by Jane Hernandez, CCHT
Having suffered from insomnia for most of my life, I’m well-aware of the torture of nightly hours of tossing in bed.
The first method I learned to help me become a regular sleeper was EFT Tapping, a simple procedure of tapping on specific facial points while thinking or saying the thing that’s bothering you.
Like many hands-on energy healing methods, it’s less about adding up the numbers, and more about doing what just works. And it worked for me, no question – I became a sleeper.
I’m still me, of course, and when I get into bed I’m often still abuzz with thoughts that cause stress. But nowadays, the only time I need EFT for sleep is when there’s something so big that I can’t shut it off easily.
Now that I’m a normal, regular sleeper, most nights I can relax in bed by applying another technique I learned along the way: “diaphragmatic” or “belly” breathing.
- Take a deep breath. Notice if your shoulders are moving up as you inhale. Or maybe your belly is extending. If your belly extends, you’re breathing diaphragmatically. But if you’re breathing into breath your chest, that’s “stress breathing.”
It’s how most people breathe most of the time, and so did I. The body learns stress-breathing as a response in times of emergency – during the fight-or-flight moments when chest-breathing comes naturally. At its worst, it can become hyperventilation. And it isn’t the most appropriate, or necessary response when we aren’t in fight-or-flight situations.
The good news is that you can take control of your breathing, and it will help you take control of your stress.
it’s easy to learn belly breathing. The more you practice, the faster the body will remember that it’s the kind of breathing that feels best.
How to Do Diaphragmatic Breathing
While lying on your back, place the palm of one hand on your chest, and place the other palm on your belly just above the navel.
- Inhale to a count of four, while trying to keep your chest still and feeling the movement of the hand on your belly. It probably won’t feel natural at first, but with practice it will begin to feel very normal and relaxing.
- Now hold the breath for a count of two.
- Slowly exhale to a count of seven.
Breathing into your belly is diaphragmatic breathing. It’s how singers are trained to breathe, so as to take in the greatest possible amount of air, and control the breath to produce the most beautiful sound.
After four rounds of conscious belly breathing, I find myself feeling noticeably more relaxed. I also deliberately let my jaw relax and my tongue rest in my mouth as I breathe.
It’s powerful, relaxing stuff.
The “Why” of Diaphragmatic Breathing
There are good reasons to start this practice.
First, because the movement of the diaphragm stimulates the vagus nerve, which naturally slows your heart rate, leading to feelings of relaxation.
The vagus nerve interprets diaphragmatic breathing as a signal of safety. It sends that “all-safe” signal to the amygdala, the brain center where raw emotions are localized, telling it that it’s okay to turn off feelings of fear and defensiveness.
Physiological changes that occur during diaphragmatic breathing:
- Reduced blood levels of stress hormones
- Better blood balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide
- Improved immune response
- Increased physical energy
- Enhanced feelings of calm and well-being
Practicing belly breathing in bed will help your brain “remember” to breathe in this more relaxing way all night. You’ll wake up feeling better rested, and you’ll have more consistent energy during your day.
You can also practice belly breathing whenever and wherever you’d like to be calm. Before meditation, for example – you might find that you’ll struggle less with “monkey mind.” Or when you’re feeling negative emotions, and you want to respond without escalating. Or before anything challenging!
So, is belly breathing worth it? It’s one of the most powerful relaxation techniques you’ll ever need.
For more information about Jane Hernandez and her work, follow the link HERE. You can also schedule with Jane directly at 510-676-1460.