Deep Breathing May be Key to Getting Good Zzzzz
Republished with permission from Dr. Patrick B. Massey, Alternative
Approach, Daily Herald, August 30, 2004
Good quality sleep is a lost art in America. Sleep seems to be one problem
that plagues many Americans. In my medical practice, although few patients
complain about sleep deprivation as a primary complaint, it seems to be an
almost universal secondary medical problem.
The average American get about 6.5 hours of sleep a night. I suspect that
it is not a straight 6.5 hours but is broken up throughout the night. As a
result, we have turned to medications to induce and promote sleep. Some of
these, as advertised on TV, sound like a real solution.until the numerous
side effects are mentioned. So, how does one actually get a good night's
sleep without side effects? The answer is two fold. We need to find the
cause of the sleep disturbance and then to find ways to address it.
If you take all of the people who do not sleep well, factor out the
medically serious causes like sleep apnea, a lot of people waking up tired.
I, and others, feel that stress plays a major role. When the mind is
racing, it is difficult to let go and slip into that most pleasant of
The American lifestyle is built on stress. We define ourselves by our
stress. It is with us every day. It also the most common risk factor for
most illness and disease. A good night's sleep may combat the effects of
I believe that significant stress begins in school. Some may believe, (not
me), that our children need college level workloads, constant testing and
harder courses. As a result, children are working harder and getting less
than 6 hours of sleep each night. At the ripe old age of 15, they often
have stress levels so high that some are on medications and many sleep only
4-5 hours a night.
It continues into college and beyond. My own career, medicine, is probably
the best example of sleep deprivation, stress and illness. Take a good
look; physicians are not exactly the "poster children" for a good night's
sleep, reduced stress or optimal health.
So what can be done to improve the chances for a good night's sleep? It may
be as simple as deep, rhythmic breathing. Medical research has demonstrated
that deep breathing exercises, diaphragmatic breathing, qigong breathing,
yoga breathing, can induce a profound state of relaxation and are
beneficial.even simple yawning forces one to take a deep breath.
A recent study, in the medical journal Cancer, looked at the effect of
Tibetan breathing (deep, rhythmic breathing) on the use of sleep
medications in patients with lymphoma (stress and illness). According to
the researchers, Tibetan breathing significantly improved sleep quality;
they fell asleep faster and longer and used less sleep medications than
without side effects.
Deep, rhythmic breathing works because it supports a state of relaxation..
Relaxation supports good sleep (without drugs). Good sleep is what most
Americans need (especially physicians!). Try this.before going to sleep,
take 20 deep, slow breaths in and out.then lie down and see how you sleep.
About the Author: Patrick B. Massey MD, PhD, is Medical Director of
Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Alexian Brothers Hospital
Network Dr.. Massey is also President of the ALT-MED Medical and
Physical Therapy Program, Elk Grove Village IL 60007
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