It’s almost midnight. You know you have a busy day waiting for you the day after, but your brain is not tired and doesn’t want to cooperate.
The frustration rises, and thus your chances of falling asleep decrease even more.
If you had one superpower at that moment, would it be to fall asleep instantly?
More and more people have sleep problems and suffer from insomnia. What could be behind it?
Of course, this varies from person to person, but one common reason is the modern lifestyle that more and more of us lead. We try to do as much as possible during the day – work, study, see friends and family, eat well, work out, etc. The list could be pretty long.
On top of that, thanks to the Internet and social media, we are exposed to new information and impressions all the time, whether we like it or not.
Even though this new way of life is really good in some aspects, it can also be really tiring at times to try to keep up in every way and it becomes more and more difficult to wind down in the evening and get a good nights sleep.
Luckily, it doesn’t have to be this way. You can still continue with your lifestyle while sleeping well at night.
However, in order to do this, you need to be able to reach an inner peace and wind down when it’s time to go to bed.
One of the best ways to accomplish this is through various meditation and breathing techniques. One technique that has shown the best results is the 4-7-8 breathing technique.
- What Is the 4-7-8 Breathing Technique?
- How Can Breathing Techniques Help?
- How Does the 4-7-8 Breathing Technique Work?
- Is this Technique Really Effective?
- Other Tips and Tricks
- Lower the Temperature
- Hide your Clock
- Try Reverse Psychology
- Make your Bedroom Smell Nice
- Let Water Help You
- Stop Napping
- Pay Attention to What You Eat
- Exercise More
- Change Your Sleep Position
- Think About Happy Things
- Listen to Relaxing Music
- Pay Attention To When You Eat
- Avoid Electronics And Read A Book
- Practice Yoga And Meditation
What Is the 4-7-8 Breathing Technique?
The 4-7-8 breathing technique, also called “the Relaxing Breathe”, is an ancient breathing pattern that has been used for a very long time to help people relax and fall asleep more easily.
It’s based on an old yogic technique called pranayama. Later on, Dr. Andrew Weil developed this breathing pattern and explained it in depth.
Pranayama is an ancient Indian practice which means “regulation of breath”. Weil describes it as “a natural tranquilizer for the nervous system” as it helps the body to get rid of stress, anxiety, and insomnia.
But instead of taking a pill, it’s a completely natural and free method that you can practice at any time.
How Can Breathing Techniques Help?
Have you ever been so upset that you can barely breathe, only to hear your best friend saying “take a deep breath, it will be fine”.
At that moment, you’re probably thinking that your friend doesn’t know what he/she is talking about and that the advice couldn’t be more stupid and more useless. However, your friend has a point!
When we forget to breathe or don’t do it properly, our brain and body don’t get the needed amount of oxygen, which makes it difficult to think straight. Irregular breathing can have an impact on many different aspects of life, including sleeping.
So, by learning to breathe “properly” we could get rid of our insomnia.
Breathing techniques bring the body into a state of relaxation. By holding the breath for a certain amount of time your body gets the oxygen boost it needs to fall asleep. Breathing patterns are particularly helpful if the reason behind your insomnia is stress or anxiety.
So, let’s get busy!
How Does the 4-7-8 Breathing Technique Work?
This breathing technique can be done both sitting up and lying down. If the goal is to fall asleep, lying down is best. When doing the exercise, the tip of your tongue should rest against the roof of your mouth, just behind your top front teeth.
It takes practice to keep it there while breathing, so don’t worry if you don’t get it right at once – just keep on practicing.
When you’ve positioned the tongue, here’s how to proceed. I’ll explain in four simple steps.
Step 1: Part your lips and exhale completely through your mouth while making a whoosh sound.
Step 2: Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose. While inhaling, count to four in your head.
Step 3: Hold your breath and count to seven.
Step 4: Exhale completely through your mouth while making a whoosh sound and counting to eight.
These four steps are one breath. You should repeat the cycle four times. According to Weil, the most important step is holding the breath for eight seconds. By doing so we fill the lungs with oxygen which continues to circulate throughout the body and has a relaxing effect on the entire body.
Is this Technique Really Effective?
Yes, this technique really is effective. However, you have to bear in mind that you have to practice until you perfect the technique. Only then you will be able to fall asleep within a minute. Practice it a couple of times per day – you will notice results soon.
After some time you will not only be able to fall asleep much faster, it will also help you deal with anxiety and stress!
Other Tips and Tricks
Until you perfect this method you can try to combine it with some other tips and tricks. Continue reading and check out some of them below!
1. Lower the Temperature
Did you know that your body temperature plays a role in the circadian rhythm? Namely, when you’re falling asleep the body temperature drops.
So, if your room is too hot you’re not sending the brain a signal that it’s time to sleep. The bedroom temperature should be around 60 to 67 F for best effect. Of course, this is individual and can vary a lot, so feel free to experiment until you find a temperature that works for you.
2. Hide your Clock
“1:03. Okay, so if I fall asleep now, I will sleep for 6 hours. 1:37. Okay, now I’m down to 5.5 hours. 2:02. This is bad, only 5 hours now.” Does this sound familiar? Do you suddenly get very interested in math and numbers when you can’t sleep?
Do yourself a favor and hide all clocks, watches, and phones displaying the time! This just increases stress and makes it harder to fall asleep. And by now you know that stress only decreases your chances of falling asleep. Instead of focusing on the time, focus on your breathing.
3. Try Reverse Psychology
Instead of doing everything you can to fall asleep, why not try to do everything you can not to fall asleep? If you’re like me, reverse psychology will do wonders! As soon as you know that you shouldn’t fall asleep you will want nothing else.
