The Best Guided Meditations to Improve Sleep

Sleep affects your entire life. When you’re able to get a good night’s sleep, you feel refreshed during the day and can meet your responsibilities with ease. However, if you spend your nights tossing and turning, you’ll likely go through your day in a haze.

Thousands of people across the world use guided meditation to help them get to sleep at night. Read on to see why guided meditations help, and check out a small selection of the types of meditations you can expect to find.

How They Help

Mindfulness meditations are one of the best ways to fight insomnia and other sleep related issues. This type of meditation has been proven to combat depression, fatigue, and insomnia by promoting a relaxation response.

Practicing mindfulness meditation is simple. Many people think meditation involves clearing your mind of all thought. On the contrary, practicing mindfulness is quite the opposite. Most mindfulness practices involve becoming aware of the breath, and paying attention to what is happening in your body. Focusing on your physical presence brings you to the present, and away from worries about the past or stresses about the future.

Mindfulness meditations are a great way to improve several aspects of your sleep. Excessive worry about trying to get to sleep or about your responsibilities during the day can create an abundance of beta brain waves, which are responsible for keeping you alert. Being mindful can help bring you to the present, which prevents you from worrying about the stresses of the day. It also has a great track record in reducing symptoms of depression, fatigue, and insomnia – 95% of those who meditate regularly experienced relief from these symptoms.

Meditation is also a great way to boost melatonin, one of the hormones responsible for regulating sleep and wakefulness. One study found that those who practiced meditation regularly had a 98% increase in melatonin, which in turn helped them get a better night’s sleep.

Guided sleep meditations are great for those who have little to no experience with meditation, or who have a hard time calming down without guidance. If you’re prone to anxiety or just have a million items on your to do list, it can be difficult to reach a state of meditation on your own. Music sites like YouTube and Soundcloud have thousands of meditations to help you sleep, ranging from short 5 minute audio clips to 8 hour tracks to listen to while you rest.

Here’s a selection of different types of meditations you can use to help you fall asleep.

Guided Meditation for Sleep…Floating Amongst the Stars with Jason Stephenson

Chances are good that you’ve heard of Jason Stephenson if you’ve looked online for guided meditations. With several million views per video, and more than 650,000 YouTube subscribers, Stephenson has a large following in the meditation space.

This 62 minute video starts by encouraging you to relax before going into the meditation. Stephenson invokes mindfulness by encouraging the listener to focus on the space their body takes up and encourages them to let go of worries. He paints a picture of the dark night sky, and describes what it would be like to float among the stars. After the first ten minutes, the rest of the hour long video is full of calming music.

Sleep Hypnosis Release Negativity with Deep Mind Change with Michael Sealey

Depending on your definition of meditation, hypnosis could be the same thing. The main difference between them is that hypnosis tends to have an end goal in mind. Whether you want to let go of anxiety, lose some weight, or gain confidence, hypnosis tends to be targeted towards helping you reach a specific objective.

Hypnosis works by getting you into a state of trance. In this state of trance, your conscious mind takes a back seat, allowing direct communication with your subconscious. Being under a state of hypnosis is usually characterized by extreme suggestibility, heightened imagination, and relaxation.

This 48 minute self hypnosis video focuses on helping you create positive personal change through overcoming negative behaviors or habits. It does so by helping you replace those behaviors with positive actions, emotions, responses, and thoughts which are thought to open the path to being a happier person.

Guided Meditation for Sleep and Anxiety

If you are a naturally anxious person, chances are good that you have a hard time sleeping at night. Your anxiety can bring up nagging thoughts of what happened during the day, causing you to be so preoccupied with things that have happened, or that might happen, that you aren’t able to sleep.

This 45 minute video was created specifically to address anxiety that might be preventing you from falling asleep. It uses calming sounds like an open fire or rain on your window in the background to help produce an environment of relaxation. Anxiety creates a lot of energy that activates your brain and makes it difficult to let go of your racing thoughts.

The video encourages the listener to visualize as vividly as possible all of the details in the audio. It explains that visualizing these details will make it easier for your subconscious mind to relax and come back to a more rational way of thinking, instead of getting caught up in the irrational fears of anxiety.

Guided Sleep Meditation by Deepak Chopra

Deepak Chopra is another big name in mindfulness and meditation. Chopra is considered an expert in the alternative medicine field as a whole. He has written a large number of books, and founded The Chopra Center to help people find their own health and happiness.

Chopra’s large volume of work centers on mindfulness as the first step to addressing any health issue you might be facing. His 80+ books cover topics such as losing weight, finding love, overcoming addiction, using herbs in your everyday life, and spiritual connections.

This 4 minute video encourages the listener to reimagine their sleep space and remove any obstacles preventing you from sleeping. Chopra states that the biggest cause of insomnia is worrying about not being able to sleep. By reclaiming your mind and allowing yourself to slip into a peaceful and relaxing state, you’ll be able to rest easy and wake up refreshed.

Relaxing Sleep Music

People who listen to 45 minutes of calming music before sleeping see an incredible improvement in sleep quality. They tend to fall asleep quickly, stay asleep for longer periods of time, and generally feel more rested when they wake up. Those who listen to music before sleeping also have longer periods of REM sleep, which is the crucial part of sleeping when your mind stores memories and processes the events of the day.

Sleep music is created specifically with the intention of helping people fall asleep. There are hundreds of videos online that mix together relaxing sounds with a calming background track to promote relaxation and help you fall asleep faster.

This 3 hour video uses relaxing sounds, trance backgrounds, sounds from nature, and other calming sounds to help people release stress and have a better night’s rest.

Sleep Binaural Beats

Binaural beats have been around for nearly 200 years.They were discovered by Heinrich Wilhelm Dove when he put a subject in a room and placed two tuning forks vibrating at different frequencies at each of their ears. The brain then makes up the difference and hears it as a combined sound, or a binaural beat.

