On average, it takes around 15 to 30 minutes to fall asleep. However, it can take much longer to relax into slumber if you’re worried, upset or angry. An ancient Indian breathing technique popularized by holistic health author Andrew Weil, M.D. offers an easy and reliable way to fall asleep. Many who have tried it report that it allows them to drift off in just one minute.
The 4-7-8 Exercise
The 4-7-8 exercise is a yogic breathing technique that is easy to learn but requires regular practice. It can be done standing, sitting or lying down. To start with, try it while sitting with your feet on the floor and your back straight. Place the tip of your tongue just behind your upper front teeth and keep it there as you do the exercise. According to yogic practice, this completes an energy circuit. Dr. Weil recommends that you make an audible whooshing sound while exhaling, though you may prefer to perform the exercise in silence when in bed with a partner.
- Purse your lips slightly and exhale all the breath in your lungs through your mouth and around your tongue.
- Close your mouth an inhale through your nose while mentally counting to four.
- Hold your breath while mentally counting to seven.
- Exhale all your breath through your mouth around your tongue while mentally counting to eight.
- This process constitutes one relaxing breath cycle. Repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four relaxing breaths.
When performing the exercise you should count at a speed that’s comfortable for you. The important thing is to count at a consistent pace during each phase. If you feel lightheaded or have difficulty holding your breath to the count of seven, speed up your counting for the entire exercise. As you practice, you’ll get used to deep breathing and can gradually slow down your counting rate.
Some bloggers claim that this exercise instantly knocked them out the first time they used it to try to get to sleep. However, most people require weeks of practice before they can experience an immediate sleep-inducing effect. According to Dr. Weil, you should perform the exercise a minimum of twice daily. Try doing it before sleep and at another time during the day when you want to relax. You can also do it whenever you wake during the night and want to get back to sleep apnea risk factors.
For the first month, don’t perform more than four relaxing breath cycles at one time. Later you can extend the process to eight cycles. Each cycle only takes a couple of minutes, so it should be easy to work it into your daily schedule. Dr. Weil emphasizes that it’s the regularity of doing the exercise that brings the benefits, not the intensity or the amount of times you do it.
A natural tranquilizer
When you first try the exercise, don’t attempt to influence your breath, but be aware of it and any changes that you feel. You will probably become more relaxed. The more you practice, the deeper the feelings of calm and serenity will become. The 4-7-8 exercise acts as a natural tranquilizer for the nervous system. By imposing certain rhythms on the breath voluntarily, you gradually induce them in the involuntary system. During the phase when you hold your breath, your blood pressure and heart rate drop significantly. The 4-7-8 exercise is especially effective for helping you get to sleep if De-Stress Instantly or worries are keeping you awake. When you’re anxious, breathing becomes rapid, shallow and irregular. By deliberately breathing deeply, slowly and rhythmically, you can calm down your racing thoughts.
Other ways to use the 4-7-8 exercise
The 4-7-8 exercise doesn’t just help you get to sleep. Once you develop the technique through practice, you will find that it is a useful tool you can apply in a variety of situations. When someone or something makes you angry, go through eight relaxing breath cycles before you respond. It will calm you down before you do something impulsive that you might regret. If you’re trying to lose weight or stop smoking, perform the 4-7-8 exercise whenever you have a craving for a sugary treat or a cigarette. By the time you’ve done eight cycles, the craving will have diminished. Use the exercise to improve your mood any time you feel nervous, irritable or upset.
More tips to help you fall asleep faster
- Make sure your bedroom environment is dark, cool, quiet and comfortable
- Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day in order to synchronize your biological clock.
- Turn off the TV and computer at least an hour before bedtime. Staring at luminous displays suppresses the production of the sleep hormone melatonin.
- Don’t go to bed either hungry or full and avoid caffeine in the evenings.
- Help your body and mind to wind down with relaxing activities such as reading a novel or listening to soothing music.
- Include physical activity in your daily routine, but don’t exercise too close to bedtime.