Breathing Retraining: From Sick/Victims to Superhumans
Smart Hygiene for Good Sleep: Maximize Body O2
Body oxygen test result
Duration of sleep
Quality of sleep
Often >10 hours
Often very poor
Often >9 hours
Medical research on right sleep habits
research have proven that early morning hours have highest
mortality rates and rates of acute exacerbations for strokes, heart attacks,
seizures, asthma, bronchitis and many other common conditions. However,
mainstream medicine largely continues to ignore the effect of sleep on health.
Fortunately, there are smart life-oriented clinical physicians for whom sleep
is one of the central lifestyle factors to take care about.
Decades of systematic medical research and clinical experience of Soviet and
Russian Buteyko MDs has accumulated rich practical material about the role and
place of sleep in health restoration and breathing retraining (how to achieve slower breathing with more oxygen in body cells). Good sleep is
an important factor of wellbeing that improves quality and amount of breath
work, better adherence to positive lifestyle factors, and promotes lighter
breathing and better overall body-oxygen test results. When sleeping problems or insomnia
present, using various sleep hygiene ideas and techniques helps to gradually
improve quality of sleep. Poor quality of sleep, on the other hand, worsens CP
growth creating a vicious circle: poor sleep →
poor digestion, low energy, lack of motivation and
hyperventilation → low blood CO2 and
overexcited hypocapnic hypoxic brain →
poor sleep → etc.
Why Sleep is Death for the Sick (Medical Facts)
As we discussed before, the early morning hours (4-7 am) have the highest mortality
rates due to
Morning Heavy Breathing Effect (follow the link to read medical abstracts
related to effects of sleep on the severely sick and critically ill people, as
well as people in better health). The same time has the highest rates for acute
exacerbations for asthma, heart disease, epilepsy, etc. We already discussed
before 2 central factors for this Morning Heavy Breathing Effect: sleeping
on one's back and mouth breathing with simple solutions
How to Prevent Sleeping on
One's Back and How to Tape Mouth.
For over 90% of students, the morning CP is significantly less than their
previous evening CP numbers. For many students, the CP drop is as high as 10 s
or about 2
times. Hence, it is common for modern people to breathe about twice as heavily
during the early morning hours. As Dr. K.P. Buteyko noticed during his medical research in 1960's,
transition into horizontal position intensifies breathing (this is manifested
in alveolar hyperventilation). Depending on sleep position and numerous other
factors discussed here, breathing gets heavier throughout the night's sleep, especially after
about 4-5 hours of sleep on a soft surface.
Criteria of Right Sleep Habits
Breathing training and significance of the morning CP allows us to suggest
a simple criteria that can be used as a guideline in relation sleep hygiene: "You need to worry about
your quality of sleep and sleep factors and work towards having better or good sleep, if your morning CP
is less than your evening CP". If your morning CP is about
the same as your maximum evening numbers, whatever your sleep, it does not
worsen your health.
Migraines, and Sleep
Tens of medical studies have found that exposure to allergies during the
day produces a negative effect on quality of sleep. It is therefore necessary
to remove or avoid all possible sources of allergic triggers, including:
- tap water, table salt and food allergies (dairy, gluten, citrus fruits,
tomatoes, peanuts, etc.)
- air allergies: dust, dust mites, dust mites droppings, "fried" dust mites
which appear after turning the heat on in the house (these heat treated airborne
proteins have a strong allergy effect on many people)
- chemicals and materials that are in touch with skin, including detergents
used to wash clothes, may cause allergic
reactions or affect the intrinsic EMF field that exist in and around the human
body due to natural neuronal processes (see more info about this factor
It was also found that some people wake up at about 3 or 4 am and cannot
sleep for next 2 hours because they took tablets with cellulose fillers in the
morning. (Many mineral supplements use microcrystalline cellulose as a
filler). If this is the case for you (waking up and insomnia at about 3 am),
avoid such supplements and find possible sources of allergies that can cause this effect.
