Box (4-sided) breathing: activate parasympathetic NS, lower BP, help with sleep

Mary

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Box breathing: How to do it, benefits, and tips (medicalnewstoday.com)

This really works! It helps put me back to sleep in the middle of the night (I have to do it for about 15 minutes, but can literally feel my body shifting, relaxing). It also does lower BP, albeit temporarily, though I'm guessing if done regularly several times a day it might lead to sustained lowering. It's important to do all the steps while breathing through your nose - keep your mouth closed. In general that's the best way to breathe (See "The Oxygen Advantage" by Patrick McKeown)

The article says to do everything for a count of 4 - I do it differently - inhale for a count of 5, and then do the other 3 steps for a count of 7 or 8 each. Also, all four steps are done on one inhalation (the first step). Don't do a second inhalation before the 4th step.

Also, humming (believe it or not! :jaw-drop: ) can help too. It increases production of nitric oxide which dilates blood vessels. So when I do the exhalation part of the box breathing, I often hum while doing it . . . fortunately there's no one around to hear me! :whistle:

For sleep in general, here's a post I did a little while ago about all the supplements I take, etc.: what do you take for sleep | Phoenix Rising ME/CFS Forums
 
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lenora

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Hmm...I'm a big believer in the proper techniques for breathing, but have worked my way up to holding my inhalation and exhilation breaths into longer time limits now. At first it can be a bit hard to get used to, but it slows down heart palpitations and I wish I could say that I've noticed that it helps with my BP, but as of now I can't.

It helps with anxiety attacks, especially if you get to it as soon as possible when you feel one coming on. You can feel your lungs expanding as you take deeper breaths...which is certainly good for those who are bedridden and the like. Thanks, @Mary. A good and timely reminder for all of us. Yours, Lenora.
 

Zebra

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Hi, @Mary

I am presently dealing with insomnia (again), and having trouble both falling asleep and staying asleep.

I wanted to let you know that, per your helpful post, I tried the Box Breathing using the original 4 count. Having ignored my breath for so long, it took a while to actually get comfortable with this, but I do recall it was the last thing I was doing/thinking about before drifting off to sleep last night. A MUCH better alternative to the other thoughts & emotions that come up while waiting for sleep!

So, many thanks to you for your post and the reminder to do some breath work. Very helpful, thank you!
 

Strawberry

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That first link says to sit upright in a chair. Can this be done while laying down?

I’ve been overdoing lately (attempting to pack) so not sleeping. I’ve noticed lately that I will not fall back asleep until I get the shivers (after 4-6 hours of being awake). That leads me to think parasympathetic/sympathetic is whacked, which I guess this method is good for?
 

Mary

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That first link says to sit upright in a chair. Can this be done while laying down?

I’ve been overdoing lately (attempting to pack) so not sleeping. I’ve noticed lately that I will not fall back asleep until I get the shivers (after 4-6 hours of being awake). That leads me to think parasympathetic/sympathetic is whacked, which I guess this method is good for?
I do it lying down all the time while in bed, it still works! And yes, I think it definitely helps with the parasympathetic/ sympathetic balance. I can feel it calming my body after doing it for a few minutes. Sometimes it takes longer to notice a difference. And the more often I do it, the more quickly it works to calm me down.

Are you moving? You've probably posted about this, I'm just not up on things!
 

Strawberry

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Yeah, I lost my job end of August and even though unemployment says I’m approved, they disqualify me weekly with no reason given. I’m about to be homeless....
 
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@Strawberry

Best wishes. That's a lot of stress. Not realizing how sick I was I got through several moves channelling Dory and singing "Just keep swimming, swimming..."

I'd tell you if the breathing works lying down but I fall asleep before I can finish 😴 (thought you could use some humor)
 

Strawberry

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Ok, am I the only weird one that the box method causes mast cell reactions?? :confused:

I decided to try last night, and my sinuses swelled shut. So I waited a couple hours for my sinuses to clear, then tried it again. Swelled shut even faster, and lung and throat issues kicked in. 6 hours of not falling asleep due to difficulty breathing! I’m not on my nasalcrom at the moment, so I guess I’ll try again once it arrives......

@Iknovate Thank you for the giggle! Glad it works so well for you. I can’t wait to try it again, but I need to tame my mast cells better.
 
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@Strawberry
Forgive my random obvious senses jumping to conclusions but what could be in your environment that inhaling it more deeply is causing a reaction?

