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Insomnia or habitual sleeplessness is not a specific disease but a symptom of some underlying problem. If you suffer from insomnia, you are not alone. According to the Neurological Foundation of New Zealand, an estimated 500,000 New Zealanders suffer from chronic, long-term sleep problems and about 1 million have insomnia frequently or for extended periods.

Insomnia manifests in many ways. Some people lie awake for hours before getting off to sleep, while others may have difficulty staying asleep and once awake, struggle to get back to sleep. Long term, this can lead to severe sleep deprivation and seriously affect your health and wellbeing.

The following are typical insomnia scenarios:

  • Work stress/ long hours
  • A-type personalities
  • Extended periods in front of a computer or TV screen
  • Illness
  • Lack of exercise and fresh air
  • Over exercising / over-training
  • Anxiety/ depression
  • Prone to negative thoughts
  • Recreational drugs
  • Caffeine
  • Nicotine
  • Asthma broncho-dilators
  • Eating late
  • Hot, stuffy bedroom / over-heating

The importance of restorative sleep in brain health

Did you know that:

  • Sleep is your best anti-inflammatory and source of energy.
  • 90% of your energy comes from sleep and yet it’s an active process.
  • Your body needs to heal overnight to rest, repair, reset and recharge.
  • The brain shrinks up to 60% overnight and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) pulses through the brain clearing it of metabolic waste products.
  • The brain is cleansed and reset; memory is shifted from short to long-term storage.

Breathing and carbon dioxide, the missing link in sleep

Sleeping disorders are still poorly understood and while there are many possible causes, one of the last things usually considered is breathing.

Breathing more than the body requires stimulates the sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system and places the body on alert mode. Insomnia sufferers typically exist in a permanent state of sympathetic stimulation and while this may go unnoticed during daylight hours, the resulting busy, chattering mind limits the chances of a productive sleep.

To sleep well, breathing needs to reduce and carbon dioxide (CO2) needs to rise.[1]

In other words, for optimal sleep, breathing needs to reduce to a quiet, soft state, breathing in and out of the nose. This is only possible if the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) is engaged. And in a catch-22 of sorts, the PNS can only engage properly if breathing is nasal and breathing volume reduces.

A dysfunctional breathing pattern by day will determine the breathing pattern during sleep. Poor daytime breathing habits such as mouth breathing, upper chest breathing, and rapid breathing will extend into and contribute to restless sleep.

[1] Eugene DR et al; Alveolar gas tensions, pulmonary ventilation and blood pH during physiologic
sleep in normal subjects; Journal of Clinical Investigation; 1958, DOI: 10.1172/JCI103694


Insomnia – we can help

On the Buteyko breathing course we will teach you breathing exercises and guidelines to help restore restful, restorative, snore and apnoea-free sleep. Benefits will include more daytime energy, less brain fog and morning grogginess, and you can even reduce or eliminate those irritating, nightly trips to the bathroom. The programme is effective in relieving a wide range of sleep disorders including snoring, sleep apnoea, insomnia, restless legs, teeth grinding, nighttime cough, asthma, and nasal congestion.

Learn to breathe like a cat and you will sleep like a cat. Cats are natural nasal breathers. Notice how cats often nuzzle their nose into the fur. This is an instinctive habit to optimise sleep by recycling exhaled CO2 inducing a form of mild carbonic narcosis. Birds use a similar technique by folding a wing over the beak. 

Levels of 5-13.5% CO2 measured in hibernating mammals’ burrows give a clue to the exceptional benefits of CO2 in aiding optimal sleep.

Contact Us

The Buteyko Breathing Clinic breathing re-training programme helps to normalise the breathing pattern, putting the body in a naturally calmer state for optimal sleep. Most clients report better sleep, waking more refreshed within the first two to three sessions of the breathing programme. Benefits include greater energy levels sustained throughout the day and a sense of wellbeing.  

For help with insomnia or any other sleep disorders, to book a breathing assessment, or course, contact us at the Buteyko Breathing Clinic in Auckland. Use our online booking system  or phone the clinic on +64-9-360 6291 or email.

Helping people with breathing disorders since 2001

20 Arthur Street, Freemans Bay, Auckland 1011, New Zealand  |  Phone +64 9 360 6291  |  Email

Download our leaflets [PDFs]:  Do you suffer from asthma or allergies? »    Do you snore or suffer from sleep apnoea? »

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