The effectiveness of diaphragmatic breathing relaxation training for improving sleep

Authors: Y. Liu T. Jiang, T. Shi, Y. Liu, X. Liu, G. Xu, F. Li, Y. Wang & X.Wu.

Citation: Sleep Medicine (2021); 78:8-14


Background: Front-line health care workers often report sleep problems, which are triggered in part by stress, anxiety, and depression. Poor sleep is also worsened by shift work. During the COVID-19 pandemic, these issues have been magnified, with many health care workers suffering from poor sleep quality and mental health problems. Interventions are needed to provide support to this population.


Objective: This study investigated the effectiveness of diaphragmatic breathing on sleep quality and mental health in nurses working in a hospital setting.


Who Was It? There were 140 nurses with an average age of approximately 32 years. Almost 94% of participants were female. Nurses worked at a hospital in China treating COVID-19 patients.


What Was Done? Participants were trained to perform diaphragmatic deep breathing as a relaxation technique. They used the technique each day before bed over four weeks. This involved finding a restful position and listening to a recording of guided breathing, which took around 30 minutes. Sleep, anxiety and depression were measured before and after the intervention.


What Happened? After the four-week breathing intervention, there were improvements in many measurements of sleep health, including time to fall asleep, subjective sleep quality, and daytime dysfunction. There was also a reduction in anxiety.


Fringe Commentary: This study shows that improvements in sleep and mental health can be easily achieved using simple guided breathing techniques. Simply by following a short audio recording with instructions to relax and focus on deep, diaphragmatic breathing, subjects experienced profound benefits. Free and paid breathing tools (such as Prana Breath https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.abdula.pranabreath&gl=US, Breath https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.havabee.breathe&gl=US, and Breathwrk https://apps.apple.com/us/app/breathwrk-breathing-exercises/id1481804500) are widely available have been used successfully by thousands of people. As we explore breath as a healing factor this month, we see its power as a tool to help us to sleep and feel better.


Link: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7724962/

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