Different frequencies invoke different brain waves, which correspond to various feelings and states of being. Some frequencies invoke Alpha brain waves, which are responsible for making you feel more alert and attentive, while others invoke theta brain waves, which are responsible for lucid dreaming.

When you are sleeping, your brain gives off delta brain waves. These brain waves are what tell your mind you are fully rested and can go about your day.

This 9 hour video stimulates the “Delta Wave frequency” by playing 1-4 Hz binaural beats. These beats help you fall asleep quickly and get the rest you need to calm your anxious mind.

The next time you’re having trouble sleeping, you don’t have to put up with tossing and turning all night. Try pulling up one of these videos on your smartphone and plugging some headphones in.

How Sleep Affects Weight Loss

Do you struggle with getting enough sleep? Do you also happen to struggle with losing weight? Well, these two things share a stronger association than you might think, and research continues to suggest that improving one will have a mutually beneficial effect on the other. That’s right, a growing body of evidence is destabilizing our notions of eating less and exercising more as the ultimate key to attaining our desired weight loss, and enlightening us as to what might be the most relaxing weight loss regime we’ve ever embarked on – simply, getting ample sleep.

Astonishingly, 40% of adults report either short term or chronic insomnia, a fact that may also help explain the rise in obesity across the country. We’ll go through the evidence of some of the subtle and more obvious ways that sleep and weight are interconnected, and hopefully convince you that healthy sleeping habits are key to maintaining a healthy weight and lifestyle.

Sleep and Hunger Hormones

If you commit yourself to making healthy food choices during the day and often get frustrated when, lo and behold, you give in to temptation once again — take some comfort in knowing that your willpower is not the only factor at play when food cravings hit. Research shows that hunger and food cravings are largely controlled through two hormones: leptin and ghrelin.

Leptin is released by your body’s fat cells and is deeply involved in appetite regulation, metabolism, and calorie burning. When your body wants to tell you that it’s time to stop eating, it releases leptin to suppress appetite and stimulate energy expenditure (calorie burning). While you sleep, leptin levels increase, and this tells your body that you have lots of stored energy and that there’s no need to trigger the feeling of hunger. However, when you begin to lose sleep or you’re sleep deprived, you fail to build up enough leptin in the body, which ultimately signals your brain that your body is lacking energy and that it’s time to start eating.

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Sleep also boosts the production of ghrelin, what can be considered the opposing hormone to leptin. When your body is in motion or getting low on energy stores, ghrelin acts to tell your brain to start eating, stop burning calories, and reserve energy as fat. While you sleep, your levels of ghrelin drop, largely because sleep requires far less energy than being awake. The result of sleep deprivation leaves you with an excess build-up of ghrelin in your system, telling your body to eat more and to stop burning calories.

The effects of these two hormones are becoming increasingly clear as research delves into the implications of sleep deprivation. In one study from Stanford University, researchers found that shorter sleep times were associated with increased circulating ghrelin and decreased leptin, and that in those sleeping less than 8 hours a night, increased BMI was proportional to decreased sleep. What’s more, researchers have also found evidence of the opposite effect—where taking leptin and ghrelin as supplements can actually alter sleep patterns, working to decrease deep sleep in both mice and human subjects.

And it doesn’t stop there.

Lack of sleep has also been shown to increase levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, which is associated with fat gain. Have you ever binge eaten while stressed? The same idea applies when your body and brain are stressed from lack of sleep. The combination of cortisol and ghrelin shut down the area of your brain that would normally make you feel satisfied after a meal, so that you feel hungry – and eat – constantly under the pressure of sleep deprivation. Cortisol also makes you crave high-calorie foods, making it even likelier that you’ll indulge in the wrong types of foods when you’re lacking sleep and the munchies hit.

Sleep and Fat Storage

If you’re prioritizing exercise over sleep when you’re faced with a busy schedule, you might want to think again. A study from Cedars-Sinai Medical Centre in Los Angeles have shown that a single night of sleep deprivation can cause as much insulin resistance as six months on a high-fat diet. In the study researchers deprived eight dogs of a night’s sleep, then tested their insulin sensitivity using intravenous glucose tolerance tests. Results showed that one night of sleep deprivation decreased insulin sensitivity by 33%, while dogs put on a six month, high-fat diet saw insulin sensitivity decrease by 21%.

But what does insulin have to do with anything? Insulin assists the entry of glucose from your food into your body’s cells. When your system gets loaded with glucose, it causes a shift in your metabolism and slows down fat breakdown, as well as starts the synthesis of new fat. Decreased insulin sensitivity, as seen in the sleep-deprived dogs, means that glucose is no longer clearing into cells as efficiently, and fat synthesis is on the rise. Decreased insulin sensitivity, otherwise known as insulin resistance, is a major cause of obesity.

Sleep and Exercise

At this point you might be thinking that: yes, it might be true that sometimes you’re skimping on your full eight hours, but shouldn’t your hard work in the gym counteract some of the effects of your sleep deprivation? Unfortunately, sleep deprivation has a serious impact on your workouts and on your ability to burn fat. First, we all know that building lean muscle is key to sustaining a healthy body weight – and sleep deprivation may be preventing you from doing just that. A study published from the University of Chicago put ten overweight males and females in a sleep research centre for two separate periods and for two weeks each. Participants all followed an identical low calorie diet. However, one group slept 8.5 hours per night, while the second group slept 5.5 hours each night. While both groups lost around 7 pounds each, the dieters with less sleep lost mainly muscle rather than fat.

Similarly, a lack of sleep makes it harder for your body to recover from a hard workout by slowing down the production of growth hormones – our natural source of anti-aging and fat burning, which also helps recovery after a hard workout. Human growth hormone (often abbreviated HGH) promotes a healthy metabolism, and is released both during exercise and during sleep. However, some researchers estimate that as much as 75% of human growth hormone is released during sleep. Cortisol, the stress hormone we mentioned earlier that is also released when you’re lacking sleep, also acts to slow the production of growth hormone.