One study shows that participants who were instructed to stay awake fell asleep faster than those who were told to fall asleep.
4. Make your Bedroom Smell Nice
Certain scents make us relax and fall asleep more easily. One of those scents is lavender. It is proved that lavender helps us relax, lowers our blood pressure and therefore, makes us fall asleep more easily. Other aromas with the same effects are chamomile, bergamot, jasmine, rose, and sandalwood.
In order to fall asleep faster, you can make your own pillow mist. Combine 1/2 cup of water, 1/2 teaspoon of witch hazel and 4-5 drops of the essential oil of your choice in a spray bottle and shake it up. Spray the mist over your pillow before going to bed.
5. Let Water Help You
It doesn’t come as a surprise that water can be so healing considering the fact that our body consists of 60 % water. And guess what; it can help you fall asleep too!
The first method you can try is to take a warm shower right before bed. This might sound confusing given the fact that the room and body should be a bit colder in order to fall asleep.
But, if you take a warm shower and then step out into cooler air, your body temperature will drop faster. This will prepare your body to sleep faster and make it understand it is time to sleep.
The other method is the complete opposite and works with cold water. It is especially helpful if you can’t sleep due to anxiety or stress.
What you should, in that case, is to dip your face in a bowl of very cold water for about half a minute. This triggers a phenomenon called the Mammalian Dive Rexlex. The cold water lowers your heart rate and blood pressure and thus makes you more relaxed and ready to sleep.
6. Stop Napping
People with sleeping disorders tend to nap during the day as they don’t get enough sleep during the night. However, this leads to a vicious circle.
Napping affects your circadian rhythm and disrupts your sleep at night. Even though scientists don’t completely agree on this; some say it’s good to nap, while others claim it affects your sleep quality badly, you should test what is true for you.
Try eliminating naps for some time, or make them much shorter and earlier in the day, and see if your sleep quality improves.
7. Pay Attention to What You Eat
A good diet is important for so many things, your sleep included. So, by eating healthy, well-balanced meals you could have a better nights sleep. For example, it is shown high-carb meals can affect your sleep in a bad way.
On the other hand, antioxidants such as (broccoli, artichokes, kale, blueberries, raspberries etc.) improve your health and thus, your sleep. And if you are eating a high-carb meal, do it at least four hours before bed, so that your body has time to digest it.
8. Exercise More
Sometimes the reason behind insomnia is as simple as too little exercise during the day. In order to be tired and fall asleep faster, you should normally get rid of all your energy. So if you only sit at your office during the day and then come home and watch TV, it’s really no wonder you can’t fall asleep.
Exercise boosts the production of serotonin in the brain and decreases stress by lowering the levels of cortisol, the stress hormone.
But, as with everything, it is important to maintain a good balance and not have a very intense exercise routine right before going to sleep. Instead, focus on more walks, jogs etc. that will help you get rid of energy and sleep better.
9. Change Your Sleep Position
Most people sleep in one out of these three positions: back, stomach or side. It is often considered that people who sleep on their back have worse sleep quality, as this position could lead to blocked airways, snoring and apnea.
According to the many studies, the optimal position is the side position. However, this is all very individual, so you have to try your way. If you have sleep problems, try changing your position and see if it works.
10. Think About Happy Things
As you might have figured by now, insomnia often occurs due to stress. So, instead of thinking about work, relationships or whatever makes you stressed and anxious, try thinking about things that make you happy.
This technique is called “imaginary distraction”.
Try to think about places or people that make you peaceful, for example, your favorite beach or a cottage in the middle of nowhere. Or why not a nice restaurant or a nightclub, if that’s more your kind of thing (like mine). It doesn’t have to be calm and quiet as long as it makes you peaceful.
11. Listen to Relaxing Music
Who doesn’t love music? And what better way to fix a problem than with a thing you like! It is proven that music drastically improves the sleep quality and makes it easier to fall asleep.
The music doesn’t have to be classical, but it should be music with a slow rhythm of 60 to 80 beats per minute. Various meditation music can also be really helpful and make you more prepared for a good nights sleep.
12. Pay Attention To When You Eat
According to science, you shouldn’t eat at least 2 to 3 hours before going to bed. Going to sleep right after having dinner will keep your body busy with digestion instead of using its energy sources for your nighttime recovery. However, if you remain awake until late, and you have had your last big meal about 4 to 5 hours ago, having a healthy snack is completely fine.
If you make the time you have dinner more consistent, you will likely have better sleep as well. Eating late often leads to mental exhaustion, nightmares and a lack of energy. All in all, paying attention to when you eat will help you regulate your sleep and will make falling asleep much easier.
13. Avoid Electronics And Read A Book
It was found that you shouldn’t look at any screen before going to bed. Therefore, in order to fall asleep healthily, turn off your TV, computer and keep your phone away in order to relax your eyes before bedtime. Looking at devices in the night can reduce our melatonin secretion which can disrupt our sleeping patterns.
Instead, a good old book will surely be of help in these cases. Switch your before-bedtime-phonetime to reading time, and you will soon notice a difference in how easier it is to fall asleep without your smart phone.
14. Practice Yoga And Meditation
If you’ve had troubles falling asleep lately, practicing yoga and meditation 30-40 min before you planned to go to bed will surely help you a lot.
Yoga is known to be a great physical activity that relaxes the body and the mind. Try having an even short Yoga session of 15 minutes, and then meditate for as long as you can. Meditation will relax your body and ease your mind. After meditating, your sleep should come to you naturally.
You are all set with techniques, tips, and tricks now! But remember – it doesn’t happen overnight. Just keep practicing your breathing and combine it with other techniques until you find the best method for you.
We’re all different, but we can all find the right technique that will help us fall asleep. Start practicing tonight!