The Breath of Sleep

Hey you! Today I wanted to talk about two vital things, breathing and sleeping. In today’s blog I am going to let you in on a few of my secrets that help me feel revived and excited about each new day. I can’t wait to share this with you! Leave a comment down below and share with me your experiences with these practices, I can’t wait to hear your stories! Disclaimer, I am not a doctor, or a medical professional. I am simply sharing with you some ideas to help you increase your productivity by sleeping better. This blog does contain hyperlinks, click the links to be directed to the stated website.

Let’s first talk about deep breathing. By taking deep, full, conscious breaths throughout your day you can increase your focus, productivity and mood drastically – it’s actually crazy how effective this is. So, try every hour-or-two to take a few deep breaths, not only is it stress-releasing but it will clear your mind of any fogginess helping you to focus on the task ahead. On top of the 2-3 deep breaths I take hourly, I do Wim Hof’s breathing technique at night before I go to bed. In case you don’t know who Wim Hof is, he is an extreme athlete known for his ability to withstand freezing temperatures and setting 20 world records. Google him – he’s absolutely crazy awesome! This guided breathing technique is his, and you can do it in the morning or night. I prefer to do at night because it helps my body and mind relax and get into the sleeping stage quicker. The Wim Hof Method increases energy, sleep, focus, sport performance, body recovery time, and your cold tolerance. It also reduces stress levels, enhances creativity, and strengthens your immune system. I would suggest downloading the free Wim Hof app on your phone, that way you can personalize the duration of breaths and breath holds. The app also has many more practices and challenges you can try regarding cold showers and ice baths. If you prefer to use YouTube, you can also access the breathing practice there.

My Wim Hof journey began with my mom when she showed it to me. This is a practice done laying down, to avoid passing out because you can get dizzy and lightheaded if practiced upright. Also, the first few times you practice this technique, you will most likely want a blanket because your body temperature can drop during this practice. The first time I tried this breathing technique, I got really light headed after the fourth breath. If you get lightheaded like me the first couple of times, that’s okay. Hold your breath until you feel it necessary for you to breathe again. Then continue with the cycles of breath. In one cycle there are 40 quick and deep inhales, a breath hold held in an exhale for your max duration of time, and a breath hold held in an inhale for 15 seconds. You can do this however many times you feel necessary to clear your mind and relax your body, I usually like to do at least 3 cycles of breath whenever I practice this.

Now transitioning to sleep, something a lot of people, especially teens, struggle with. Chances are you are a part of the 85% of teens who sleep less than eight and a half hours a day. If this is you, hopefully your practices changed while in quarantine and you are getting more sleep. I’ll first give you a quick recap about my sleeping journey. As a kid I was a morning person, partly because I was afraid of the dark and liked watching my morning cartoons with my dad. But, as a middle schooler, freshman and sophomore I was a total night owl. I hated getting up in the mornings. It didn’t help that I’ve had my fair share of all nighters to finish a project or 4am mornings to study for a test that was happening in the beginning of my school day. However, I haven’t deprived myself of sleep in an entire year, meaning I never get less than seven hours of sleep. (Not counting red-eye flights where I sleep on the plane).

You may wonder how I changed my sleeping habits, I will tell you that something opened my eyes to realize that sleep is the most important thing to accomplish every day. Sleep deprivation can be very harmful, not only does it cause lack of focus, lack of energy and sadness. It also can increase your risk of illness and can cause suicidal thoughts and actions. So, your first goal and your essential #1 to do, every single day is to get enough quality sleep. Sleep is essential for productivity, clear thoughts and feeling satisfied and happy throughout your day. Sleep is also essential for athletes because when you sleep your body recovers and heals itself. The desirable amount of sleep for a teenager is between 8-10 hours. I always get at least 7 hours of sleep no matter what. But instead of using melatonin supplements I rely on the natural melatonin my body produces. 

One other thing that helps me with productivity and focus is naps. Instead of taking hour long naps where you wake up confused on what time of the day it is, I take 20 minutes of Yoga Nidra. Swami Satyananda Saraswati, Yoga Nidra pioneer, refers to Yoga Nidra as “reaching the border between waking and sleeping states.” This practice prompts deep relaxation and balances the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system – the left and right brain – allowing you to unwind into multiple beneficial brain wave states (beta, alpha, theta, delta and the hypnagogic state – the state between wakefulness and sleep). Before beginning this practice, I would advise you to set an alarm on your phone for 20 minutes because this practice often leaves me so deep in a relaxing state, that I’ll fall asleep for hours. The practice begins by lying on the floor in Shavasana – corpse pose with your palms facing up. Then you are guided through a meditation with various visuals and senses to stimulate relaxation. During this practice you may also want a blanket because your body temperature can drop during this meditation. This 20-minute meditation is said to be the equivalent of 2 hours of deep sleep. You feel noticeably more refreshed and energized from this practice vs a normal nap. This is the Yoga Nidra I use, but you can google Yoga Nidra to find a free version that suits you.

Why I don’t use melatonin supplements:

I personally stopped using melatonin after a few uses because I didn’t like the affects it had on me and my friends around me. It seemed to leave us all in a groggy feeling throughout the day, irritable and short-term feelings of depression. However this is a decision that is solely yours to make. I personally made the conscious decision for myself to stop taking supplements to solve my problems, leaving them to be the last option. Which has left me to look for more healthy, effective and natural ways to obtain the same goal without negative effects.

Things I do/use to help me sleep:

  • No blue light one hour before going to bed – no tv, no computer, no phone for at least an hour before going to bed. Technology gives off blue light, which not only strains your eyes after a long period of time but also suppresses the production of your sleep hormone, melatonin. To reduce blue light exposure, i recommend these blue light glasses.
  • No phones in bed, place your alarm on, phone faced down on silent mode.
  • Wim Hof breathing technique – as discussed above.
  • Meditating before bed.

I hope this blog helps you get deeper quality sleep, leave a comment down below and tell me how this works for you. Remember to subscribe to our Newsletter to be notified when new features and products are available. Thank you for supporting me through this new journey to help ordinary teens become extraordinary people, leaders and inspirations.

With Love and Gratitude,

Maddie

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