Sometimes people with serious digestive problems (chronic diarrhea) and/or
increased intestinal permeability can develop allergic reactions to normal
food chemicals, including starches, fats and proteins they eat. It is known
that less than 5% of modern people chew food well. When meals are not chewed
well enough, large food particles, after they penetrate undigested into the
bloodstream, can trigger migraine headaches and/or other allergic reactions
also causing severe chronic problems with sleep for the following night. The
solution is to chew all food exceptionally well for 2-3 days (no swallowing at
all or just chewing up to 80-120 times each mouthful until it dissolves
completely) and observe the effects. (Other breathing students will surely
benefit from good chewing as well.)
Time Spent Outdoors
According to Dr. Buteyko, only children can tolerate well long periods of time spent
indoors, while with aging, people require more and more time to be spent outdoors.
Hence, depending on your age, make sure that you spend a certain number of hours
outdoors every day for your good sleep hygiene.
Exercise with Strictly Nose Breathing (In and Out)
Many people, based on their experience, are aware that physical exercise
improves quality of sleep due to several factors. Physical exercise with nose
breathing does not improve the CP immediately, but does increase the next
morning's CP. Learn more about:
Exercise on the Respiratory System.
What to Do Before Sleep
Many modern people like watching TV, playing PC games or doing work on a
computer before sleep. This practice as well as overheating, overeating, and slouching in an armchair,
or on a couch or sofa all intensify breathing and lower body
oxygen content. For example, having a late meal (e.g., when one goes to sleep
with food in the stomach or soon after stomach emptying) is a very destructive
factor for night sleep and next morning CP.
As an alternative, you can go for a 15-20 min walk or even light jogging (no
intensive workout or exciting games before sleep). As discussed on other web
pages, 9-10 pm, in general, is the most effective time for doing breathing
exercises due to a long period without meals and their positive effect on the next
morning's CP. Taking a cold shower and having correct posture are other steps of
good sleep hygiene. The best strategy in relation to meals is to have at least
2 hours with no food in the stomach just before your sleep. If you get too
hungry at 8 or 9 pm, have a small snack.
When to Go to Sleep
One of the main Buteyko rules of good sleep hygiene to go to sleep
when one is really sleepy (i.e., yawning, feeling relaxed and ready to sleep
physically and mentally). On the contrary, going to sleep at a routine time (e.g., at 11
or 12 pm) and ignoring body signs is a mistake that will make breathing deep and
body-oxygen content low.
Materials that Are in Touch With Skin During Sleep
When the CP is less than 20 s, most people do not notice the negative effects
of synthetic materials on skin flora, electrical communication among body
nerve cells, and breathing. However, with higher CP numbers many breathing
students are able to notice that synthetic clothing intensifies their
breathing and lowers their CPs. Hence, it is smart to use only natural
materials that are in contact with skin, especially during sleep.
In addition, some people develop allergies to commercial detergents that
are used to wash clothes. Most modern detergents contain toxic chemicals. A
better option is to use hypoallergenic, dermatologically tested or baby-type
detergents for doing laundry.
Air quality and sleeping with windows open
Even healthy people and people without any allergies are affected by poor
air quality, which is very common in modern human dwellings. Consider the
physiological mechanism. An average person breathes about 10 L/min. This
corresponds to about 20-25 s CP. During sleep, minute ventilation is increasing throughout the night, while the CP drops. Hence,
we can assume that the person breathes about 10 L/min during sleep; 600 L
during 1 hour of sleep, and several cubic meters of air during one night of sleep.
Each cubic centimeter of air has millions of airborne particles, most of
which are foreign to the human body. They usually include dust, dust mites, dust mite droppings
(toxic proteins for humans), fire retardants (very poisonous chemicals
present, for example, in carpets), glues, paints, viruses, bacteria, yeast,
mold, and many others. If there is a carpet, dusty curtains, many
newspapers, shelves with books, or clothes hanging here and there, billions of air born particles
may be present in each cubic centimeter. In order to find
the total load of chemicals, multiply these billions by 1,000,000 to get the
number of airborne particles in 1 cubic meter and then by the number of cubic
meters that you inhale during sleep. The total number of particles that gets
into the human body is staggering.
