How to Improve Your Breathing During Sleep: The Proper Way to Breathe

man on sleeping on back, snoring

How to Improve Your Breathing During Sleep: The Proper Way to Breathe

Did you know that how you breathe while sleeping can affect your quality of rest, your ability to stay in deep sleep, and your overall health?

In this blog, we’ll discuss:

  • The correlation between sleep and respiration (breathing)
  • How to improve your breathing during sleep with a couple of exercises
  • What you need to know about a common sleep condition called sleep apnea

Sleep Apnea and Breathing

If you’re not familiar with sleep apnea, you might wonder what it has to do with breathing. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA or just “sleep apnea”) has everything to do with your mid-sleep respiration!

Sleep apnea is the most common breathing disorder related to sleep. Although the symptoms can be easy to recognize and highly treatable, a significant portion of people affected by the condition do not have a diagnosis and don’t realize they need treatment in the first place. This common sleep condition includes interrupted breathing, which can wake the patient and lead to numerous health complications. 

Here’s how it works: When the mouth is open during sleep, it interferes with the tongue’s capacity to rest against the roof of the mouth, obstructing the airway. When this obstruction causes the airway to collapse for ten seconds or more, it is called an apnea. 

When an apnea occurs, your body’s oxygen saturation levels can drop, making your CO2 levels increase and signaling your brain to wake you up quickly, even if you are in deep sleep. 

How to Improve Your Breathing During Sleep

Inhaling through your nose and exhaling out of your mouth is the most effective and safe way to decrease the chances of sleep apnea disturbing your quality of rest. It will help you avoid other adverse effects of oral inhalation, like drooling, chapped lips, or waking up feeling thirsty.

Whatever your reason may be, there’s no harm in trying out one of the following breathing techniques before bedtime that emphasize nasal inhalation to help you regulate your natural rhythm of respiration and relax your mind and body for excellent sleep.

Diaphragmatic Breathing 

This two-step exercise involves the diaphragm, a muscle connected to the bottom of your ribcage, sternum, and spine. This stretchy, thin, dome-shaped muscle sits between the lungs and above the stomach (which is why another name for this technique is “belly breathing”) and separates the abdominal and chest cavities. 

When you inhale, the diaphragm contracts, flattening and pushing itself down on the abdominal cavity to allow room for the lungs to fill with air. Then, when you exhale, the diaphragm expands like a balloon filling with air, pressing upward on the thoracic cavity and moving air out of the lungs like a vacuum. 

Here’s one way to try belly breathing:

Step One: Lie down (or sit comfortably), resting one hand on your abdomen and one hand on your chest, and close your eyes. Close your mouth, keep your jaw unclenched, and gently position your tongue at the roof of your mouth.

Step Two: Slowly inhale through your nose, focusing on the movement of your hand rising on your expanding abdomen as the diaphragm contracts. The hand on your chest, placed near your sternum, will not move much during inhalation.

Step Three: Exhale slowly through your mouth, feeling your diaphragm expand and move upward. Your abdomen should naturally contract. 

Step Four: Repeat at a calm, comfortable pace for at least ten minutes, centering your focus on the body and continuing the respiration process in a steady rhythm. 

The 4-2-8 Method

Just like in the previous technique, we’re going to remember to breathe in through the nose and out through our mouths, but now we’re going to teach you how to regulate the rhythm of your breathing with a counting routine. The steps include:

Step One: Deeply inhale while counting to four.

Step Two: Hold your breath for seven seconds.

Step Three: Exhale for eight seconds. 

Step Four: Repeat for several minutes, keeping the same awareness of your body’s movements, and continue until you are effortlessly breathing in the 4-7-8 pattern. 

When to Seek Professional Help 

Although the breathing exercises and lifestyle advice provided can be helpful for anyone looking to improve their overall health and quality of sleep, sleep apnea is a legitimate health condition that one shouldn’t neglect. If you experience any symptoms or signs of sleep apnea, visit a sleep specialist as soon as possible; early diagnosis and treatment helps ensure optimal sleep and health improvement.  

Looking for a Sleep Specialist?

If you believe you are dealing with sleep apnea, different types of treatment are available to help you. A CPAP is a type of treatment people consider for sleep apnea; however, some people have CPAP intolerance or simply wish to try something less obstructive. 

We specialize in providing patients with a CPAP-alternative oral appliance therapy that includes a custom-fit dental device to optimally align the jaw in a position that prevents TMJ and encourages proper nasal inhalation and oral exhalation.

At TMJ & Sleep Solutions of Alabama, our mission is to provide personalized care to restore quality of life, one patient at a time. If you are experiencing issues with sleep, like sleep apnea, don’t hesitate to contact us and schedule an appointment!