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Finally, one of the more obvious connections between lack of sleep and fat loss is your ability to actually keep up with your exercise regime. If you’re not getting enough sleep, everything during the day feels harder and more laborious, not least the high intensity interval training workout you had planned after your long day at work.

What You Can Do to Counteract the Sleep Deprivation – Weight Gain Cycle

Sleep deprivation is not only detrimental to your summer bikini goals; it is also connected with a host of other ill effects including obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. While everyone is different, the National Sleep Foundation recommends that you get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night.

The most important thing to do to combat sleep deprivation is to make sleep a top priority in your life. In a study published by the American Journal of Epidemiology, women who were sleep deprived were 30% more likely to gain 33 pounds over the next 16 years than those who got at least 7 hours of sleep every night.

While there are some days in life that stress and lack of sleep are unavoidable, you should try to stick to a routine that allows you to wind down at the end of your day and allow your brain and body to get a good night’s rest. If you have trouble falling asleep due to reasons beyond time constraints, try these tips to fall asleep faster:

  • Don’t drink caffeine or alcohol anywhere near your bedtime. Although for different reasons, both of these substances will make it harder to sleep and reduce the quality of your sleep.
  • Exercise earlier in the day. As mentioned above, getting enough sleep is key to an efficient and beneficial workout, so don’t let your exercise regime keep you from sleep. Try to workout at least 4-6 hours before going to bed – this will give your body time to wind down from your workout and feel ready for some well-earned rest.
  • If you’re feeling anxious or stressed, there are a number of techniques that might help you fall asleep faster. Try finding some guided meditations online, take a shower or bath to relax and cool off after a long day at work, listen to some relaxing music, try lavender oil or aromatherapy, or try writing or reading away your worries
  • Finally, avoid napping during the day. Napping more than 30 minutes can upset your sleep cycle and mess with your metabolism. Work through your drowsiness if you can, and if you absolutely must nap, try to limit it to 30 minutes.

What Happens if You Don’t Sleep?

With all the hustle and bustle of life, it’s difficult to get the amount of sleep you need each night. If you have this issue, you’re not alone. According to the CDC, 1 in 3 adults in America don’t get as much sleep as they should. Growing responsibilities, long commutes, family demands, and social interactions all add up to taking a huge amount of your time. Trying to balance all of these things often cuts into your sleep each night.

However, your brain and your body need to sleep to function. Sleeping too little or not at all impacts your health in a lot of ways, and some of those ways can be incredibly dangerous.

What Your Brain Does During Sleep

Your brain isn’t just resting when you are sleeping. In fact, your brain is working just as hard while you sleep as it is when you’re awake, just in different ways.

One of the most important stages of sleep is the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) phase. Also known as deep sleep, REM sleep allows your brain to consolidate and process memories. It’s also where most of your dreaming happens.

During sleep, your brain is processing your memories from the day. Replaying these memories helps your brain strengthen synapses, which in turn increases learning potential and improves overall memory. This makes it possible for you to process your emotions, and remember the skills you’ve been studying throughout the day.

Several parts of your brain are active during sleep. These structures are responsible for processing the light around you, and telling your brain when it’s time to sleep. If you have a hard time sleeping when it’s dark, these parts of your brain might not be functioning properly.

What Happens When You Don’t Sleep?

Not getting enough sleep can seriously damage your ability to function. Whether you’re pulling an all nighter, or you sleep less than the recommended 7 hours each night, sleep deprivation is bad news for your health. Simply going 17 hours without sleep puts your body in the equivalent of having a  .08% blood alcohol level.

Pulling an all nighter can become life-threatening. Going for three days without sleep will seriously damage your mood and can cause you to hallucinate.

Most people don’t go days without sleeping. However, any amount of sleep deficit can affect your body and mind in a number of ways. Here are the ones you are most likely to experience.

Impaired Coordination and Judgement

Ever heard the phrase sleep drunk?  After staying up for 24 hours, your brain functions are similar to someone who has .1 percent blood alcohol content. That’s 20 percent over the threshold at which it’s illegal to drive. This blood toxicity is considered a legal impairment.

Like when you are drunk, being awake for 24 hours at a time takes a serious toll on your judgment. Your memory suffers and your hand-eye coordination declines sharply. This level of impairment makes it difficult to control your emotions, which in turn increases the chances of you making a decision you’ll regret later on.

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It’s also more difficult to pay attention to what you are doing. When you can’t pay attention to what you’re doing, your chances of having a fatal accident increase dramatically. Drowsy driving causes 72,000 accidents a year, resulting in around 800 fatalities.

Difficulty Remembering Things

Your memory also suffers when you don’t get enough sleep. REM sleep is a crucial part of learning. When you don’t get enough sleep each night, your brain doesn’t receive the REM sleep it needs to process your memories.

One study found that subjects who were woken up each time they entered REM sleep had higher instances of anxiety, difficulty concentrating, and irritability.

Harvard demonstrated that memory consolidation occurs during sleep, meaning that losing sleep means less effective production of memory. This is because the neural connections that create those memories are strengthened while your body is sleeping. When you don’t sleep, your brain doesn’t have the chance to strengthen your neural pathways.

Increased Likelihood of Getting Sick

Your immune system builds up strength while you sleep. It does so by creating proteins called cytokines as well as illness fighting antibodies and cells. When you deprive your body of rest, it isn’t able to build up as much of a reserve of these illness fighting proteins. This makes you more susceptible to any viruses or strains you come across. In fact, if you sleep less than 7 hours a night, you’re three times as likely to catch a cold than if you sleep the recommended 8 hours.

One study found that the levels of proteins created during sleeping can influence the likelihood of migraines. Lack of sleep created more of the proteins in the brain responsible for pain transmission, which in turn can cause migraines.

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Higher Risk of Heart Disease

Young adults who suffer from insomnia are 8 times as likely to suffer a stroke than their peers who get enough sleep each night. Being that many people this age go to college and work long hours, lack of sleep can potentially become deadly.