Normally, up to 99% or even more of these airborne particles are trapped in
a layer of mucus in human sinuses, when they are moist. Then this mucus
together with the intruders is drained into the stomach for deactivation.
However, one can easily check that the nasal passages after sleep become dry.
(This happens due to overbreathing and lower CP in the morning.) Hence, more
particles are able to penetrate deeper into the airways and alveoli of the
lungs. Once the airborne particles are in the lungs, they can penetrate into
the blood stream, if small enough, causing stress to the organs of elimination
and producing various chemical damage. Or they could be removed by cilia cells that
beat in unison against gravity moving a layer of mucus out of the lungs. (This may
not be possible if airways are inflamed or the CP is low.)
This is the reason why Buteyko reduced (or shallow) breathing exercises often
cannot improve one's breathing (the CP after the session will not increase),
if they are done in rooms with carpets, dust and/or other sources of air
Hence, it is important to create conditions where air is as pure as possible
and remove or isolate all sources of air pollution. Carpets make air quality
from about 10 up to several hundred times worse and using a layer of plastic
on the floor is the cheapest and easiest solution for this problem, while there are many other
long-term options as well.
Having windows open during sleep allows positive and negative ions to move
into the bedroom and this greatly improves air quality due to their
purification effect. How does it work? Ions combine with airborne particles
making them charged. This leads to the formation of large complexes that consist
of these charged positive and negative airborne particles. However, due to
greatly increased weight, these conglomerates cannot remain airborne anymore
and they drop on the floor. This is the reason why outdoor air is generally
much cleaner since cosmic radiation generates large amounts of ions that
purify the air.
If you open your windows or install an ionizer in the bedroom, you can
greatly improve air quality for better sleep. Keep in mind that metal nets or
screens that are used to protect houses from flies and mosquitoes will block
penetration of ions since these nets have some static electrical charge.
Therefore, one type of ions will be attracted to this metal net and another
will be repelled by it. You need to have a good size hole for movement of
ions into the bedroom instead of nets on the windows.
Over 80% of modern people have too warm conditions for their sleep with
devastating health effects.
Once the CP is above 20 s, it is important for dynamic breathing training
and further CP growth, to use cold showers as it is described in one of the
Modules. Adaptation to colder conditions increases the formation of brown fat cells
and this favors improved tolerance to colder environment all the time,
especially during sleep.
When the CP is below 20 s, it is normal to avoid
colder conditions and body overcooling since the immune system is unable to
resist infections in sinuses and other organs. Stimulation with cold has
beneficial effects on wellbeing and improved sleep due to slower and easier
breathing and increased body O2.
Hence, if your CP is above 20 s, make sure that you feel slightly on the
cold side during sleep. Ideally, for the highest morning CP, one should
sleep in such thermoregulatory conditions that if they are a little colder,
will not be able to sleep.
For most modern people, overheating during sleep is one of the central
factors that reduces their morning CP. Use short blankets (this is how our
predecessors lived for millennia: just a skin of an animal to cover one's body so that if it became warmer, arms and legs would be stretched out and
they would ensure normal heat exchange) or several bed sheets (or plain linen)
instead of heavy and warm blankets, duvets, or sleeping bags.
Hard beds and sleeping on the floor benefits
Use of hard beds for sleep is another fundamental factor of the Buteyko
method that has been routinely taught by Russian MDs trained by Dr. Buteyko.
Modern beds and mattresses, including various special and exotic ones, make
humans sleep for a much longer time in the same position. As a result, breathing
gets heavier during sleep, especially when sleep is longer than 4 hours. Hard
beds, on the contrary, are felt as uncomfortable and the student remembers short wake ups to
change body position during the night's sleep. However, his wellbeing and morning CP
are going to be higher after sleeping on a hard bed.
Furthermore, hard beds also prevent oversleeping and going to sleep too
early. Indeed, when the bed is soft, many people have a tendency to lie down
earlier (to "relax") and to continue to be in a horizontal position after waking
up in the morning. Both these phenomena are against the rules suggested by Dr.
