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March 5, 2021
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10 Tips to achieve Better Quality Sleep

  1. Bring awareness to your breathing

  • Are you breathing regularly?
  • Do you hold your breath?
  • Do you mouth breathe?
  • Do you breathe only with your upper chest?

You may wish to see if you recognize any of the symptoms commonly associated with dysfunctional breathing

  1. Practice as much as possible breathing only through your nose


If you can breathe through your nose during the day you will increase your chances of doing so through the night. There are numerous health benefits to nose breathing*. Unfortunately, these benefits have been greatly neglected by physicians according to Dr. Pat Barelli, Otolaryngologist [1]


  1. Calm your mind and relax before sleeping


You may meditate for 15 – 20 minutes**. Or you may read or listen to music as part of your winding down in preparing for sleep.


  1. Sleep on your side (left or right)


Sleeping on your back promotes deeper mouth breathing whereas sleeping on your side gives you greater control over your breathing


  1. Sleep elevated relative to the height of your shoulder so that your head and neck are comfortably supported


This position facilitates relaxed and open airways while supporting a closed mouth during sleep


  1. Keep your bedroom on the cool side (around 18.5°C)


Our body’s core temperature needs to drop by 1°C to initiate the evening surge of melatonin prior to facilitating sleep[2]


  1. Avoid eating large meals, caffeine, and other stimulants 


Digesting a large quantity of food in the evening will increase your heart rate and, in turn, your breathing. Stimulants, particularly caffeine, can take up to 8 hours to wear off


  1. Avoid alcohol


Although alcohol acts as a sedative in relaxing you it deprives you of REM sleep and keeps you in the lighter stages of sleep. Heavy alcohol consumption may impair your breathing at night. You will also likely wake up in the middle of the night when the effects of alcohol have worn off.[3]


  1. Be aware of and avoid medicine which interferes with your sleep


Sleep patterns may be interfered with by commonly prescribed heart, blood pressure or asthma medications or over-the-counter remedies for colds, coughs, and allergies. Check with your doctor as to whether any side effects exist insofar as sleep is concerned and if the medication can be changed or taken in the morning.


  1. Obtain at least 30 minutes of exercise and sunlight daily


Exercise benefits your cardiovascular system, respiratory system, and nervous system but exercise should not occur less than 2 hours before sleep. Morning sunlight exposure is preferable in regulating our circadian rhythm***



*There may be valid reasons why nose breathing is either difficult or not possible, for example

  1. Deviated septum
  2. Blocked nose (sinusitis or rhinitis)
  3. Tongue-tie
  4. Asthma
  5. Sleep Apnoea
  6. Anxiety
  7. Other breathing disorder

All of the above (except 1 and 3) can be assisted significantly by mindfully retraining how you breathe. A tongue-tie release will greatly assist breathing difficulties associated with 1 and 3

** During mindfulness meditation it is helpful to focus on either your breath or on sounds and use them as anchors to the present. When you are focused on the present – on what is happening right now – it is not possible for worries and anxieties to come charging into your head.[4] If thoughts do intrude simply acknowledge the thought and return to your anchors

***Not all of us have the same circadian rhythm. About 40% are morning types and about 30% are evening types. The remaining 30% lie somewhere in between morning and evening types[5]

[1] Dr Barelli, Pat A 1987, Behavioural and Psychological Approaches to Breathing Disorders, Plenum Press, New York 1994

[2] Matthew Walker, 2018, Why We Sleep, The New Science of Sleep and Dreams, Penguin at p. 275

[3] Matthew Walker, 2018, Why We Sleep, The New Science of Sleep and Dreams, Penguin at p. 341

[4] Gill Hasson, 2013, Mindfulness, Capstone at p. 27

[5] Matthew Walker, 2018, Why We Sleep, The New Science of Sleep and Dreams, Penguin at p. 20

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