According to experts, a quick breathing exercise that takes less than a minute to perform could help you fall asleep more quickly and have a better night’s sleep overall.
Dr. Andrew Weil, a certified physician and the founder of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, created the practice known as 4-7-8 breathing.
Weil created the method, which is based on yoga breathing exercises, to help people manage stress and anxiety.
However, specialists told Newsweek that the method can also be helpful for those who have difficulties falling asleep.
Why, despite being exhausted, can’t I sleep?
Our physical and mental health depend on sleep because it allows our bodies to repair themselves so we can wake up feeling rejuvenated.
However, due to sleep disorders, physical ailments, or mental health problems, significant parts of the population experience insufficient sleep, poor sleep quality, or difficulty falling asleep.
The American Sleep Association estimates that 50 to 70 million adult Americans suffer from a sleep disturbance, with insomnia being the most prevalent type.
Adults experience chronic insomnia in about 10% of cases, and many more experience occasional problems. Meanwhile, obstructive sleep apnea, a sleep disease marked by recurrent blockage of the airway while sleeping, affects over 25 million adults in the United States.
In addition, less than the minimum advised quantity of seven hours of sleep is reported by 35% of people during a normal 24-hour period.
What does the breathing technique 4-7-8 mean?
Weil claimed in a video demonstration of the technique, “The 4-7-8 breath that I teach is the most potent relaxing method that I’ve discovered.” It takes very little time, costs nothing, and is very easy to do.
How to correctly practice the technique is as follows:
Step 1: Take a slow, four-count inhalation through your nose.
Step 2: Exhale slowly while counting to seven.
Step 3: Forcefully and loudly exhale air via your mouth.
Step 4: Carry out this procedure a total of four times.
It is not essential that you do the procedure quickly. Maintaining the 4-7-8 ratio between the counts is crucial.
To really benefit from this approach, according to Weil, you must use it frequently—at least twice each day.
Weil added in the video, “You can do it more frequently than twice a day, but never more than four breath cycles at one time.
Weil states that it could take four to six weeks before you begin to experience any physiological changes as a result of the practice.
He said that over time, it could aid in lowering blood pressure, heart rate, digestion, and circulation, as well as aiding in sleep.
He claimed that it was the most successful anti-anxiety method he had ever discovered. Patients with the most severe forms of panic disorder that I’ve taught it to eventually brought that under control by merely using this breathing method.
Sleeping and breathing
Changing our breathing can have a significant impact on our physical and emotional moods, according to Patrick McKeown, a renowned expert on breathing and sleep and the author of blockbuster books like The Oxygen Advantage.
McKeown told Newsweek that breathing exercises allow one to down-regulate and up-regulate, giving us control over how our bodies and minds respond to outside stimuli. Functional breathing is essential for good mental and physical health. As we learn to change states, knowing which exercises to practice might change our lives. It is not necessary to take a deep breath. It goes well beyond that!”
According to McKeown, our breathing patterns while we sleep are influenced by how we breathe during the day.
“Sleep problems, such as insomnia, snoring, and sleep apnea, will be more likely if our breathing patterns indicate that we are breathing via the mouth, more quickly, and from the upper chest (rather than from the diaphragm),” the expert said.
4-8 for insomniac anxiety
According to McKeown, longer exhalation can help trigger the body’s relaxation response in those with functional breathing who can lower their respiratory rate to three breaths per minute, as is possible during the 4-7-8 exercise.
He explained that when the rest and digest response is active, one feels drowsy and has more saliva in their mouths. A better gas exchange from the lungs to the blood might occur when breathing rate is slowed. When people use this breathing method before bed, they will not only have an easier time falling asleep, but their sleep will also be considerably better, which, over time, will result in a higher quality of life overall.”
Clinical psychologist Michael Breus told Newsweek that he is a “big fan” of the 4-7-8 breathing method. Breus is a fellow of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and a diplomate of the American Board of Sleep Medicine.
Breus claims that the method brings the heart rate down to where it should be at night when people are attempting to sleep.
Newsweek quoted Breus as saying, “I have accepted this strategy, as both a ‘help you fall asleep’ but more of a ‘help you get back to sleep’ method. “The majority of people are unaware of this fact, yet a heart rate of 60 or lower is required to enter an unconscious condition. So, this can help you fall back asleep if you wake up in the middle of the night feeling anxious after checking the time.”
Breus added that there is ample evidence to support the idea that diaphragmatic breathing reduces anxiety, which has been connected to problems getting to sleep and staying asleep.
Most people don’t use their entire lung capacity unless they are engaging in vigorous physical exercise, which is referred to as being a “shallow breather,” according to Breus. “To receive the necessary amount of air to survive, this form of breathing takes more breaths per minute. Increased heart rate = more breaths per minute, so we know we need to lower it to 60, which is typically lower than where people typically sit (unless you’re an athlete).”
According to Breus, breathing in for four counts will gradually fill the lungs; holding for seven allows for maximum oxygen exchange; and breathing out for eight forces all excess carbon dioxide out of the lungs and permits more fresh, highly oxygenated air to enter the system, reducing the amount of work the heart must do. The heart rate decreases as a result of this.
Not everyone will be able to practice 4-7-8 breathing, according to McKeown, so it’s vital to keep that in mind.
“People who have trouble breathing already feel what we refer to as “air hunger.” It will be impossible for them to practice breathing at a rate of three breaths per minute, and it may even interrupt their breathing “explained he.
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