Buteyko in relation to sleep timing. However, when the bed is hard, a student
will go to sleep only when really sleepy and will not be willing to "relax" in
the morning after waking up.
How hard should the bed be in order to produce these positive effects?
Imagine 2 layers of a thin blanket laying on a solid table or wooden floor.
This is the level of hardness for good sleep hygiene. (If you decide to sleep
in a sitting position, the surface can be very soft and this will not worsen
your breathing and MCP.)
While best sleep positions and related medical research have been
discussed before (see Best Sleep
Positions), alternation between the prone and left sleeping positions is a
good option for many students. However, Dr. Buteyko noticed that transition to
horizontal position reduces body O2 and CO2 content and worsens one's health.
Hence, if you are able to sleep in an armchair, your morning CP will be higher
since sitting is the best sleeping position for highest body oxygenation and
maximum daily wellbeing.
For those people who have problems with sleep or insomnia, and who have
a lower morning CP and circulation problems (e.g., varicose veins), inclined
beds should be used. A simple solution to make an inclined bed is to put thick
books or folded blankets under the side of the mattress where your head is
located. For more permanent solutions, visit
Inclined Bed Therapy.
In my view, most, if not all students will benefit from sleeping on
inclined beds, if they sleep in a horizontal position.
Sleeping while sitting
While teaching breathing retraining to hundreds of my students, I discovered that it is not easy for them to sleep sitting all the time. Only some of my students found that their body actually liked this sleep position. However, most of my students found that it is not easy, even though these students tried this sleep posture for up to 2-5 nights in row.
Therefore, it seems that sleeping sitting can be used by nearly all students as a temporary solution to deal with overbreathing during sleep. However, even if you try to sleep while being seated, it is important to know and apply several ideas that makes sleeping sitting easier without compromising definite benefits of this sleep posture. You can find these suggestions right below here as your bonus content.
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Absolute focus on relaxation and reduced diaphragmatic breathing,
while in bed is another
assisting factor for good sleep hygiene. One may use breath holds provided that
they help you to fall asleep faster. (This may not be the case with all students
and in all situations as the Breath Holds and Maximum
Pauses web page describes.) Here is the breathing exercise
How to Fall Asleep Faster.
What to Do if No Sleep for More Than 10 Min
If one cannot fall asleep within 10 minutes and while practicing reduced
breathing (this may happen due to numerous reasons), he or she should get out
of the bed and think about what is missing: for example, a 15 min walk in
fresh air, breathing session before sleep, or a cold shower.
Recent allergic reactions can cause insomnia for the next 2 hours due to
abrupt disruption in natural regulation of chemicals and hormones (histamine,
cortisol, melatonin, insulin, thyroxin, etc.). If this is the case, it is better
to get busy with some things and go to sleep later. In certain situations,
allergic reactions can cause people to wake up at about 3 or 4 am and no sleep
is possible during the next 2 hours. Lying in a horizontal position is the
worst choice in this case. Inclined beds reduce the negative effects of
insomnia, but the best option is again to get out of bed and occupy yourself with some
Having a small snack, if hungry, helps to many people to fall asleep faster.
However, make sure that it is not too large and ideally your stomach should be
empty when you try to fall asleep. Meanwhile, some people, especially with low
body weight and a need to gain weight, cannot fall sleep quickly unless
they have a small snack just before sleep. The same is true for those who have
problems with hypoglycemia or low blood glucose levels.
What to Do in the Morning
Measuring the CP is an excellent way to start the day. It helps you to get
out of the bed fast, focus on reality (instead of having fantasies), boost
your body's CO2 level, and, for experienced students, trigger reduced breathing
due to the previous conditioning.
