Deep Breathe to Fall Asleep

Many people visit the doctor because they have trouble falling asleep. According to American Sleep Apnea Association, more than fifty million Americans suffer from eighty different sleep disorders, and even more from intermittent sleep problems. Falling asleep should be easy. But the mind takes on a life of its own, racing from one thought to the next, causing anxiety and fear, to run wild like a child.

Most likely, the doctor prescribes sleeping pills and tells the patient to try deep breathing before bed. But what is deep breathing? To understand this, it’s important to learn about the autonomic nervous system — that is, the body’s response to stress. Naturally, after a day stuffed with difficult people and unpredictable conflict, the brain activates the fight or flight response, and produces, among other things, the stress hormone cortisol. The stress agitates the mind, and the breath follows creating a forest of thoughts, until the path to sleep is lost. When under stress, the mind can hold the breath captive.

One way to reduce stress is to try and calm the breath.

Breath is natural. Breath is constant. Breath moves. In ancient Hindu text, it is known as prana or life force. Ultimately, breath determines state of mind. Mary Wise, MD, Integrative Family Medicine Physician, states that, “Breath is what and who we are as without breath we would not exist.”

Here are some steps to try to fall asleep. One rule of thumb is to turn off all electromagnetic screens. Creating a peaceful environment conducive to rest is essential. Scents like lavender help.

Experience a True Sense of Relaxation

First, try to experience the feeling of relaxation. According to Mary Wise, M.D. “There are many ways to relax. A common one is to do deep breathing focusing on the breath and letting all other thoughts go. Progressive muscle relaxation, guided visualization meditation, and repeating a word or a mantra all work well.”

One way to learn the feeling of relaxation is to lie down with the head on a pillow. Tense up the body as much as possible and then release it – – all at once. Here, experience the sense of relaxation in the physical body after the release of the tension; that feeling is the goal. Once you’re aware of how relaxation feels, the recognition of it as a state of mind becomes familiar and retrievable.

Become Aware of Energetic Chakras

Breath is alive. It travels through the body. Close the eyes and become aware of the seven chakras in the body. Breath is energy that moves from the first chakra upward.

  • Energy begins in the root chakra at the feet, legs, bones, base of spine.
  • Energy travels up to the next chakra, genitals and lower abdomen.
  • Energy moves to the third chakra the naval to solar plexus.
  • Energy rises to the upper fourth chakra heart, lungs, arms, hands.
  • Energy moves into the fifth chakra shoulders, neck, throat, ears.
  • Energy travels into the sixth chakra the eyes.
  • Energy moves into the seventh chakra crown of the head.

Establish a Root

Lie comfortably on the bed. Start with an inhale that begins in the pelvis with a light, subtle contraction. The breath should begin in the second chakra and travel upward. However, this may be too challenging for many, so start the breath where it’s easiest. It might be the stomach or the lungs. The secret is to find the root, where it’s most comfortable. Then, inhale from the root, letting the breath enter there. Allow the breath to move up to the higher chakras, and exit out through the nose.

Let the Breath Travel Up, Up, Up

Take a deep breath with the mouth closed. Ideally, the mouth should always remain closed. If that’s not possible, it’s fine. The action of trying is what matters most. Inhale the breath as deeply as possible, beginning in the pelvis and let it travel up through the stomach, slowly filling and expanding the lungs, into the throat, and after holding it for a few seconds, release it fully and slowly, through the nostrils.  

Once the breath is released through the nostrils, count silently to five. Then, begin a new inhale starting as low as possible in the pelvis, or the stomach, ultimately letting it fill the lungs, as it travels up past the throat and releases through the nose. Again, after a full exhale, count silently to five, and repeat.

Sound

The sound of the breath should not be labored. If it’s stressed, it defeats the purpose. It should sound soft and gentle like a wave on a shore. Ideally, visualize a circular motion of the inhale as it travels up the front of the body, and the exhale as it’s released down the backside.

Trouble Shooting

If allergies or other problems prevent breathing through the nose, then release the breath through the mouth, but continue to try and observe the movement of the breath as it makes it way up from the lower chakras (the pelvis) to the higher ones (stomach, lungs).

Patience

Try ten deep breaths at a time, or more, if possible. It takes time. Don’t let frustration limit the action of trying. Master the root of one deep breath. Do this exercise regularly before trying to fall asleep, because practice makes perfect and muscles have memory.

Even one breath can begin to help reduce the stress hormones and allow for the drop into dreamland. The more one practices deep breathing, the easier it becomes to recognize the true state of relaxation and to summon it, when it’s time to fall sleep.

