How breathing calms the mind and body, explained by expert Patrick McKeown

by | Apr 14, 2022

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Many Americans experience considerable stress, according to the Stress in America 2020 Survey. In a stressed state, you may experience difficulty relaxing during the day and falling asleep at night. After a bad night’s sleep, you wake up tired, experience low energy and may have a bad mood. This can in turn contribute to trouble sleeping. A vicious cycle exists of stress and bad sleep, which can lead to chronic sleep problems. Patrick McKeown explains how breathing calms the mind and body, and how you can break this vicious cycle.

 

How can we break the vicious cycle of stress and bad sleep?

To break this vicious cycle, you will need to lower overall stress levels and experience more moments of relaxation during the day. According to Patrick McKeown, breathing is a tool to establish a more relaxed state. Patrick: “Breathing can bring calmness into the body and mind. To launch your body’s relaxation response, you will need to change your breathing pattern.” 

“Breathing can bring calmness into the body and mind”

 

How should we breathe to launch the body’s relaxation response?

Patrick: “If you are stressed and have an agitated mind, you can experience faster and shallow breathing. For relaxation, you need to breathe slowly, low and through the nose.”

  • Slow down the exhalation. During exhalation, the Vagus Nerve kicks in. This nerve is responsible for your relaxation response. A breathing rate of 4.5 6.5 breaths per minute is optimal to stimulate the Vagus Nerve. So take a soft breath in and slowly breathe out for relaxation.
  • Breathe low in your belly, using the diaphragm. Simply put your hands on either side of your lower ribs. As you breathe in, you will feel the ribs gently moving out, as you breathe out, you will feel them moving in. If you place Somnox 2 Breathe & Sleep Companion on your belly, it can help you breathe slowly and bring your awareness to abdominal breathing to encourage low breathing.
  • Always breathe through your nose. If you breathe through your nose, the air is prepared to be easily transferred from the lungs to the bloodstream. The mouth does not have any added value to your breath.

“For relaxation, you need to breathe slow, low and through the nose”

In the table below you find the differences between stressed and relaxed breathing.

Stressed breathing pattern Relaxed controlled breathing pattern
Fast breathing Slow breathing (4.5 – 6.5 breaths per minute)
Upper chest breathing Diaphragmatic breathing
Mouth breathing with sighs Nose breathing

 

What breathing exercise can relieve stress?

Patrick: “Slow exhalation helps combat stress by shifting your attention from the stressful situation to your breathing. With this breathing exercise, you help the brain interpret the stressful situation as a safe situation.” 

  1. Put your hands on either side of your lower ribs
  2. Breathe in through your nose for four seconds
  3. Breathe out through your nose for six seconds
  4. Continue until you feel more calm

 

How can we use breathing to fall asleep more easily?

Patrick McKeown recommends practicing slow breathing before going to bed: “Before bed, practice slow breathing for 10 to 15 minutes. Take a very soft gentle breath in through your nose, and allow a relaxed and slow breath out. You should not hear yourself breathing, so take very light and slow breaths. The volume of air you breathe should be less than what you normally breathe. This will create a feeling of air hunger. The goal of the exercise is to feel that you would like to take in a deeper breath. This type of breathing activates the body’s relaxation response plus your mind is less likely to wander while focusing on your breath.”

“Before bed, practice slow breathing for 10 to 15 minutes” 

 

Do you have any other breathing tips to improve sleep?

Patrick: “For healthy breathing, your bedroom should be airy, cool and dust-free. Also, train to rest your tongue on the roof of your mouth. This may help prevent sleep apnea, which can disturb your sleep. If you wake up with a moist mouth, you are breathing well for sleep.”

 

How does Somnox contribute to relaxation and better sleep? 

Patrick: “Many people experience over stimulation of the mind during the day and struggle to down regulate the mind before sleep. With Somnox, an individual can shift attention from the mind onto the Breathe & Sleep Robot and do guided breathing exercises to calm the mind. Somnox can be part of an evening routine that helps individuals to fall asleep more readily.”

“With Somnox, an individual can shift attention from the mind onto the Breathe & Sleep Robot and do guided breathing exercises to calm the mind”

Patrick: “Another benefit of Somnox is that you can tailor the breathing to your own breathing. Someone who experiences anxiety and has fast upper chest breathing might find it too difficult to slow down to six breaths per minute. Whereas, if you told this person to slow down the breathing just a little more, this is easier.”

“Another benefit of Somnox is that you can tailor the breathing to your own breathing”

Patrick: “Further, if you hug something, the Vagus Nerve is stimulated, which helps you relax. Somnox can be your companion through the night as it breathes with you.”

“Somnox can be your companion through the night as it breathes with you”

For anyone looking to improve their sleep, Somnox 2 is your science-backed sleep companion that guides you towards slow-paced breathing that helps you fall asleep faster, worry less and wake up rested. 70% of our users improved their sleep quality within 4 weeks. Interested? Sign up for early access.

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