Editor’s Note: Join Dana Santas for a four-part series to learn how you can breathe better to live better. Santas, known as the “Mobility Maker,” is a certified strength and conditioning specialist and mind-body coach in professional sports, and is the author of the book “Practical Solutions for Back Pain Relief.” Here’s Part III.
In Part I of the series, I outlined the overall power of breathing to impact our bodies and minds. Then in Part II, I shared how our breathing pattern can impact posture, movement and pain. Those articles demonstrated how the quality of our breathing pattern – good or bad – has a corresponding positive or negative effect on many aspects of our health and wellness. Your ability to recover is no exception. In this third installment, we examine the influential role breathing plays in recovery, and I share tips to help you leverage your breathing to get the quality sleep you need.
Your body’s need for sleep to recover
Giving your body the time and support to recover is vital to your physical health and psychological well-being. This is why sleep takes up nearly one-third of your life.
The only way the recovery process can take place is through activation of the parasympathetic aspect of your autonomic nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system is known as the “rest and recover” or “rest and digest” state. It triggers a lowering of blood pressure, heart rate and stress hormone production while supporting the processes that facilitate restoration and renewal, like sleep and digestion. Not only is it essential for helping us fall asleep but, during quality, deep sleep, we exhibit parasympathetic nervous system dominance.
While you are awake, your autonomic nervous system is constantly toggling between your parasympathetic nervous system and sympathetic nervous system, also known as the “fight-or-flight” state. By calibrating levels of both these states based on your life’s circumstances, your autonomic nervous system is designed to foster homeostasis, or a state of equilibrium.
However, in the face of chronic stress, you can get stuck more in the highly stimulated sympathetic state, making it very difficult to diminish your stress response and switch into “rest and recover” mode to enable sleep.
With our high-stress, hyperstimulated lives in mind, it’s no surprise that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 1 in 3 Americans don’t get the recommended seven or more hours of sleep per night. What’s more, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Slee