Better Breathing = Better Sleep

by Renee Greenland

I’m a Mum too!

I know from experience how important it is for a mum to get better sleep.

I myself am a mother of eight children and suffered from post-natal depression after my second was born, but surprisingly not with the others. It wasn’t formally diagnosed though, since it (fortunately) only lasted for around four months . . . but those were the longest four months of my life!

I wish I knew then what I know now about breathing, so I could have helped myself to recover more easily.

You won’t be surprised to hear that being a mum of eight has given me many, many sleepless nights, even well into the primary years of my youngest! Baby needs become replaced with school-age and teenage concerns – a mum’s job and worries change over the years but never end . . . although the sleepless nights definitely can!

Sleep for mums

In the early years, while in a state of physical exhaustion and stress, our sympathetic nervous system is triggered into stress and emergency mode – often causing sleeplessness.

Insomnia can be anything from taking forever to fall asleep, to interrupted sleep with several awakenings in the middle of the night, or waking up very early in the morning and being unable to get back to sleep.

Any of those sound familiar?

When we’re wired, tired and stressed, our caveman body interprets these signs as danger and is on high alert. It won’t let us sleep, instead preparing us to fight or flee when the ‘danger’ escalates. This sympathetic state also increases the drive to breathe, resulting in hyperventilation or over- breathing. An easy shortcut to access our parasympathetic nervous system – the relax, rest and digest part – is through our breathing.

Better breathing = better sleep = easier mothering

As a Breathing Educator and Coach, I help people retrain to achieve relaxed, gentle, small and slow breathing, putting the body back into parasympathetic mode, which enables the rest you need. Good sleep plus well oxygenated tissues due to good breathing results in more energy to tackle everything that a mum’s day brings.

People with chronic insomnia and those suffering with other breathing related conditions as well can only really be treated through breathing retraining – which is simpler and far less scary than it might sound!

However, without retraining, the following tips are a great starting point:

6 tips to better sleep

  1. Avoid eating meals within 2 hours of bedtime. Digestion naturally raises our breathing, since our body is doing some work.
  2. Avoid activities like physical exercise or watching intense movies at night. These cause our bodies to release stress hormones which increases your breathing.
  3. Avoid overheating the room. Warm air increases your breathing.
  4. Avoid too many dust collecting surfaces in the bedroom. Dust and other allergens increase your breathing rate.
  5. Engage in relaxing activity before bed. Pleasant conversation with a loved one, reading a book (not on a device!), meditation, relaxation exercises or prayer can all help your breathing to naturally become gentler and slower.
  6. Sleep on your left side. Dr. Konstantin Buteyko, founder of the Buteyko Method, discovered that the breathing rate reduces when sleeping on your left side.

So breathe right, sleep tight, good night!

I really hope that these tips are of some help to you – please give them a try! Everybody needs a deep, uninterrupted and restful sleep every night, especially frazzled mums – a well-rested mum is a happier mum and a happier mum leads to a happier family!

Thank you for your invitation to write for your amazing, courageous community of mums, Renee!

Sleep tight,

Breathe Clinic offers courses and consultations to help everyone to breathe easier, alleviating problems including insomnia, snoring, sleep apnea and hay fever. For a free introductory discussion, contact Dina on 021 288 3956.

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1 comment

Victoria12 April 15, 2017 - 2:23 am

Very interesting article! Aslo I want to add that along with good nutrition and exercise, sleep is now recognized as an important contributor to good health. I think that a good mattress is one that is comfortable and yet firm enough so that the body is properly supported during the sleeping process. For me a critical factor in the enjoyment of a good night’s sleep is a mattress that meets my needs. Slumber Top ( can help you with it!

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