Adults from the age of 18-34 are also more likely to experience risk factors that can lead up to a stroke, such as diabetes, high cholesterol, and obesity. Sleeping too little can also cause other side effects that put a strain on your heart, like increasing your blood pressure, impacting your glucose metabolism, and creating inflammation.

Weight Gain

There are a number of ways in which lack of sleep can lead to weight gain. The most prominent one is that your metabolism slows down and your now off balance hormones cause you to feel more hungry for foods that are bad for you.

Sleep loss increases the levels of a stress hormone called cortisol in your body. Higher levels of cortisol increase your cravings for fatty and sugary foods, which can result in quick weight gain. When you’re tired, you’re also less likely to want to exercise, meaning your food choices just go to your waist.

Mental Disorders

While the connections between mental disorders and sleep deprivation are still being studied, scientists have shown that there is a definite link. Chronic sleep disturbances can cause health related anxiety, especially since lack of sleep can make it difficult to control your emotions.

Sleep disturbances can also be cause and be caused by severe depression. If you’re not sleeping, you just don’t feel well. When this goes on for a long period of time, it can have a serious impact on your mental health and lead to complications that are difficult to treat later on.

The next time you think about trying to skip sleeping, think again. Any amount of time you might save by staying up a little later will not be worth the effects. Think about it: if you’re working at 50%, your tasks take longer and it’s harder for you to focus. You’re likely not saving yourself any time, and you’re making yourself feel lousy. Do your best to get a good night’s sleep each night, and your body will thank you!

How to Relax Your Body

Holidays are a time for you to connect with your family and share gifts with the people you love. However, the pressure of preparing for holiday parties and trying to get gifts that everyone will like can become stressful and create a lot of tension rather than joy.

As a result, many people end up getting tense and holding that stress in their bodies. If you find your skin breaking out more than usual, or feel tired and achey all the time around the holidays, it’s possible that you’re holding too much stress in your body.

When you get stressed, the fight or flight response activates in your body. Your brain floods various body systems with stress hormones to get ready for potential danger. Activating the relaxation response reverses that and brings the stress levels in your body down, slowing down your heart and helping your muscles ease up.

You don’t have to just deal with holding on to that added stress, even if you are short on time. There are many ways to relieve tension in your body so your holidays will be a little less stressful. Some of them only take a few minutes, and some of them take a little longer. Read more

Normal Respiration Rates: Everything You Need to Know

Is your breathing “normal?” We all know that it’s important to be aware of your heart rate, but your respiration rate, or how fast you breathe, is another one of the most important vital signs and can tell you a lot about your health.

Respiration is a special kind of natural impulse. It’s the only automatic function that can be controlled consciously. In order words, breathing is normally completely unconscious, but when willed, it can come under conscious control. You might not realize it, but your breathing has a direct impact on your blood pressure, core temperature, and heart rate. If you take a blood pressure reading taken while breathing rapidly and then another quickly after while breathing slowly and evenly, you will see that fast breathing spikes your blood pressure and heart rate.

Your breath reflects both inner and outer conditions of the human mind and body. It is linked to increases in physical exertion, deep relaxation, fear, and sleep. All of these physical states have distinct breathing patterns associated with them. It is one of the core vitals that medical practitioners document when following the progress of a patient. Your breath is not just a reaction to actions you are taking on the outside – it is a signal of core bodily states.

Understanding your normal respiratory rate and paying attention to your breath are important parts of optimizing your health and wellness.

What is Respiration and How Does It Happen?

If you’re like most people, you might assume it’s just a technical term for “breathing,” but it’s more complex than that. Inhaling and exhaling are only one step in the process of respiration.

Inhalation and exhalation are normally controlled by signals automatically sent from a part of your brain. This signal activates muscles around your lungs, telling them to contract or relax. This causes air to be sucked into the body or released. But as we all know, our we can consciously override this part of the brain, and we can get our lungs to breath faster, slower, shallower, or deeper.

Respiration encompasses the whole process of moving oxygen from the outside air to deep in your body’s cells. When you breathe in, air is drawn into your lungs. Your lungs are a series of intricate tunnels and blood vessels which take in the air, cleaning it from macro impurities such as dust. Your lung tunnels are entwined with small blood vessels, where blood cells filter in to come into direct contact with the air that your lungs have just filtered. At this point, your blood cells dump out carbon dioxide, which is a waste product of the body. Then, they absorb fresh oxygen. This process is called “gas exchange.” The blood cells then transport oxygen to cells throughout your body, where the oxygen is used as fuel to power your metabolism.

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Interestingly, your lungs don’t fill completely with fresh air every time you take a breath. You only take in about 11 ounces of fresh air per breath, which is diluted with much larger store air sitting in your lungs. This ensures that the blood is getting a consistent amount of oxygen, even if you temporarily get short of breath.

Unfortunately, longer disruptions to your normal respiration rate can upset the equalizing and stabilizing effect of this supply. When your breath pattern drastically changes, either going too fast or too slow, your blood cells will start receiving an inadequate supply of oxygen. They may also cease to be able to properly unload carbon dioxide.

If this unbalance persists, your physical wellness may be adversely affected. What breathing rate should keep you in a healthy spot?

What Does Normal Respiration Look Like?

Chances are you’ve never given much thought to how quickly you breathe. You may not even know how to measure it, or how to tell if your breathing rate falls into the normal range. But measuring your breathing rate is fast and easy – here’s how.

First, sit down in a quiet space where you’ll be uninterrupted for a few moments. Place your hand gently over your chest and focus on its rising and falling motion. Focus. Set a timer for one minute.

Count the number of times your chest rises over the course of one full minute. It’s often better to have someone else do your counting for you, since observing your own breath causes many people to breathe more slowly and deeply, giving an inaccurate result.

When you’ve recorded your breath rate, how do you know if it’s ‘normal’?

What’s normal varies heavily depending on your age, health, and recent activity. At rest, infants below six months might take in as many as 30-60 breaths per minute. At age six to twelve months, this drops to 24-30 breaths per minute. From age one to five years, this doesn’t change much, with children taking between 20-30 breaths each minute.

