Fall Asleep In Under 1 Minute
by Alina Gonzalez
Sleepless and Stressed
After day three of lying awake until the wee hours of the night, a friend told me I needed to try the “4-7-8” breathing trick.
She happens to be a licensed wellness practitioner who studies meditation, stress, and breathing techniques, and told me it would change my life. You simply breathe in through your nose for four seconds, hold your breath for seven seconds, and exhale through your mouth for eight seconds. She explained that the studied combination of numbers has a chemical-like effect on our brains, and would slow my heart rate and soothe me right to sleep that night. “It works,” she told me. “It’s crazy.”
People who are stressed or anxious are actually chronically under-breathing, because stressed people breathe shortly and shallowly, and often even unconsciously hold their breath. By extending your inhale to a count of four, you are forcing yourself to take in more oxygen, allowing the oxygen to affect your bloodstream by holding your breath for seven seconds, and then emitting carbon dioxide from your lungs by exhaling steadily for eight seconds. The technique will effectively slow your heart rate and increase oxygen in your bloodstream, and may even make you feel slightly lightheaded which contributes to the mild sedative-like effect. It will instantly relax your heart, mind, and overall central nervous system because you are controlling the breath versus continuing to breathe short, shallow gasps of air.
How it Can Work For You
Mindful breathing practices have been a part of yoga and Eastern wellness modalities for centuries, but aren’t as popular in Western culture. The most well-known champion of the 4-7-8 breathing technique in the U.S., who is somewhat responsible for the prevalence that the technique does have amongst integrative medicine practitioners, yogis, and those in search of stress reduction and overall relaxation, is Harvard-educated Dr Andrew Weil
Though I’m not promising or claiming (nor does Dr Weil) that practicing this breathing technique can fight disease or provide clinical benefits, I can tell you one thing: If it affects you like it did me, it will help you fall asleep way faster. Not only is it free, it also works for a number of different instances. In addition to using it to fall asleep in a pinch, you can practice it if you wake up in the middle of the night and find yourself thinking about something you have to do the next day, in order to fall back asleep; if you are nervous before an event, if you are angry about something and want to calm down.