erhaps the most prevalent concern my clients have is sleep problems and more specifically insomnia. I track client concerns and 87% say they have some form of insomnia or poor sleep, be it occasional or chronic.
And the medical data, while not as extreme, seems to support this. The data shows that one-third of the US population suffers from some form of insomnia and its estimated that 10% of the people living in western countries suffer from chronic insomnia. This is hundreds of millions of people.
The good news is that most of my clients find the first thing that improves as they change their breathing is they sleep better with less insomnia.
Problems Associated with Insomnia
Poor sleep comes with a bunch of health risks including a huge impact on your immune system. Other problems include an increased risk of catching viral or bacterial infections, depression, hypertension, stomach ulcers, cancer, heart disease, diabetes and many more.
Insomnia, or more precisely the lack of sleep, results in daytime fatigue, brain fog, concentration issues and a decreased ability to perform moderate to complex work functions. There are countless hours of productivity and educational losses due to insomnia.
Medication Use and Abuse
The medical community's solution usually starts with the warm milk and a bath before bedtime and quickly moves to sedatives, tranquilizers and sleeping pills. A 1973 study of German pharmacists showed they dispensed 21.5 billion sleep pills that year.
According to the CDC, sleeping pill use continues to grow. In 2011, there were 40 million prescriptions written for sleeping pills in the US. In that same year, we spent $3.5 billion on the top two sleep drugs, Ambien and Lunesta
The Monkey Mind
When asked what's going on, most insomniacs say they can't fall asleep given hundreds of thoughts racing through the mind at a thousand miles per hour. Others are able to get to sleep but the racing mind starts should they awake in the middle of the night. The racing mind is often called “Monkey Mind.”
Physiologically speaking, the neurons of the brain have become hyperactive and just can't slow down even though we need sleep. If we fall asleep, the neurons are still running at warp speed, we never get to deep sleep and as a result wake often. Sedatives and sleeping pills do a great job of temporarily arresting the neurons, slowing them down enough that you can sleep. But the medication doesn't really address the root cause. Sleeping pills quickly become an every night requirement and unfortunately, many become addicted to them.
The Root Cause of Monkey Mind
There are a dozen or so medical studies, some dating back five decades, that show why brain neurons become hyperactive and keep us awake. It has to do with decreased levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the brain. CO2 is natures sedative for the nervous system, including the brain. With adequate amounts of CO2 in the brain, neurons drop out of warp speed, slow to a crawl and we can fall and stay asleep all night long.
The amount of CO2 found in the body is a function of our breathing. Breathing big deep breaths blows off lots of CO2 when we exhale. Breathing smaller breaths retains more CO2.
Most insomniacs are big breathers, breathing two to three times the amount of air they should be. My goal when working with them is to change their breathing by slowing it down and working with the breathing center of their brain, the medulla oblongata to breathe less air with each inhale.
And as noted earlier, it's not unusual for all of my clients, not just those with sleep problems to find they are sleeping better within the first week, if not first few days of changing their breathing. In fact, sleep improvement has become a general measuring stick I use to determine each client's progress with their breath work.
Insomnia is at epidemic levels given our fast paced world and drugs seem to be the only solution. The good news is natures sedative, carbon dioxide, is amazingly effective in giving the insomniac a full and restful night's sleep. And there's nothing to buy as all you need to do is change the way you breathe. Once again, how you breathe really matters.