Human beings require sleep in order to be able to carry out their tasks efficiently and so that they can remain of sound health, both mentally and physically. Dr. Andrew Weil is a Harvard-trained medical doctor who focuses on holistic health. He has a staunch faith that getting the best sleep is as simple as breathing in and breathing out. Yes, there are a number of sleep aids, however, they are costly and are not long-term solutions to the sleep deprivation problem that we all are facing.
According to Dr. Weil, “Breathing strongly influences physiology and thought processes, including moods. By simply focusing your attention on your breathing and without doing anything to change it, you can move in the direction of relaxation.” Using this philosophy he has created the 4-7-8 Breathing Exercise. The exercise is also known as ‘The Relaxing Breath’ and promotes better sleep. It has been based on pranayama, which is an ancient Indian practice that translates into ‘regulation of breath’.
Kevin Meehan, a holistic practitioner and founder of Meehan Formulations in Jackson, Wyo., said, “Doing so equates into a better preservation of the bicarbonate pool; our reservoirs for helping maintain an appropriate pH balance.”
The technique is quite simple and doesn’t really require any time at all. It can be broken down into five steps and can be performed in any position. When learning the exercise, however, it is recommended that you sit with your back straight. According to Weil’s explanation, “place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth and keep it there through the entire exercise. You will be exhaling through your mouth around your tongue; try pursing your lips slightly if this seems awkward.”
Once you’ve done that, simply follow the following five steps.
- Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
- Hold your breath for a count of seven.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
- This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.
As per Weil, the most crucial part of this exercise is holding your breath for eight seconds. Keeping the breath in allows for oxygen to fill up your lungs and then circulate throughout the body. This produces a relaxing effect in the body.
Now the million-dollar question; why does this sleep hack work? It works because it helps in quieting the mind and thus in discarding of preoccupying thoughts. It would require you practicing it twice a day for two months before you’ll be able to master the technique and then use it for falling asleep in under a minute. Once mastered, it is quite useful and helps people in dealing with the stress and anxiety in their life.