From age six to twelve years, your breathing rate drops dramatically: down to 12-20 breaths per minute is normal for the ages of 6 to 12. After age 12, most adults continue breath within this range, although 12-18 breaths per minute is preferable. A resting respiratory rate within range is generally considered to be the an accurate measure of a person’s health. For an otherwise healthy person, respiration rates at the lower end of the range is considered best at any age.

What Factors Affect Your Respiration Rate?

If your respiration rate is significantly higher than outlined in the previous section, it’s important to consider the possible reasons why, and take steps to address your fast breathing rate. This may include seeing a medical professional.

The first thing you should examine is your recent activity levels. During and immediately after exercise, a healthy adult may take between 35-45 breaths per minute, and some endurance sports athletes can average even higher, at 60-70. If you’ve just climbed a flight of stairs or engaged in any other physical activity, wait a few minutes before trying to calculate your respiration rate.

Other factors that can alter your respiratory rate include your general physical health. Certain illnesses can increase your breathing rate. For example, research has shown that fevers can affect a person’s respiration rate. Other respiratory afflictions, such as asthma or allergies, may cause your breathing rate to be slightly off. If you’ve got a physical block in your breath pathways, such as a stuffy nose, your breath may be disturbed. None of these are necessarily indicative of serious, underlying issues.

However, a higher breathing rate can signal a strained inner state. Rapid breathing is a symptom of anxiety and stress. This is most apparent during acute episodes of anxiety disorder, which are called panic attacks. During panic attacks, the person affected will hyperventilate heavily, to the point that they become dizzy or disoriented. This is an extreme condition, but chronic milder anxiety can cause modifications to a person’s breath rate as well.

Your breathing rate is even affected by smaller changes in your state of mind. Everyday stress and excitement, as well as periods of calm and restfulness, will be reflected in your rate of respiration. Your respiration rate is a sensitive thing.

How does your respiration rate work into your overall wellness?

The Risks of a Fast Respiration Rate

Breathing too quickly can be indicative of an underlying problem. This might be an illness, stress, or perhaps just poor fitness if you’re huffing and puffing up the stairs. However, having a faster breathing rate can negatively affect your wellness independently. As we discussed earlier, your breathing impacts your other main vital signs. Your normal pulse rate will be higher than necessary, and it can cause hypertension, or high blood pressure. These circulatory issues can lead to heart disease or heart attacks if they go unchecked for long periods of time.

Breathing too quickly doesn’t permit your body time to send oxygen to your blood cells properly. In the extreme, this can cause discomfort, including dizziness, muscle spasms, and tingling in your arms and legs. You may even feel faint or experience chest pain. It may also shift your normal body temperature, which comes with its own risks for other medical conditions.

Even if you only have a mild case of hyperventilation, a fast respiration rate can cause difficulty concentrating or thinking. Over time the lack of oxygen can leave you feeling exhausted and can worsen your feelings of stress – which can, in turn, cause health complications down the line.

How To Achieve a Healthy and Normal Respiration Rate

As with any potentially serious medical issue, you should check with a healthcare provider before moving forward with any major life changes. If you find that you’re habitually breathing too quickly, there are things you can do to slow your respiration rate down to a normal level. Breathing exercises, meditation, yoga, and a variety of other practices can train you to breathe more deeply and slowly.

Using Spire can help you become more aware of your breath throughout the day. There may be times when anxiety is mounting and your breath is increasing in speed. Because you are busy or distracted, you may not be able to notice these changes. If you aren’t able to notice your increased breath rate, you won’t be able to take steps to calm yourself down or do breathing exercises to help settle back into a healthy rhythm. Spire accurately tracks your breath, giving you real-time feedback on your breathing, helping you understand when it’s time to take a pause to take care of your breath.

Respiration rate is one of the most basic functions of the human body, but it is far more complex and meaningful that most of us realize. With a little practice and a mindful approach, it’s possible to bring your breathing to a healthy rate and live a more relaxed, calmer, healthier life.

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Try These Yoga Poses To Improve Your Sleep

Many of us suffer from poor sleep habits that drain our energy and make us feel sluggish. You may have heard that yoga is an excellent tool to help you achieve a state of relaxation, but did you know that yoga can also help you sleep better? Aside from improving your flexibility and strength, yoga can aid even the most desperately sleepless night owls get some quality rest.

Why Yoga?

The American Sleep Association reports that 50-70 million US adults have a sleep disorder, with close to 40% of US adults falling asleep during the day. Signs that you are sleep deprived include feeling tired during the day, experiencing brain fog at work, or needing to reach for caffeine to stay awake. Then, at the end of the day, the stress and anxiety make it difficult to fall asleep. Read more

What is Diaphragmatic Breathing and How Can it Help?

 

You might be surprised to learn this, but when it comes to breathing, there are dozens of distinct techniques you can use. While breathing is something you do automatically, using specific breathing methods can help reduce anxiety and stress in several situations.

This article will take an in-depth look at diaphragmatic breathing. In this post, you can expect information on what it is, how it will help, and how you can implement it in your life.

What is Diaphragmatic Breathing?

Diaphragmatic breathing uses a muscle called the diaphragm to fill and empty your lungs. The diaphragm is the most important muscle when it comes to breathing. This dome-shaped muscle sits in the lower rib cage, between the abdominal cavity (where your digestive tract sits) and the thoracic cavity (where your lungs and heart sit). Using your diaphragm to breathe is one of the most efficient methods possible because it requires less work from your body than breathing from your chest.

Read more

How To Stay Calm Under Pressure

In today’s high-stress world, many people hardly have the time to sit down, much less think. Bombarded by financial worries, parenting strife, constant phone notifications, demanding bosses, and a high-wire political scene, we’re all under pressure in some way, shape, or form.

So, what’s the secret to staying sane in a world ready to run you ragged? Mastering how to stay calm under pressure is the key to navigating all the various stresses that life can throw at you. Follow these steps to help reduce stress and stay calm under the chronically pressured environment of today’s world.

