WHETHER it is the tossing and turning for hours in the apprehension of daylight or finding yourself counting endless sheep, a breathing technique could help you fall asleep quickly.
The 4-7-8 breathing technique was developed by doctor Andrew Weil, who refers to it as a “natural tranquilliser for the nervous system” that can be used at any time in the day, especially at night to clear the mind.
When practiced regularly, Dr Weil said, it is possible that this technique could help some people fall asleep in a shorter period of time.
How does it work?
Breathing techniques are designed to bring the body into a state of deep relaxation. Specific patterns that involve holding the breath for a period of time allow your body to replenish oxygen levels.
From the lungs outward, techniques like 4-7-8 can give your organs and tissues a much-needed oxygen boost.
READ MORE: Eric Clapton unsure ‘how long he will go on’ due to health
Relaxation practices also help bring the body back into balance and regulate the fight-or-flight response we feel when we are stressed.
This is particularly useful if you are experiencing sleeplessness due to anxiety or worries about what happened during the day – or what might happen tomorrow. Rushing thoughts and concerns can keep us all from being able to rest well.
The 4-7-8 technique forces the mind and body to focus on regulating the breath, rather than replaying your worries when you lie down at night.
Health clinicians claim the technique can pacify a racing heart or comfort frazzled nerves.
How to do it
To practice 4-7-8 breathing when trying to fall asleep, lying down is best. If you would like to practice the technique during the day, find a quiet, comfortable space to sit down in.
Prepare for the practice by resting the tip of your tongue against the roof of your mouth. You will need to keep your tongue in place throughout the practice. Exhaling during 4-7-8 breathing can be easier for some people when they purse their lips.
The following steps should all be carried out in the cycle of one breath:
First, let your lips part. Make a whooshing sound, exhaling completely through your mouth.
Next, close your lips, inhaling silently through your nose as you count to four in your head.
Then, for seven seconds, hold your breath.
Make another whooshing exhale from your mouth for eight seconds.
When you inhale again, you initiate a new cycle of breath. Practice this pattern for four full breaths.
One recent study in Health Science Journal identifies some of the potential health benefits of deep breathing techniques, particularly for deep breathing from the diaphragm:
These studies suggest that six weeks of practicing pranayamic breathing may have a positive impact on a person’s heart rate variability which will enable them to sleep faster.
Over time and with repeated practice, Dr Weil explained that the 4-7-8 technique can help your immune system and can suppress other health problems, including high blood pressure, depression and anxiety.