In our fast-paced culture, it’s no surprise that so many Canadians experience chronic stress and have difficulty sleeping. In fact, Canada is ranked the 3rd most sleep deprived country in the world, with 30% of us getting less than 6 hours of sleep per night.
Sleep issues and stress often go hand in hand. Not surprisingly, both chronic stress and chronic sleep deprivation have been linked to numerous physical and mental health condition – from depression and anxiety, to heart disease, obesity, diabetes, gastrointestinal disease, and Alzheimer’s disease among others.
Scientists have identified a group of neurons called the pre- Bötzinger complex – dubbed the “breathing pacemaker” – that link respiration and relaxation of the body. When you practice deep, slow, controlled breathing for a set period of time, you stimulate the production of hormones that help relax the body and combat the adrenaline produced when your body is under stress.
In a workplace stress impact publication by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), it was estimated that 60% of workplace absenteeism is stress-related, and that the direct cost of stress to employers is about $600/employee per year or $3.5 million annually for a typical large employer. In another study, it was reported that 80% of workers surveyed felt the impact of workplace stress, and that nearly half felt they needed help learning how to manage stress at work.
How yoga promotes healthy sleep habits
If you’ve ever been to a yoga class, the practice and benefits of deep, controlled breathing are probably not unfamiliar. For others, it may come as a surprise that deep breathing has proven physical and emotional health benefits – including signaling the body to return to a calm, relaxed state.
Yoga can be an oasis in the tornado of mental and physical exhaustion in which we can sometimes find ourselves. Regular yoga practice can help calm the sympathetic nervous system and reduce the stress hormone, this in turn helps us regulate body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure. Yoga has the ability to help quiet the mind, undoing the negative thought patterns that often accompany chronic stress and insomnia.
If you can’t dedicate hours to yoga each week, don’t worry, adding 5-10 minutes per day of deep breathing techniques and 10 minutes per day of yoga can have a significant impact. Deep breathing has the ability to "turn on" and "turn up" our parasympathetic nervous system and slow down body systems (except digestion, which improves and speed up when we are calm and activate our parasympathetic nervous system).
Yoga and deep breathing helps brings us back to the present moment. There is no room to think about yesterday or tomorrow, or our never-ending to-do list when we are focusing and concentrating on our next breath. Try the pattern of inhaling slowly, holding the breath for 10 counts, then exhaling.
Want a healthier workplace? Learn more about employee wellness services like onsite yoga, emotional resiliency lunch & learns, and more.