Sh*t your yoga teacher says, "Have you tried meditating?"
One thing I’m really good at, falling asleep. It’s not even a humble brag moment, I’m totally bragging, but I’ve put in some serious work to get here - here’s the catch though, just because I fall asleep quickly doesn’t mean it’s quality sleep.
When I was in the throws of my dad’s accident trauma, I was still somewhat falling asleep okay, but what was interesting was the quality of my sleep totally sucked. I knew I was dealing with a lot and overly stressed out and my body was in trauma response mode, but I was exhausted.
I’m not a huge fan of the Apple Watch, once again these blogs are all personal opinions. At the time I was wearing this cute little Garmin watch to track data. I began to realize my peak stress moments were during sleep, and my REM sleep cycles were almost non-existent. Later I learned, that these were all associated symptoms of PTSD.
My doctor informed me I should do some breathing practices before bed (*insert eye roll* don’t they know I’m a yoga teacher and I know this.) Here’s the thing, there’s what you know, and then there’s actually doing it. I also didn’t realize that just because I was falling asleep okay doesn’t mean I’m sleeping okay.
I was an on-and-off meditator before, but at that point in almost 6 years of teaching yoga, I honestly didn’t have a consistent meditation practice. Finally, I caved, I knew I had to do something because my mental health and physical health had taken a turn.
Honestly, I couldn’t sit with my thoughts. It was really f*cking hard, too much trauma all up in there. My doctor suggested I stick with breath-focused meditation for the time being, just to help my focus stay on track. I found the breathing practice of 4-7-8 to really help. All the counting was good for me…
Speaking of counting….have you heard to count the sheep until you fall asleep…yeah it’s basically like that.
This is a breathing technique that was developed by Dr. Andrew Weil. You inhale quietly through the nose for a count of 4, hold your breath for a count of 7, and exhale audibly through the mouth for a count of 8.
This automatically triggers a response through the body to rest through your parasympathetic nervous system. Your PNS is what controls “rest and digest.”
Let’s hit you with some facts instead of my trauma story:
- A study conducted by the University of Arizona found that the effects of 4-7-8 breathing reduced cortisol levels (which leads to improved sleep quality.) If you don’t know what cortisol is, it’s your primary stress hormone and it literally impact every single organ in your body.
- In a study published by the Journal of Sleep Science and Practice, 4-7-8 breathing contributed to a smoother transition from awake to restful sleep state. This can be monitored or tracked with most smartwatches. Personally, I use an Oura ring and find it to be VERY helpful.
- Lastly, in a study published in the Journal of Sleep Research, the research highlighted that people who practice good sleep habits and hygiene, such as 4-7-8, experienced better cognitive function and mood, and demonstrated better immune function and cardiovascular health.
Yeah, all of that is just based on intentional breathing.
Also, a big reminder and caveat here: breathing techniques based on counting don’t work for everyone, especially if you may suffer from asthma or low lung capacity. If this exercise worsens your anxiety or brings you thoughts of judgment or shame against yourself. HALT, this is the exact opposite of what we are working towards. This might just mean this style of breathing isn’t for you, kinda like tall platform sandals or plaid - we all have things that work and don’t, it’s not because our bodies are bad.
So, have you tried meditating?