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The Human Herpesviruses (HHV) that Lurks, Waits, and Replicates in You

2015 Virus familyThe virus lurks in the dorsal root ganglion like a terrorist waiting.  Blindsided and forgotten like chickenpox, when it surfaces, the shingles’ rash can look like an alien reptile has left its imprint on your skin and is sometimes referred to as “the devil’s grip.”  The varicella-zoster virus has shadowed the human race for thousands of years causing chickenpox and later in life shingles.  Although researchers are investigating the phenomenon of the herpes virus’s unique ability to replicate itself, as of yet, no known cure exists to oust it from the body, where it dwells in the ganglia and, along with other unwanted guests, in the liver.  The best solution, like dealing with a difficult mother-in-law, is to coexist.

Shingles has increased and is four times as common now as it was sixty years ago.  “It’s increased across all age groups,” says Dr. Barbara Yawn, Chief Scientific Officer at COPD Foundation.

Doctors still don’t know the reason for the increase.  “We’ve done studies, and we just don’t know,” Dr. Yawn says.  “The increase is not due to greater rates of immuno-suppression in the population, not due to lack of boostering, not due to introduction of the chickenpox or varicella vaccine, not due to more doctor’s visits, and not due to access to anti-viral meds.”

The viruses herpes-zoster (VZV) and herpes simplex (HSV), the one that causes cold sores, are neurotropic alpha viruses that live in clusters of nerve cells near the spine called the dorsal root ganglion;  the ganglia is the connection between the nerves coming out of the spinal cord and the peripheral nerves.

There’s some indication VZV thrives on stress.  “I suppose some of it could be due to more widespread stress,” Dr. Yawn says.  “We know that there’s  increased risk of shingles in people who have had adverse life events.”

In fact, Dr. Yawn’s study Risk Factors for Herpes Zoster revealed that female sex, race/ethnicity, family history, and co-morbidities such as asthma, diabetes, and COPD, are risk factors for HZ.

“The herpes zoster and the herpes simplex is a fascinating family of viruses,” says Dr. Yawn.  “They all act in a similar way that they stay dormant for years and don’t cause any symptoms but then can reactivate.”  The viruses hide in the nerve tissues, replicating, surviving, waiting, until the right time, when the immune system is weakened, to spring into action.

Viruses can also sleep in the liver.  Dr. Jeffrey Cohen, Chief of the Medical Virology Section in the Laboratory of Clinical Infectious Diseases at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Dieseases, in Bethesda, Md.  says, “The latent VZV along the spine should be the same as VZV that’s sometimes detected in the liver as far as we know.  Hepatitis viruses (A,B,C) infect the liver, and other viruses less commonly infect the liver.  The vertebra of the spine can also be infected by bacteria including tuberculosis, and some fungi can occasionally infect the vertebra and cause abscesses.”

Another member of the family is the cytomegalovirus (CMV), a common virus most people don’t know they have, because it rarely causes symptoms.  Once CMV is in the body, like all herpes, it takes cover in the ganglia. According to the CDC, “Among every 100 adults in the United States, 50–80 are infected with CMV by the time they are 40 years old.”  Yet another relative is the Epstein-Barr virus, that causes infectious mononucleosis or mono as it’s known.  Dr. Cohen says that, “CMV can occasionally infect the spine,” too.

There is not a definitive association of EBV and COVID-19 or zoster and COVID-19.  While there are anecdotes of persons with both infections at or near the same time, this does not prove there is a direct association between them. But rashes are associated with COVID-19.  Additional reports with similar features are needed for a true association, experts say.

It’s essential to keep VZV  from reactivating.  “The only way is the shingles’ vaccine,” says Dr. Yawn. “But the vaccine hasn’t been studied in people younger than fifty and so does not have FDA approval.  Shingles and complications like postherpetic neuralgia are less common in people under fifty and many people would need to be vaccinated to prevent one case or one complication.”

How can we supercharge our immune system to fight off the enemy?  “There’s no magic potion,” says Dr. Yawn.  “Some people need to use immuno-suppressive medications for cancer, to prevent rejection of transplanted organs, or to treat some chronic diseases like moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis.  But for people without these needs, avoiding stress, treating depression, having a healthy, well-balanced diet, activity, and maintaining a normal weight can help.”

Alternative options can strengthen the immune system, too.  Dr. Mary Claire H. Wise, Integrative Family Physician, recommends milk thistle supplements to support the liver and the metabolic detox pathways in the liver.  “When you’re not holding on to toxins, your immune system is able to function better,” says Dr. Wise.  “For herpes viruses, what I have found works best is L-lysine three grams daily, St. John’s Wart 450mg twice a day, and echinacea one gram three times a day to prevent a recurrence.”

Kiki Flynn, the popular YouTube Wellness Guru and Lifestyle Coach, recommends neem supplements, because neem is anti-viral, anti-fungal, and anti-bacterial. Neem mitigates parasites, eczema, and viruses like shingles.  In India, neem trees grow up to fifty feet high, a symbol of health, wealth, and community well-being.  But, advises Kiki, “Check with your doctor and do not take if pregnant or nursing. Take according to label and do not exceed two weeks.”

To detox the liver, Kiki recommends her castor oil deep cleanse pack at Kiki Says.

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