Step 1: Understanding Pressure and Stress

While we’ll begin to talk about how you can identify what’s putting you under pressure in just a moment, it’s important to understand stress. As the Mountain State Center for Independent Living puts it, Stress is your body’s way of responding to any kind of demand.”

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Using Yoga for Stress Relief

It’s no secret that chronic stress can have a deeply negative effect on your mental and physical well-being. When you’re overwhelmed with anxious thoughts, your body’s stress response activates. Your body interprets those thoughts as a danger to your well-being.

It may be hard to calm those racing thoughts and convince your body that you’re not facing impending doom.

Fortunately, the mind-body connection is an amazing two-way street that also lets us tap into the relaxation response. Yoga is one of those tools that will help activate the relaxation response, decrease stress, and relieve the tension of your body.

Yoga (or Hatha yoga) is an ancient practice that uses physical exercises to center the mind.

While yoga can be used as physical exercise, it is also heavily focused on connecting the movement of the body to the fluctuations of the mind. Many yoga practices include slow breathing and meditation, which use that same mind body connection to provide stress relief.

Why Yoga Works

While your mind may be reacting to different types of stressors that are not necessarily life-threatening (like pressure from work or the birth of a child), your body jumps into action the same way every time. It activates the sympathetic nervous system to get your heart pumping, your blood flowing, and your muscles tensed for action.

Once the danger passes, the parasympathetic nervous system kicks in to cool the body down.

Regular yoga practice can help our body be more selective of these stress triggers so we can respond more accurately to life situations. It conditions both the mind and the body to recognize stress and then overcome it, rather than letting It spiral out of control. It helps trigger the relaxation response from the parasympathetic system by releasing a neurotransmitter called GABA. Yoga not only increases the levels of GABA in your body but also improves mood and decreases anxiety. (Study)

It may sound confusing but it’s actually one of the ingenious ways we can retrain our bodies’ stress response for the modern times.

Yoga uses stretching and poses to impose stress on our body while we tell our minds to stay calm and keep breathing. In fact, controlled breathing is one of the key disciplines in yoga. Controlled or mindful breathing has huge benefits in managing and fighting off stress.

The physical aspect of stretching and accomplishing difficult poses sets off the sympathetic nervous system. But the controlled breathing helps keep your mind focused, calm, and mindful of each physical activity. Each movement sets off your fight or flight reaction while your focused mind and controlled breathing engage the relaxation response.

When you finally move your body into the final stages of relaxation (the ending poses in a yoga session), the sympathetic system goes to work by bringing your body temperature down, slowing your heart rate and slowing our breathing.

Even More Benefits of Yoga

In addition to conditioning your body to manage stress better, practicing yoga has resulted in many other health benefits.

In one study, practitioners saw a 14% reduction in anxiety when participating in a two hour yoga session. The same study had a different group learn about yoga but not practice it. Surprisingly, the “learning” group also saw a decrease in anxiety! (Study)

As yoga helps with managing stress, it can also reduce the risk of various diseases related to stress, especially cardiovascular diseases. (Study)

During another study, a group of participants practiced yoga in a biweekly session for two months to see what effect it might have on depression. The results showed that the two month experiment did in fact alleviate symptoms of depression in the participants. (Study)

The fact that yoga can help with both your physical and mental health shows that it is a powerful tool to consider for your well-being.

Yoga Poses for Stress Relief

The next time you feel stress mounting or anxiety building, try one or two of these yoga poses to calm your nerves. All you need is a yoga mat to cushion against the floor. Yoga is a low risk activity but as always, take caution and listen to your body’s boundaries when starting a new physical activity.

Child’s Pose

Child’s pose is a restorative pose that is usually used anytime you need a quick break during a yoga session. This pose helps you release your muscular tension, relaxes your nervous system and quiets the mind. This pose is also very soothing for your adrenal glands which release stress hormones like cortisol.

Start by kneeling on your yoga mat with your legs as close together as you can or with your knees wider than your hips. Sit back on your heels so your butt or hips are touching your heels.

Then carefully, fold your torso forward until your forehead rests on the mat and your elbows are on your thighs.

Tuck your arms to your side, letting your shoulders curl forward and hands rest next to your feet. If it’s easier or more comfortable, you can also stack your forearms and rest your head there.

Stay in this position for 5 to 10 breaths, deepening the breath with each exhale.

Puppy Pose

This pose is similar to downward dog. This is a great pose for slouchers with bad posture, as it releases tension in your shoulders and back. With your heart held a little higher than your head, it’s known as a mild inversion pose which opens up the chest and eases blood flow to the head.

Start by getting on all fours with your shoulders over your wrists, hips aligned with your knees, and the tops of your feet down on the mat.

Then slowly walk your hands out in front of you and lower your chest to the ground. Keep your hips aligned and your arms shoulder-width apart. Gently bring your forehead down to the mat.

Press your palms deeper into the mat and keep your shoulder blades drawn into your back. Stretch your hips towards the ceiling.

Relax your neck and breathe into your back, lengthening your spine in both directions.

Hold this position for 5 to 10 breaths. When you’re ready, gently lift your forehead and crawl back into starting position.

Cat-Cow Stretch

Cat pose and Cow pose are two gentle, stress-relieving poses. When we combine them, we get a gentle flow that improves posture, stretches the spine, and massages organs in the belly.

You’ll start in tabletop position, coming down to all fours with your arms shoulder-width apart and hips stacked over knees. Keep your spine in a straight, neutral position for a moment.

Look to the floor, a few inches in front of your hands, to lengthen your spine. Draw your shoulder blades towards your back.

Once you feel comfortable in this position, move into the cow position. Inhale. As you inhale, drop your belly to the floor and lift your chin towards the ceiling. Let your chest follow your gaze up. Lift the back of your hips up as well.

On your exhale, pull your belly in toward your spine. Round your back up towards the ceiling while naturally dropping the top of your head toward the floor. Tuck your tailbone in and round out your spine.

