Having trouble getting to sleep? Here’s a simple exercise that can have you nodding off in under a minute. Famous health expert Dr. Andrew Weil is promoting a breathing technique he calls 4-7-8, a yogic practice he says alters your body’s physiology and state of mind. It may be the easiest and least expensive way around to reach deep relaxation and fall asleep quickly.
How to Perform the 4-7-8 Breathing Technique:
Assume a position that is comfortable for you, whether you are sitting, standing or lying down. If you are sitting, straighten your back.
Place the tip of your tongue behind the upper front teeth, and let it remain there throughout the exercise.
Breathe out completely through your mouth, while making a “whooshing” sound.
Breath in silently through your nose to the count of 4.
Hold your breath, counting to 7.
Breathe out through your mouth, again making the “whooshing” sound, counting to 8.
This is one cycle. Repeat the cycle 4 times. If you are in bed, you may fall asleep before you complete the final repetition.
You’ll note the exhalation is twice as long as the inhalation. Maintain the 4-7-8 ratio throughout the exercise. You can adjust the counting to your breathing. You may find you need to start by counting faster, then progress to a slower rhythm as you learn the routine. The speed is not important to the technique; the positive effects are achieved through the ratio.
Dr. Weil also recommends this technique for stress, to help you better deal with your emotions and maintain your inner balance. Repeat the exercise at least twice, in the morning and evening. Always do 4 cycles at at time. After a month, you can increase to as many as 8 cycles.
The exercise works because as you extend your inhalation, you take in more oxygen. Holding your breath helps the oxygen travel throughout the body. As you release the breath in a controlled manner, you release carbon dioxide.
You will feel your heartbeat slowing and you may also feel slightly light-headed. As the parasympathetic part of the brain is activated, you become increasingly relaxed and calm. Use this technique when you want to fall asleep, if you awaken during the night, whenever you feel angry, anxious or afraid, and any time you need to relax.