Beauty sleep is real, y’all. The body uses sleep to heal our various systems and tissues, from muscles to skin … even our immune system. Plus, when we’re horizontal (and sleeping), our dermal fluid settles back, firming your face and reducing the appearance of wrinkles. Getting our zzzzz’s also allows our body to give our skin proper circulation, nourishing & hydrating your skin.
Research shows that consistently getting a good night’s sleep is critical for your heart health –> your heart literally rests as you do. And, did you know your brain has a drainage system that removes toxins while you sleep? Almost like a kidney, the brain uses sleepy time to remove waste. Whaaaaaat?!?
All of this is awesome … why aren’t we doing this more? Well, we all have our reasons. Work, stress, neighbors, kiddos, late coffee, work, stress, habits … did I mention stress?
I’ve always been a good sleeper (probably because I had very early morning chores and physical work on the ranch as a kiddo … when you’re Dad is gonna wake you up at 5am, you tend to be ready for bed fairly early!)
Over the years I’ve noticed that what I do during the waking hours very much changes my ability to fall and stay asleep. And the amount of sleep I require has changed over time.
I’m a 55 year old woman in menopause. I am ready to hit the hay by 9pm, easily fall asleep, and often wake up at 3:30am. I use breathing techniques to relax myself back to sleep until around 6am (on most days). Sometimes I just get up at 4am and enjoy what seem like stolen moments in the quiet dark.
On good nights, I actually start preparing for bed around 8 or 8:30pm. I get a tingle when I think about my pre-sleep ritual. I’ve done it for so long that my body is primed to know we’ll be in bed soon and is calmly thrilled.
Does this happen every day? Absolutely not. Often I take a late client, have studio chores, join friends at dinner or catch some live music (even more of a treat after the forced hiatus). I’ve learned not to fret. My well-rested evenings and routine serve me well. And after this brief change up, I’m back to my beloved pre-sleep ritual and early bed time.
Ahhhhhhh … sleep. Wonderful, reparative, nothing else like it sleeeeeeeeeep.
“Oh that’s well and good for you, Kenya,” you say. “I have trouble falling asleep.”
I have been there, my friend. And often I do have trouble falling back asleep. Back in the oldie days, when I was but a young lass, I traveled about three weeks a month for work. That will put a crimp in your sleep. I developed asthma and had majorly anxious waking spells in the night. Nathan, aka The Hub, helped me to focus on my breath to return to sleep.
Ironically, those very anxiety-induced panicked moments, waking from sleep desperate to breathe, started me on the path to focusing on my breath.
And so that brings us to our breathwork for today: Box Breathing.
I’ve been consistently relying on the Box Breathing technique for several years. I’ve used it when driving in traffic, in moments of heated anger, before a tough workout, after a long day and especially, to return to sleep (hint: you can do this in bed!).
When I was beefed up and doing more CrossFit, I really wanted to take the SealFit course with Mark Divine. I didn’t make it to the course but I did glean Box Breathing from him so I feel like I got what I needed.
I found this wonderfully calming video and feel like it’s the perfect introduction to performing the Box Breath. Take a listen; try the exercise a few times. I can’t wait to hear how it goes for you and cheers to your heart health!
Common Sense Disclaimer: Use your best judgment when attempting breathwork or movement. If it doesn’t feel right or you can’t, then don’t. Breathwork and movement are infinitely scalable. Find what works for you and feel free to speak with your healthcare team about what you’re feeling. Choose well.