navy Pre-Flight School, designed to help pilots fall asleep in 2 minutes or less.
Unfortunately, this is not an overnight proposition, as it took some of the pilots up to 6 weeks of practice to get consistent results from these routines. However, once they had the techniques down, they could easily fall asleep even after drinking coffee, or having loud (military) noises in the background.
One approach focuses on breathing, and the other on relaxing the muscles, and each should be practiced for at least 2 minutes. The best approach is to begin with the breathing technique, and then move to the muscle relaxing routine.
The Breathing Method
This breathing technique is based on a yogic practice called pranayama, designed to help practitioners gain control over their breathing. In states of anxiety we tend to breathe from the upper chest, and when relaxed we breath from the belly. Thus, by altering and controlling our breathing, we can move from a sympathetic dominant position (fight or flight response) to parasympathetic dominance (calm, relaxed, rested).
First, rest the tip of your tongue against the roof of your mouth, behind the top front teeth. Keep your tongue in place throughout the practice, though it may be a little tricky during exhalation. (Some find it easier to keep the tongue in place by pursing their lips during the process.)
The following is to be carried out in the cycle of one breath:
- Let your lips part, and, while making a whooshing sound, exhale completely through your mouth.
- Close your lips, inhale silently through the nose, and count to 4 in your head.
- Then, hold your breath for 7 seconds.
- With a whooshing sound, exhale for 8 seconds.
- Start a new cycle, inhaling through the nose, count to 4, etc.
- Run the full pattern four times, though, once comfortable with it, one may work up to eight full cycles.
This breathing method becomes more effective the more you practice it, and is also more effective when combined with a muscle relaxation technique.
Muscle Relaxation Technique
One simple approach to muscle relaxation is to imagine the tension leaving your body, as you exhale, during the 4-7-8 breathing method.
Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) a form of deep muscle relaxation, helps one unwind, and is part of the aforementioned sleeping techniques taught by the U.S. Navy. PMR can be used prior to, or following, the use of the 4-7-8 breathing practice.
Here is how it works: One tenses the muscles in a given area, while ensuring the rest of the body is relaxed. The tension is held for 15 seconds, then released slowly while counting for 30 seconds. During this time breathe slowly and evenly.
The order in which one works through the body is as follows: forehead, jaw, neck and shoulders, arms and hands, buttocks, legs, feet. Again, in each case, tensing the muscles, holding for 15 seconds, and releasing for 30 seconds. As the process occurs, focus on the sensation of relaxation, and how heavy the body feels in this relaxed state. (Source)
More on the subject of PMR can be found at this link.
And don’t forget, one easy way to relax muscles before bed is to have a hot bath with the addition of two cups of epsom salts. These magnesium salts not only serve to relax the muscles, but will also enter the body, raising your blood levels of magnesium.
The Spice of Life
A new study, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology ( Dec, 2019), examined the consumption of a traditional spice widely used in Italy, and how that affected health.
The study examined the health status, and eating habits, of 22,811 citizens (from the Molise region in Italy), for an average period of about 8 years. What they discovered was an inexpensive way to protect us from some deadly diseases.
Among those people who consumed chili peppers, four or more times a week, death by heart attack dropped 40%, all-cause mortality risk dropped by 23%, and risk for death due to cerebrovascular events was reduced by 50%.
Marialaura Bonaccio, lead author of the study, said, "An interesting fact is that protection from mortality risk was independent of the type of diet people followed. In other words, someone can follow the healthy Mediterranean diet, someone else can eat less healthily, but for all of them, chili pepper has a protective effect".
Licia Iacoviello, director of the Department of Epidemiology and Prevention at the I.R.C.C.S. Neuromed, added, "And now, as already observed in China and in the United States, we know that the various plants of the capsicum species, although consumed in different ways throughout the world, can exert a protective action toward health." The most commonly used spice from the capsicum species is cayenne, which provides much of the same cardiovascular protection as chili peppers do. (Source)