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Struggling with Sleep?

Here's how respiratory physiotherapy can enhance your sleep by refining your breathing.

Many factors contribute to optimal sleep, but as respiratory physiotherspists, we are involved in working with people to limit the effects their breathing patterns and overall respiratory health have on their ability to get a restful night of zz's.

Promote cardiorespiratory synchronisation

Did you know that a slower breathing rate also lowers the heart rate. This is when the heart rate and breathing rate synchronise. This improves parasympathetic tone which is the branch of the autonomic nevous system that is responsible for rest, relaxation and recovery.

Promote optimal breathing patterns

A mouth dominant, upper chest, fast breathing pattern will put us in a state of 'fight or flight'. This can also make us feel breathlness on minimal activity as our diaphragm becomes less involved in each breath, leading to an inability to generate a full, adequate sized breath. Breathing this way all day, coupled perhaps with other physical and emotional triggers, can put our bodies in a sympathetic state, impacting our ability to doze off.

Reduce upper airway resistance and promote airway health

This involves looking at barriers to nose breathing, including any structural changes to the nose, mouth, and airway, to promote and train nasal breathing. We work closely with other professionals who help target structural aspects, however a simple programme of airway hygiene, nasal rehabilitation, and breathing pattern re-educxation (+/- orofacial / oropharangeal execises) works really nicely to transform breathing habits.

Improve breathing muscle strength

There is a wealth of evidence to support inspiratory muscle training (IMT). In particular it decreases shortness of breath, inspiratory muscle fatigue, and the amount of blood flow the inspiratory muscles need. It strengthens the inspiratory muscles and improves diaphragm thickness (McConnell et al 2006, 2004, 2005, 2011, 2013). Overall, there is good research that it improves FVC, FEV1, shortness of breath and quality of life. We like to think of IMT as dumbells for the breathing system - once your pattern is optimal, train it, the benefits are far reaching.


Increased body mass index (BMI), a smoking history, and alcohol consumption are all linked with sleep apnea. We work with people at risk of, or with established sleep apnea, to get moving in a safe and controlled manner, as well as working with our clients to address any risk factors.

Get in touch to book a Breathing MOT with one of our respiratory physio specialists.


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  • McConnell AK, Romer LM. Respiratory muscle training in healthy humans: resolving the controversy. Int J Sports Med. 2004 May;25(4):284-93. doi: 10.1055/s-2004-815827. PMID: 15162248.

  • Turner LA, Mickleborough TD, McConnell AK, Stager JM, Tecklenburg-Lund S, Lindley MR. Effect of inspiratory muscle training on exercise tolerance in asthmatic individuals. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2011 Nov;43(11):2031-8. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e31821f4090. PMID: 21502887.

  • McConnell, A. K., Lee M. Romer, and P. Weiner. "Inspiratory muscle training in obstructive lung disease." Breathe 2.1 (2005): 38-49.


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