Proper Breathing Improves Sleep, Resilience

Nestor says the researchers he's talked to recommend taking time to "consciously listen to yourself and to feel how breath is affecting you."


At a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has shifted the focus on breathing habits and put spotlight on respiratory illnesses, we are going to talk about how Journalist James Nestor found the ‘lost art’ of breathing. After being recommended to take a breathing class almost a year to years ago, Nestor developed interest in the respiratory system.

He participated in a study while researching for his new bookd ‘Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art.’ During this, his nose was completely plugged for 10 days, forcing him to breathe solely through his mouth, reports

“I went from snoring a couple minutes a night to, within three days, I was snoring four hours a night,” he says of the forced mouth-breathing. “I developed sleep apnea. My stress levels were off the charts. My nervous system was a mess. … I felt awful.”

Nestor says the researchers he’s talked to recommend taking time to “consciously listen to yourself and [to] feel how breath is affecting you.” He notes taking “slow and low” breaths through the nose can help relieve stress and reduce blood pressure.

“This is the way your body wants to take in air,” Nestor says. “It lowers the burden of the heart if we breathe properly and if we really engage the diaphragm.”

While talking about benefits of inhaling through the nose, Nestor said, “The nose filters, heats and treats raw air. Most of us know that. But so many of us don’t realize – at least I didn’t realize – how it can trigger different hormones to flood into our bodies, how it can lower our blood pressure … how it monitors heart rate … even helps store memories. So it’s this incredible organ that … orchestrates innumerable functions in our body to keep us balanced.

On how breath affects anxiety, he talked to a neuropsychologist who explained that people with anxieties or other fear-based conditions typically will breathe way too much. So what happens when you breathe that much is you’re constantly putting yourself into a state of stress.

“So you’re stimulating that sympathetic side of the nervous system. And the way to change that is to breathe deeply. Because if you think about it, if you’re stressed out [and thinking] a tiger is going to come get you, [or] you’re going to get hit by a car, [you] breathe, breathe, breathe as much as you can. But by breathing slowly, that is associated with a relaxation response. So the diaphragm lowers, you’re allowing more air into your lungs and your body immediately switches to a relaxed state,” he said.

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