Imagine if sleeping was as easy as breathing. There will be no tossing and turning. No more listening to nightly podcasts. No more sleeping aids. No counting sheep.
You will only need to lie down on your bed, get into your most comfortable position, and then slowly, quietly, snooze away.
Dr. Andrew Weil, M.D. says it’s possible. The man behind what is now known as the 4-7-8 Breathing Exercise emphasizes that breathing can be a tool for an improved sleep, and ultimately, for an improved health. "Breathing strongly influences physiology and thought processes, including moods," he said in a blog post called The Art and Science of Breathing. "By simply focusing your attention on your breathing and without doing anything to change it, you can move in the direction of relaxation."
It was the philosophy he used in the 4-7-8 breathing exercise, which is also called "The Relaxing Breath." Rooted from Pranayama – an ancient Indian practice – this exercise was meant to calm the nervous system, warding off stress and anxiety while preparing the body to relax and rest. "In Yoga breathing, you have to keep the tip of the tongue behind the upper front teeth," Weil explained. "You breathe in through your nose quietly and blow out air forcefully through your mouth making a whoosh sound."
The exercise only takes 30 seconds, he adds. The trick behind it is simple:
This, he explained, was one breath. The cycle has to be repeated three more times for a total of four breaths.
Described as a "natural tranquilizer for the nervous system," this simple breathing technique charges the lungs fully with air and allows more oxygen into the body. In turn, this promotes a state of calm. It is helpful for lowering stress levels, anxiety, and can even combat symptoms of insomnia. Some may even use this practice to quell cravings and manage anger.
In order to maximise this technique, this has to be done two times a day. Once this breathing exercise has been incorporated into your habit, it can become a wonderful way of falling asleep. "It is utterly simple," said Weil of the 4-7-8 Breathing Technique. "[It] takes almost no time, requires no equipment and can be done anywhere."
Proper breathing has been proven to positively influence the heart, brain, the immune system, and the rest of our bodily functions. Its immediate effects are calming; it balances the blood pressure and even altering the blood's pH levels. But, most importantly, good breathing techniques train the body's reaction to stressful situations and reduces the production of harmful hormones.
Tonight, as you change in your silk pyjamas and head off to bed, why not try this breathing technique and reap its benefits?