Written by Jackie Moy, Adams Dental’s RDA, Dental Assistant
In October 2014, Dr. Adams hosted a three day seminar about the Buteyko Breathing Method. The entire team attended, as well as patients and other medical professionals. We didn’t know what to expect. Would it be interesting and worthwhile, or would we be bored to tears? To our surprise, it was extremely interesting.
I have heard Dr. Adams speak to both children and adults about the importance of mouth/tongue position and nasal breathing for years, but I never fully understand its importance. Preparing for the course, we heard that Buteyko breathing would help reduce sleep apnea, ADD, asthma, stress and rhinitis. It wasn’t until attending the course that we experienced first hand how these simple Buteyko exercises could impact our patients and ourselves.
Our instructor, Patrick McKeown, is a graduate of Trinity College Dublin and has spent the past ten years, teaching thousands of people to successfully reduce or eliminate their asthma, snoring, sleep apnea, anxiety and panic attacks. He has also helped athletes control their breathing to enhance their performance.
Some of the things we learned during our three day class were:
- Our nose humidifies, filters and warms the air you breathe. Breathing through your mouth forces your tonsils to do the filtering, this in turn makes them inflamed. Dry unfiltered air goes into the mouth and constricts arteries and reduces oxygen. This can lead to poor concentration and mind-wandering because not enough oxygen is going to the brain.
- Mouth breathing changes normal craniofacial development in young children. We were shown slideshows showing face development and chronic mouth breathers have faces that become elongated, their nose becomes larger, and they have a very narrow upper arch leading to crowded teeth.
- The “breath holds” and “calm breath” exercises we were taught help increase the amount of nitric oxide in our nasal cavities. When breathing in slowly through our nose, our body delivers oxygen and nitric oxide to our tissues and cells. The benefits of nitric oxide include opening and relaxing blood vessels, and reducing the amount of cholesterol and plaque. Nitric oxide cannot be replicated or supplemented by vitamins. Our body forms nitric oxide, and doing these breathing exercises and calming our breath is the only way to get the real benefits of nitric oxide.
- Over-breathing can cause health problems. When our bodies are stressed and we take deep breaths or breathe faster, it constricts our blood vessels, which in turn sends less oxygen to our brain, cells and organs. This alters the natural level of gases in the blood.
- Habitual over-breathing is primarily due to the elements of our modern lifestyle, such as eating processed foods, a lack of exercise, pollution, smoking, and excessive talking. As a result, breathing volume can increase to as much as 2-3 times the norm, resulting in a variety of common complaints, including weight-gain, lethargy, difficulty sleeping, and poor concentration.
- Typical characteristics of over-breathing are: Breathing through the mouth, breathing using the upper chest, regular sighing, taking large breaths prior to talking, and breathing loudly during rest.
“Quiet your breath”
Patrick repeated the mantra “quiet your breath” for three days because he wanted us to understand how importance it is to reduce our breathing. Normal breathing is 8-10 breaths per minute, through the nose, and should not be visible to others. A large part of the population breathes in 3 times more than the amount of air needed. Just as an excessive amount of food or water is unhealthy for us, the same is true about air. Statistics show that the normal amount of air we should breathe in daily is 4-6 liters. People who were tested with asthma take in 15 liters, those with sleep apnea take in 12 liters, and others with heart disease breathe 10-18 liters daily!
Achieving a better night’s sleep
Here are a few tips that Patrick gave to help us calm our minds and breath before sleep:
- Do reduced breathing exercises 15 minutes before sleep. This entails holding hands on chest and stomach to almost restrict your breathing and focusing on calming and slowing down your breathing. Do this in a dim room.
- No food two hours before bed as it increases breathing.
- No lights, cell phones or tablets right before sleep. It activates sensory overload in our brain, and tricks it into thinking it’s day-time, and we should be awake.
- Keep your bedroom cool and airy
- Try not sleeping on your back, but in turn, sleep on your left side as it reduces breathing.
- Daily intake of the vitamin Magnesium
Patrick sent us home with 3m medical tape after the first day and we were told to sleep with our mouths taped to prevent mouth breathing during sleep. A few of us were a little worried about trying it; however, the feedback the next day from all of us was similar. We felt more refreshed when waking up and had more energy earlier in the morning.
We now understand why Dr. Adams is so passionate about the Buteyko Method. We urge you to do some research for yourself, and contact us with questions.