Or, tell me more about what I'm missing in your mast cell reference.

Just grasping at straws here, any possible sub-conscious triggers to the idea of going to sleep (reminders of challenges to accomplish - failure avoidance, too difficult to take on as a task, or something unaware - including your body's own reluctance to engaging in the cleanup routine)?

Personally, I'm still trying to figure out why/whether Lyme disease and 5 other off the chart viral loads cause me to wake up too early and not be able to go back to sleep (something I've never had a problem with before).

If only we had better communication mechanisms with our own bodies. ["Can you hear me in there?"]
 

Strawberry

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Definitely the sheets need to be changed, but I don’t think that is it. I used to sleep with the windows open but then I’d smell the neighbors fireplaces and react to dirty wood, so they are shut now. It could be just getting ready for bed is too much activity. I will get such a runny nose that I think I have a cold just from taking a shower when I don’t feel well enough.

Personally, I'm still trying to figure out why/whether Lyme disease and 5 other off the chart viral loads cause me to wake up too early and not be able to go back to sleep (something I've never had a problem with before).
Does the box method work during that time? This is normally my issue. I wake up any time between 11-2 and am awake for 3-6 hours. Sometimes I fall asleep right before it’s time for my catalarm :cat: to wake me, sometimes I don’t get to fall back asleep. For me, it’s usually my burning muscles from doing too much that day (and mast cell issues for the same reason) that wake me up, but maybe it’s virus related.
 
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@Strawberry
I'm still learning when my body is in 'point of no return' to sleep. Sometimes I can force myself back to sleep with the breathing.

While it requires registration, I was just listening to an interview with Niki Gratrix where she summarizes a lot of the polyvagal theories (of which the breathing is one technique):
https://mitochondrial.byhealthmeans.com/reg-thank-you/

I do know that part of improving ventral over dorsal vagus activity is excitement (capitalizing on pleasures and silencing our negative chatter). I had a good day yesterday, worked in my yard (newer home in continuous modes of landsculpting). And while I totally overdid it. I'm about ready to go back out and do it again just to capitalize on the much needed joy I get from the results (determined to finish tackling the dead 3' weeds in the front yard).

I'm getting such joy from Easterizing my front porch with new plants.
20210327_191253.jpg
 

Mary

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Does the box method work during that time? This is normally my issue. I wake up any time between 11-2 and am awake for 3-6 hours.
I think it works any time. I do it most often in the middle of the night, that's my worst time for sleep. I also do it during the day as I feel like doing it.

One other technique I use is to breathe in slowly to a count of 6, and then exhale slowly to a count of 6, and just repeat for several minutes or as long as I want. And when I exhale it's even more effective if I hum (with mouth closed) while doing it!

About the mast cell activation - one way to see if you're reacting to something in your house when you do the box breathing is to try doing it outside and see if you have the same reaction.

About your middle of the night insomnia - have you had your cortisol levels checked? Mine were high in the middle of the night several years, causing severe insomnia which nothing would touch. I did the Adrenal Stress Index Test which measures saliva taken 4 times throughout the day/evening. Most doctors only test morning cortisol levels. Seriphos (phosphorylated serine, NOT phosphatidyl serine) worked like a miracle to lower my levels, it helped almost immediately. I had to taper up to find the dose that worked for me and also found it was very important to take it in the morning. When I took it at night, it caused an awful weird kind of insomnia but in the morning it just calmed me down.
 
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@Mary
I'm not taking sides but I'm watching the Mitochondrial Summit this week. Today I listened to Ari Whitten give an update on the research he did across years of research on adrenal fatigue and cortisol and when taken as a body there is no correlation between cortisol and fatigue.

Did cortisol wake you up or did waking up spike your cortisol so you could respond?

Yes there are relationships. But the answers about the relationships appear to be far more complex than anyone has yet figured out.
 

Mary

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Did cortisol wake you up or did waking up spike your cortisol so you could respond?
I did the Adrenal Stress Index Test, which uses 4 saliva samples taken during the day evening. It showed that my cortisol levels were high middle of the night, when they were supposed to be lowest. I would be awake for hours middle of the night, until I started taking Seriphos (phosphorylated serine, NOT phosphatidyl serine - people often confuse them but they aren't the same thing).

You might find this interesting: The Role of Cortisol in Sleep | Natural Medicine Journal