What to Do During the Day in Case of Mild Sleep Deprivation
If you did not get enough sleep during the previous night, your daytime
performance can be worse especially due to the accumulative effect of several
nights with poor sleep. It is useful, on the other hand, to reduce sleep for
having a higher morning CP. Dr. Buteyko indeed applied this technique on his
"Many severely sick patients remain sitting up, afraid to lie down. This is
sensible. We should lie down only for a minimum amount of time, and only when
sleeping. Our patients with deep breathing practice [breathing exercises], but
cannot control their breathing at night, and hence, sleep is actually a poison
The longer he sleeps, the more chances that his breathing will be increased
causing attacks. Therefore, we wake him up after 1-2 hours, he practices
decreasing respiration, we reduce his sleep down to 4-5 hours in a 24-hour
period, not more, and he cures himself. Later, when the breathing is
corrected, sleep becomes less than the norm. It reduces itself. It gets deeper
and deeper. This alarms many patients, “Previously, I was sleeping for 8 hours
and it was not enough, but now I sleep 4 hours and get enough”. Yes, it is
possible to get enough sleep in 4 hours with very light breathing."
Dr. Buteyko Lecture
If you decide to restrict your sleep down to about 6 hours, get a short nap (e.g., 5-20 min) sitting (e.g., in an armchair)
in the afternoon,
but avoid transition into the horizontal position for it somehow worsens the
quality of life for the remaining part of the day.
What to Do During the Day in Case of Severe Sleep Deprivation
Try to sleep while sitting, if possible, for as long as the body needs,
using all the rules suggested here for good sleep hygiene. Do not forget to get
a high CP before this daytime sleep since it will help you to improve its
quality. Overeating, mouth breathing, or overbreathing, all will make your
sleep quality worse.
Table. Summary of Right Sleep Habits:
How to Sleep Better
Allergic reactions during the day
Time spent outdoors
Up to 2-5 hours daily
Less than 1 hour
Physical exercise with strictly nose breathing (in and out)
Up to 1-3 hours daily
Less than 1 hour
What to do before sleep
Walk for 15-20 min outdoors or even light jogging; 15-20 min breathing
exercises; have a meal earlier; cold shower; correct posture
Watching TV, playing games or working on a computer, overheating or
having a late meal,
overeating, slouching in an armchair, on a couch or sofa
When to go to sleep
When really sleepy
Type of materials that are in touch with skin during sleep
Natural (cotton, hemp, wool, ...)
Synthetic (polyester, acrylic, nylon, ...)
Air quality in the bedroom
Current CP<20 s: feeling normal or little warm during sleep
Current CP>20 s: feeling little on the cold side during sleep
Too warm blankets, too warm room
Surface of the bed
Hard (the same as when 2 thin blanket layers are lying on a hard surface)
Sitting, prone, left side
On one's back, right side
What to do to fall asleep
Buteyko reduced breathing exercise
Worry about life problems tomorrow and poor health now
What to do if no sleep for more than 10 min
Get out of the bed, go for a walk outdoors or do a breathing session
Continue to suffer
What to do in the morning
Get out of the bed
Continue to lie horizontally
What to do during the day in case of mild sleep deprivation
Get a short nap (e.g., 5-20 min) sitting (e.g., in an armchair)
No nap or napping in a horizontal position
What to do during the day in case of severe sleep
Try to sleep sitting, if possible for as long as the body needs with all
Get upset by sleepless night and try to sleep without sleep hygiene
For those who are underweight or have hypoglycemia
(low blood sugar), it is often useful to have a
small snack just before sleep, as described above. Otherwise, they can spend
more than 1 hour trying to fall asleep.
Problems with cold hands or feet, skin itching, muscular and other
types of spasms and cramps, and many other symptoms should be addressed
with the Buteyko Emergency Exercise (see previous modules for details).
Some of the hardest cases in breathing retraining include those people
who have low body weight, chronically miserable quality of sleep and
digestive problems due to multiple allergies. These symptoms indicate
dysregulation in circadian variations related to major body hormones and
chemicals, such as cortisol, insulin, glycogen, histamine, melatonin, and
many others. Poor sleep drastically reduces their appetite (hunger for food)
and production of digestive enzymes leading to low blood sugar and weight
loss. Video: Factors for
Good Sleep Hygiene: How to Sleep.