Repeat this flow for 5 to 10 breaths. Make sure to match your movements with each inhale and exhale. When you feel ready, find your way back to tabletop position.

Bridge Pose

Bridge pose not only opens up your chest but stretches out many body parts that hold stress in. It stretches your spine, the back of the neck, your thighs, and your hips. It is also a mild inversion exercise which means the heart is held over the head and increases blood flow to your brain.n

Start by lying flat on your back. Then walk your feet back and bend your knees. Make sure your feet are hip-width apart. Slide your arms down alongside your body with palms facing up.

Press your feet into your mat. Take a deep breath in and lift your hips, slowly rolling your spine off the floor. Make sure to keep your knees hip width apart.

Press deeper into your arms and shoulders, lifting the chest higher. Engage your legs and tuck your tailbone into your pelvic area to help bring your hips up higher.

Remain in this position for four to eight breaths. When you release, exhale and slowly roll your spine back to the floor.

Standing Forward Bend

The standing forward bend (or standing forward fold) is an inverted pose that boasts numerous benefits.

Forward bends help stretch the whole backside of your body, engaging your heels, calves, hamstrings, hips, spine, and fingers. This stretch helps build flexibility and strength in your spine while releasing tension in your neck, upper back, and lower back.

As this pose stretches your spine, it creates space between each vertebra, increasing circulation. By folding forward, you’re also increasing the circulation to your abdominal organs – your spleen, pancreas, liver, intestines, and kidneys. Additionally, a standing forward bend allows fresh blood to rush to your head.

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To initiate a standing forward bend, start standing with your hands on your hips. On your exhale, lean and fold forward at your hips. Do this while keeping a small bend at your knees. Place your hands either beside your feet or palms down in front of you.

Feel your spine stretching up towards the ceiling as your head is naturally pulled down to the ground. Press the hips up to deepen the the stretch by switching the weight to the balls of your feet or straightening your legs.

Hold this pose for four to eight breaths.

To come out of this pose, lift your arms to your side on the next inhale. Then raise your arms and torso back up to standing position.

Legs-Up-The-Wall Pose

The legs-up-the-wall pose is a semi-supine pose, which means it’s done on your back and is usually done towards the end of a yoga practice. Because it is a semi-supine pose, it shares a few benefits with regular supine poses including lowered heart rate and eliciting a relaxed response within your body.

This pose also elevates your legs which promotes drainage and facilitates circulation of blood back to the heart.

Additionally, this pose stretches out the hamstrings and lower back while allowing the lower back to relax.

To begin, bring your yoga mat right up to a wall. Sit with your hips as close to the wall as possible. Then roll onto your back and bring your legs up against the wall.

Make sure your bottom is pressed tight against the wall. Lay your arms out to your sides or on your belly. If you start to feel tingly, bend your legs slightly at the knees.

Corpse Pose

Corpse pose is a simple but difficult form. When done correctly, it’s one of the most relaxing poses in a yoga practice. But what it’s asking for is difficult – it asks the practitioner to be completely still and at ease.

This pose is almost always done at the end of a practice as a way for the mind and body to fully relax. It intensifies your ability to listen to your body which especially useful after the strenuous stretches from your practice. It gives you time to reset before heading into your next activity. It lets your body do absolutely nothing and refresh before going back to your day.

To get into the pose, simply lie on your mat with your hands and feet comfortably spread out. Turn your palms up and keep your toes pointed out. Keep your shoulder blades back, under your chest.

Invite silence into your mind and body. Take a few deep breaths before letting it come and go naturally. Stay in this pose for five minutes.

When you’re ready, bring awareness back to your body by gently wiggling your fingers and toes.

Yoga is a powerful method of stress management. By using physical movement and controlled breathing, it can help to bring your body and mind back into harmony. Give it a try the next time you’re overwhelmed with stress. Even better, try including it into your regular routine because just like other disciplines, you’ll benefit more with frequent and regular practice.

Teaching your body better stress management habits will take time, but it will pay off in the long run. In the meantime, if you need a gentle reminder to take a deep breath before you get too stressed, try Spire.

Your Guide for How to Calm Down From Anxiety

Anxiety disorders make it difficult to feel calm in a variety of situations. Whether you find yourself in a situation that most people would feel anxious in, such as a job interview, or you feel anxious about something that most people don’t understand, like calling your friend, anxiety can make any situation feel impossible.

However, you don’t have to try to power through your anxious feelings. There are several methods that have been proven to mitigate your anxiety and make it more manageable. This article will describe some of those methods for you, giving you the tools you need to calm down the next time your anxiety feels out of control.

Why You Might Need to Calm Down

Why You Might Need to Calm Down

Despite how simple it may seem, there are many reasons why you might need to calm down. One of the most obvious includes having an anxiety attack, which is what happens when your anxiety gets so severe that you can’t do anything. Anxiety attacks can be difficult to calm down from because they tend to take over your thoughts and make it almost impossible to think rationally. Someone experiencing an anxiety attack may not realize that they need to calm down because all they can think about is the source of their panic.

Another common problem people with anxiety face is stressing out over an upcoming event. If you know about a family gathering in a couple of weeks, or have a job interview later in the week, your anxiety can cause you to obsess over those events. Thoughts like “what will my family members think of me” or “what will I say if they ask me what I’m doing with my life” can make what would otherwise be a pleasant gathering into a source of dread. And worries about how you will perform at your interview, or if you’ll say the right thing can make that day seem like a nightmare waiting to happen.

Those who suffer from chronic anxiety may need calming techniques more than anyone else. Being in a constant state of worry and fear makes it difficult to find joy in the world, and focus on what is going on in your life. This anxiety doesn’t go away, and sometimes it can feel like you’ve done everything to try to deal with it. Chronic anxiety doesn’t seem to come from anywhere, it’s hard to identify a source or trigger for it. This can make it seem impossible to address.

