Nostril Breathing with a Sleep Coach
Recently, as I was scrolling through Instagram, I came across a sleep coach called Dr. Natasha Hassam-Sarwar. I was curious as to what exactly a "sleep coach" was and how it could help people with sleep apnea. Natasha is really approachable and was willing to answer my questions.
Dr. Hassam-Sarwar specializes in sleep dentistry. In the case of patients with sleep apnea, this means assessing the patient and fitting an oral appliance to keep the airway open at night where that is indicated. For most dentists, that is where their contact with the patient ends but for Natasha, that is only the beginning.
What is sleep coaching?
Sleep coaching is a fairly new discipline, but it allows a holistic assessment of lifestyle factors and habits getting in the way of restful sleep. Nutrition, stress, caffeine, bedtime, screen time, mental health, and exercise all have a huge impact on sleep.
That is especially important for those with chronic sleep conditions like sleep apnea. I know this from my own experience with sleep apnea. I have used a CPAP for 12 years and, in that time, I have noticed huge improvements in my sleep quality when I pay attention to diet and exercise.
What is nostril breathing?
Natasha encourages her clients to breathe through their noses for the most restorative sleep. Many sleep apnea sufferers, myself included, are mouth breathers. As a lifelong mouth breather, I had pretty much given up the concept of nostril breathing. That was until Natasha explained to me that mouth breathing is a stressful fight or flight way to breathe.
Benefits of nasal breathing
Dr. Hassam-Sarwar explained, “Nasal breathing is a parasympathetic, rest and digest, form of breathing. What happens when we nasal breathe is we produce nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is very beneficial in our bodies. It produces a relaxation, anti-inflammatory effect on our blood vessels and arteries so we can get more oxygen throughout the body.”
Items to help with nostril breathing
Dr. Hassam-Sarwar recommended rinsing with a NetiPot to clear out nasal passages, using Breathe Right strips, and/or trying a nasal dilator.
Mouth taping was also an option to help train the brain to breathe through the nose. The concept of mouth taping is controversial among some medical professionals. There is no doubt that there is room for error and taping correctly is important.
James Nestor is a science journalist and author of Breath. His recommendation is to use a small piece of micropore tape, the size of a postage stamp. I tried it out, and this amount of tape doesn’t hermetically seal the lips completely closed. It gently reminds the wearer to breathe using their nose.
Obstructions to nostril breathing
Many sufferers of sleep apnea cannot breathe through their nose. Structural anatomy such as large tonsils/adenoids or a deviated septum makes it difficult to get enough air through the nostrils. Mouth taping is not going to be helpful in that scenario.
However, despite my deviated septum, I have found my experiment with mouth taping and nostril breathing beneficial.
Nostril breathing's calming effect
I started with 20-minute sessions whilst I meditated or did yoga. Those are times I am already consciously trying to breathe through my nose. Nostril breathing has a calming effect on the nervous system, and my experience definitely confirmed this.
Using the nasal strips, nasal dilator, and mouth tape feels cumbersome to begin with, but I have found it is worth the effort.
My quality of sleep improved
If you have the opportunity to work with a sleep coach, I would recommend it. Especially if you find someone as knowledgeable, approachable, and kind as Dr. Natasha Hassam-Sarwar. It might be just the encouragement you need to make a big impact on the quality of your sleep.
Do you struggle with insomnia?