Maximizing Quality Sleep & Breathwork to balance your hormones and decrease anxiety 

Written By Dr. Joanna Taylor, BSc, DC and presented by Kinetic Edge

Do you use your phone in bed before you fall asleep? Do you ever feel like your mind just won’t stop racing? Do you wake up feeling unrested? 

Most of us are guilty of at least some of these habits. Getting enough high quality sleep is essential to our recovery (both physical and mental). A lack of sleep can lead to all kinds of physiological problems and even negatively impact our ability to lose weight. Lack of sleep can cause an increase in ghrelin and decreased leptin, which makes you more hungry and unable to recognize when you are feeling full. It can also increase our cortisol levels, leading to brain fog and lack of focus. Chronic insomnia causes extreme fatigue, and can reduce our concentration, reaction time as well as putting us at high risk for obesity and long term disease. 

Recently, Tim Ferris interviewed LeBron James and his trainer, Mike Mancias, to find out what LeBron’s training and recovery looks like. LeBron’s trainer listed high quality sleep as the most important recovery tool and the highest priority in post game recovery. He makes sure everything in his room is controlled to set the best environment for quality sleep. This includes limiting blue light exposure, black out curtains, cool temperatures and going to sleep at approximately the same time every night. He also uses the Calm app, particularly the “Rain on Leaves” track to fall asleep. LeBron sleeps for 8-10 hours per night as well as having a nap. He states that there is nothing more important to recovery than optimal REM sleep for emotional and physical recovery.

To improve your sleep quality you can try the following sleep hacks:

  1. Caffeine: Try to limit your caffeine intake to before 4pm 
  2. Switch off your electronic devices 1 hour before bed to avoid blue light exposure 
  3. Practice Gratitude: Write down 3 things you are grateful for. You can also write down anything on your to do list for the following day. Putting them on paper will help get them off your mind so you can fall asleep. 
  4. Use black out curtains and keep your room around 67 degrees F. Sleeping in a dark, cool room with a clean sheet has been proven to help increase restorative sleep. 
  5. White noise/sleep apps—I personally use the Calm app from time to time when I’m really having trouble getting to sleep. They have a variety of meditations for sleep as well as white noise. 

If you find sleep difficult due to racing thoughts, or increased stress levels, breathwork techniques can be a very useful way to calm down your sympathetic nervous system and switch you into the parasympathetic (rest and digest) state. 

Breathing influences a broad spectrum of our body’s functions, including: 

  • Cortisol levels
  • Sleep
  • Inflammatory response
  • Memory
  • Recovery
  • Athletic performance 

Three breathing techniques which can be used any time you are feeling stressed: 

  1. Alternate Nasal Breathing: Sit in a comfortable, upright position, fully inhale through the right nostril, then block the right nostril with your right thumb, exhale through the left. Inhale through the left nostril, then block the left nostril with your ring finger. Exhale through the right, inhale through the right. Repeat this cycle for 10 rounds. 
  2. Box Breathing: Inhale through your nose for 4 seconds. Hold your breath for 4 seconds. Exhale through your mouth for 4 seconds. Hold for 4 seconds. Repeat this cycle for 10 rounds.
  3. Nasal Breathing with intermittent 10 pace breath holds during your run: Practice breathing through your nose during your run with the occasional 10 pace breath hold. This has the added benefit mimicking the effects of altitude training and forcing your body to run in an anaerobic state for small periods. 

If sleep is made difficult by shift work, stress, or anxiety our Recovery Studio @recover.rx has many treatments that can help. A recovery circuit including NuCalm Performance can help to down regulate your Sympathetic nervous system and help you to get as much as 3 hours of restorative sleep in just 30 minutes. Follow this treatment with 30 minutes of Sunlighten Infrared Sauna which will leave your muscles feeling relaxed as well as decreasing your stress levels. 

Massage therapy is another tool you can use to help improve sleep. According to the Mayo Clinic, massage therapy has been found beneficial for insomnia-related stress and anxiety as well. Massage therapy can reduce fatigue and improve sleep while reducing symptoms of fibromyalgia and lower back pain. It is an effective treatment technique for conditions like anxiety, depression, chronic pain, fatigue and sleep. 

Massage therapy, infrared sauna and NuCalm are all drug free options to help overcome insomnia. Because melatonin influences the sleep stage of an individual’s circadian rhythm, a natural way of boosting serotonin is a positive sleep-inducing option. 

If you would like to learn more about how Massage Therapy, NuCalm Performance and Infrared Sauna can help improve your sleep and decrease anxiety, please visit our website at www.kineticedgehg.com

Joanna Taylor is the founder of Kinetic Edge, a multidisciplinary chiropractic, physiotherapy and massage clinic in the heart of Ottawa. Her passion for sports led her to peruse a degree in Human Kinetics and Chiropractic. Kinetic Edge has a strong following in the athletic community with specialized courses geared towards treating sports injuries. Dr. Taylor and Kelly Salvador, RMT are co-founders of Recover RX, Canada’s first recovery studio for the modern athlete. Our mission is to provide our community with the most up to date and effective treatment and recovery therapies.