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Perspective ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Psychiatry | doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2018.00780

Self-Regulation of Breathing as an Adjunctive Treatment of Insomnia

 Ravinder Jerath1*,  Connor Beveridge1 and Vernon A. Barnes2
  • 1Dept of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Charitable Medical Healthcare Foundation, United States
  • 2Augusta University, United States

Sleep is a quiescent behavioral state during which complex homeostatic functions essential to health and wellbeing occur. Insomnia is a very common psychiatric disorder leading to a myriad of detrimental effects including loss of concentration, memory, and performance as well as disease. Current pharmaceutical treatments can be expensive, impairing, unhealthy, and habit-forming. Relaxation techniques such as meditation target the brain and body in contrast to pharmaceutical interventions which solely target neurotransmitter systems in the brain. In this article we present a viewpoint on the treatment of insomnia that techniques of slow, deep breathing (0.1 Hz) in adjunct to sleep hygiene and relaxation therapies may be highly effective in initiating sleep as well as facilitating falling back asleep. The autonomic nervous system is integral to sleep initiation, maintenance, and disruption. Understanding the relationship between the autonomic nervous system and sleep physiology along with the nature of sleep itself remains a challenge to modern science. We present this perspective in light of a prevailing ‘dysevolution’ theory on the pathology of insomnia that proposes hyper-arousal characterized in part by chronic sympathetic hyperactivation and/or parasympathetic hypoactivation disrupts normal sleep onset latency, sleep quality, and sleep duration. We additionally discuss physiological mechanisms responsible for the effectiveness of the breathing treatment we describe. A better understanding of these mechanisms and autonomic pathologies of insomnia may provide support for the effectiveness of such techniques and provide relief to sufferers of this health epidemic.

Keywords: insomnia, Autonomic Nervous System, Slow breathing, Cardiorespiratory synchronization, Hyper arousal, Evolutionary mismatch hypothesis, paced breathing

Received: 07 Sep 2018; Accepted: 27 Dec 2018.

Edited by:

Lino Nobili, Department of Neuroscience, Rehabilitation, Ophthalmology, Genetics, Maternal and Child Health, University of Genova, Italy

Reviewed by:

Pablo Torterolo, Universidad de la República, Uruguay
Bjoern Rasch, Université de Fribourg, Switzerland  

Copyright: © 2018 Jerath, Beveridge and Barnes. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Ravinder Jerath, Charitable Medical Healthcare Foundation, Dept of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Augusta, 30904, Georgia, United States,