What is something we do 22,000 times a day? Breathe.
Yes, breathing. It seems like it should be a simple activity, one we don’t even need to think about. Well, one of the things we love doing as chiropractors is helping people improve their function and health by making small changes. Yep, changing how you breathe will absolutely improve your overall health.
Did you know?
So how can breathing in a different way affect stress?
If you are only breathing through your mouth, not using your nose at all, this can increase blood pressure and pulse rate, and decrease mental acuity and heart rate variability, all measures of increased stress on the body. So simply closing your mouth and breathing through your nose as much as possible is a great place to start.
If you are someone who has difficulty breathing through your nose, from sinus blockages, allergies etc, then start small, even just 10 mins every hour is a great start! Also, mention this to your chiro at your next appointment, there are some wonderful gentle releases that may help blocked sinuses!
When our body is exposed to stress, we become stuck in our fight or flight response, leaving us feeling anxious, irritated, fearful and on high alert, unable to rest. Ideally, we should be able to switch from our fight or flight response into a rest and digest response quite easily. But once our body has been running in fight or flight for a while, it needs a concentrated effort to switch this off and get some quality rest.
The tissue lining the nose has links to our ‘fight or flight’ system and our ‘rest and digest’ system. So we can use breathing through our nose to activate our rest and digest response.
Here are two techniques that use breathing to help us go from fight or flight, to rest and digest:
Using deep breathing techniques may help with a wide range of stress related issues. For a full list of how stress affects the body, see our blogs on stress, and SD protocol.
Breathing also affects how well we sleep. If we are breathing through our mouth while we sleep, we are more prone to snoring, sleep apnea and lighter, non REM sleep.
When breathing through the mouth while asleep, the soft tissues at the back of the throat become loose and decrease the space in the airway. This encourages snoring and sleep apnea episodes, interrupting deep sleep and often leading you to wake up feeling like you have barely slept.
Normally, when we are getting enough REM sleep, our body produces a hormone called vasopressin, which encourages our cells to store water. When our REM sleep is insufficient, our vasopressin is lower, our cells release more water, and we will have the urge to pee during the night. This also lowers the quality of our sleep if we are waking through the night to use the toilet.
Again, the solution is the same. Breathing through the nose as often as you can. At night this is harder as we cannot control what we do in our sleep, but there is growing evidence that taping your mouth shut (just using small strips of tape) can encourage nasal breathing at night and decrease snoring and sleep apnea.
At first, breathing through the nose may feel difficult, especially if you have been relying on your mouth to breathe. The more you breathe through your nose, the easier it becomes, as the nasal passages widen and get less blocked with more use. This one, small but significant change can affect your entire body, reducing stress and improving sleep, something I think we would all benefit from. So give it a go and let us know how you find it!Blog inspired by reading Breath by James Nestor, highly recommend reading this book!
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At Ballarat and District Chiropractic Center, we want you to be empowered when it comes your health. We want to help you by sharing all our knowledge about Chiropractic.