How Anxiety Affects Your Mind and Body

Anxiety, both chronic and otherwise, can have devastating results on your overall health. While short term stress can help us respond to danger and boost our immune system, long term stress can ruin our mental and physical health. Having long term elevated levels of stress can affect multiple parts of our body, including the brain, pituitary gland, heart, adrenal glands, stomach, body weight, and fertility.

How Anxiety Affects Your Mind and Body

Being in a constant state of stress releases a hormone called cortisol, which can damage your brain and shrink your hippocampus, which is the area of your brain in charge of memory and emotions.

The thyroid gland helps your cells burn energy, regulate your body’s temperature, control heart function, and produce proteins. The adrenal glands control blood sugar, regulate blood pressure, burn proteins and fats, and help regulate stress.

Constant stress can affect our digestion in many ways. It can cause acid reflux, lead to nausea or diarrhea, and create inflammation in your stomach. It also diminishes your body’s immune system, most of which exists in the gut.

How to Calm Down

Now that you know all of the ways constant stress and anxiety can wreak havoc on your system, what can you do about it? The intention of this article is not to cause you further stress, but rather to show you all of the ways in which constant stress and anxiety can damage your body.

The good news is that there are many ways you can calm down and decrease your overall anxiety levels. Whether you are suffering from an anxiety attack, or find yourself dealing with chronic anxiety, these techniques should help you lower your anxiety levels and lead the way to a better life.

Mindfulness and Breathing Meditations

Being mindful and using body awareness meditations are some of the most effective ways to calm your anxiety. Meditation is designed to help you detach yourself from your racing thoughts so they don’t have as much of an effect on you. Several studies have found that meditation is most beneficial to improving emotional issues.

Meditation helps calm anxiety by allowing your brain to develop new pathways and thought patterns. Over time, these pathways will help you distance yourself from the well traveled paths of anxiety and worry.

Our nervous system is also largely controlled by our breath. By practicing breathing meditations, you are actively calming your nerves and helping your body produce endorphins to help you reach that peaceful state that feels impossible to reach when your anxiety has the best of you. Try this quick breathing meditation from Spire when you need to calm down.

Grounding Techniques

Grounding techniques are an effective way of treating anxiety because they force you to become aware of your surroundings. Trying out a grounding method will help you focus on what’s around you, instead of getting wrapped up in your racing thoughts and worries about the past or the future.

A common grounding method is called the 5-4-3-2-1 coping technique. This technique starts by having you practice deep breathing. Breathe in for 5 seconds, hold it for 5 seconds, and then exhale for 5 seconds. Once you’ve done this at least five times, then you will use all of your senses to become grounded in the present.

  • List five things you can see. It can be as simple as the floor and ceiling, or you can list a pet.
  • List four things you can touch, and touch them as you are listing them.
  • List three things you hear, and make sure these are things that are happening in your environment, and not just things that are happening in your head.
  • List two things you can smell. If you aren’t in an area that has any smells, find a place with some scent. If you have to use a perfume or soap, that can be helpful as well.
  • List one thing you can taste. What does the inside of your mouth taste like?

Going through this exercise forces you to use all of your senses to become aware of what is going on around you. By focusing on external stimuli, you can distract yourself from your anxiety and get out of your head.

Other helpful grounding techniques include:

  • Trace the outline of your body with your hand
  • Eat or drink something with extreme temperature
  • Write in your journal

Long Term Therapy

While you may not be able to have therapy every time you have an anxiety attack, going to a therapist on a regular basis can provide you with methods and techniques that will be useful in times of high anxiety.

Therapists are trained to help people with a variety of anxiety disorders find relief and manage their symptoms. Sessions will help patients identify the things that make them anxious and find ways of dealing with them instead of just trying to ignore them.

Medications

Several medications have also shown to be effective in dealing with anxiety, both in the long and short term. However, many people have different brain chemistry, so what works well for one person may make the anxiety worse in another.

Benzodiazapines help your muscles relax and your mind find calm at the same time by increasing the effectiveness of certain neurotransmitters. These have been proven to be especially helpful in managing severe anxiety, as they usually work in 20-30 minutes. Antidepressants are also a common treatment for anxiety, because they can help regulate your mood. Your best bet is to see a psychiatrist and work with them to find what works best for you.

Exercise

Exercising literally changes your brain chemistry. It helps you create new brain cells which release a neurotransmitter that helps reduce anxiety. Physical activity also helps your body find an outlet for stress hormones and adrenaline so that it doesn’t interfere with important mental processes.

Exercise is also an incredibly effective physical distraction that forces you to think about what you’re doing instead of on your worries. It has also been shown to help improve body confidence, which will in turn help with mental confidence.

Find something you enjoy. If you hate running and you try to force yourself to go running, that can cause you more anxiety instead of less.

Distractions

Distractions can help you take your mind off of what you are doing. If you find that you can’t avoid what you are anxious about, distractions can help you go through with what you need to do. The idea is that the more occupied your brain is, the less mental power you have to obsess over things that make you anxious.

Breath Guide

Distractions are also a great way to force yourself to be present in the here and now. Focusing on something else takes you out of your mental space and creates a situation where you have to be present in what you are doing. Whether you take up knitting or decide to play with your pet, having a tactile distraction can help you get your mind off of your anxiety.

Being Outside

There are several reasons why being outside can help you decrease your anxiety. 53% of anxiety sufferers say that being outside helps them feel better during high times of anxiety. Vitamin D helps improve your mental health, and being inside for too long can cause mood problems related to being vitamin D deficient.

Going outside can also help give you a change of scenery. If you are anxious about something in your environment, taking a stroll can help you get out of that area of stress and give you something else to focus on.

Even being outside for five minutes can boost your mood. Make sure you try to find an area with more greenery, like a park or a nature trail, so that your brain can enjoy the effects of being in nature.

Anxiety can make you feel terrible, both mentally and physically. While it can be difficult to realize in the moment, there are many different calming techniques that will help you decrease your anxiety levels and start finding a better life for yourself. If one doesn’t work for you, don’t give up. Keep trying different techniques until you find one that works best for your situation.