This simple exercise can help you sleep soundly and manage stressful situations in a better way. Promoted by Harvard educated Dr. Andrew Weil, the breathing technique, known as 4-7-8, changes your body’s physiology and alters your state of mind. This yogic method might be the easiest and cheapest way to achieve some deep relaxation amidst your busy life schedule which will enable you to go to sleep fast.
4-7-8 Breathing Exercise – How to Perform It Do the exercise in a position that is comfortable for you: sitting, standing, lying. If you’re sitting, keep your back straight.
Put the tip of your tongue behind your upper front teeth and keep it there for the duration of the exercise.
Breathe out completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
Breathe in through your nose silently to a count of 4.
Hold your breath and count to 7.
Breathe out through your mouth, making a whoosh sound and count to 8.
This is one cycle. Repeat the cycle 4 times. You might fall asleep before you finish the final repetition.
Note: Exhalation is twice as long as inhalation. It’s important that you maintain the ratio of 4-7-8 throughout the practice. Adjust the counting to your breathing. You might need to start by counting faster, and then progress to a slower rhythm as you get used to the routine. The speed is not important; it’s the ratio that brings the positive effects.
Dr. Weil suggests using this technique also when you’re feeling stressed, so you can deal better with your emotions and produce a more balanced reaction. He advises repeating the exercise at least two times daily, best in the morning and in the evening.
Always do 4 cycles at a time. After one month, this can be increased to up to 8 cycles. With time, when you become familiar with the breathing routine, it will be easier to employ it in challenging daily situations.
How Does It Work? When we feel anxious or stressed, more adrenalin gets released into the blood stream. The heart beat gets quicker and the breathing becomes shallower and faster. You might even hold your breath in an unnatural way.
When you perform the 4-7-8 technique, you extend your inhalation, so you take in more oxygen. When you hold your breath, the oxygen gets to travel around the body, and then you slowly release the carbon dioxide as you breathe out in a controlled manner.
You’ll feel the heart beat slowing down, and you might even experience some gentle light-headedness since the technique works in a sedative-like way. The parasympathetic part of the brain gets activated, making you feel more relaxed and calm.
When to Use 4-7-8?
When trying to fall asleep.
If you wake up during the night.
When you feel angry.
When you feel anxious or scared.
Every time you feel the need to relax.
Here is a video explaining how to perform the 4-7-8 technique:
Other Tricks to Fall Asleep When Your Mind Is Busy We’ve all experienced it at one point or another. You toss and turn in your bed with darkness around you, while your body is exhausted from the same busy day that is making your brain protest the notion of rest. People don’t have to be condemned to a life of unbalanced sleep in today’s society however. There are several ways to hit the kill switch and enter dreamland at the end of a long day.
1. Create a Relaxing Pre-bed Routine The time leading up to bedtime is often hectic, so when people finally get their head to hit the pillow, their brains and bodies are still pumping at full power. Preparing yourself for sleep ahead of time and allowing your body to chill out before sleep will make a restful night much easier. Some people recommend taking at least an hour of your time, more can’t hurt, to easing yourself to sleep.
What you do during this time is completely dependent on your own preferences. Some people enjoy mild body relaxing exercises such as stretching, yoga or meditation. Others sit down with a cup of chamomile tea and listen to mild music. Many read books, as they tend to prepare your brain for the fictional world of dreaming while pulling people from the stressful outside world. Whatever it is that relaxes you, give it a try and monitor how sleep improves.
2. Monitor Substance Intake Sometimes it’s our seemingly harmless daily habits that deprive us of a restful night. Caffeine is of course one of the top contributors to insomnia. If you drink coffee or any other drink with moderate to high caffeine levels in the evening, it could likely prolong your brain’s awakeness through the night.
Try to limit yourself and set a cutoff time for caffeine if you think it might be affecting your sleep. You can drink water to flush your body or try foods with tryptophan, an amino acid that makes you sleepy.
3. Live in the Now In a modern society we tend to live in constant preparation for the future. This is one of the most simplistic yet harrowing contributors to sleep loss. Thinking constantly about what will happen next stirs up anxiety and stress that keeps people in a state of sleepless worry. This can happen from both positive and negative perspectives. The question many people are asking themselves is how to fall asleep when you have things on your mind.
A positive perspective would be exemplified by an excited child on Christmas or the day before their birthday. They’re often so excited that it’s hard for them to catch any Z’s. A more common and stressful perspective is the negative outlook on a demanding millennial age life.
Try not to obsess about what the next day has to hold. It seems easy to do but becomes strangely difficult in a world where we’ve become dependent on a prepared mindset for success. Find some way to busy your mind by observing the immediate moment rather than fixating on the future. Try counting sheep, listening to sounds of nature, or even reminiscing older memories – as long as they aren’t stressful memories of course.
Another common suggestion is to write on a piece of paper a list of all the things that need to be done for tomorrow or the next few days in order of importance and plan your schedule. This will ease your mind and will better enable you to sleep.
If it is obvious that your mind is active and you can’t sleep, then get up and go into another room and sit in dim light, doing something calm and relaxing. The act of getting up and out of bed can help to stop those running thoughts, as lying in bed with a busy mind teaches the body that the bed is a place to continue to be awake and think, and this is what we want to avoid.
There are plenty of different contributors to sleep loss and deprivation, more often than not they are preventable with the right habits. If you experience persistent sleep loss and can’t seem to figure out why, it’s worthwhile to visit your physician and check for underlying medical causes. But before you do that, try a few of the aforementioned tricks for getting better sleep and see if they shut your brain down at the end of a long and stressful day.