Are you one of the four out of five people with a Migraine who struggles with sleep? Have you tried the first-line offenses – a hot bath, lavender essential oils, chamomile tea – and still find yourself struggling to fall asleep fast?
Sleep aids such as earplugs, eye masks, sleeping pills, and white noise are all used to help you fall asleep soundly. However, these sleep aids can be costly and oftentimes provide short-term solutions as sleep disorders and sleep deprivation continue to interfere with a good night’s rest. Dr. Andrew Weil, a Harvard trained medical doctor with a focus on holistic health, believes getting the best sleep ever is as simple as breathing in and breathing out.
The 4-7-8 breathing technique is a breathing pattern developed by Dr. Andrew Weil. It’s based on an ancient yogic technique called pranayama, which helps practitioners gain control over their breathing.
How does the 4-7-8 breathing technique work?
- Breathe in slowly through your nose for four seconds.
- Hold your breath for seven seconds.
- Exhale for eight seconds.
- Repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.
All the while, relax your jaw muscles and keep your mouth closed while inhaling through your nose. When exhaling, practice releasing any tension from your body by pushing air through your lips so it sounds like a gust of wind. The tip of your tongue should rest on the roof of your mouth, directly behind your upper front teeth.
Weil emphasizes the most important part of this 4-7-8 breathing process is holding your breath for eight seconds. This is because keeping the breath in will allow oxygen to fill your lungs and then circulate throughout the body. It is this that produces a relaxing effect on the body.
The focus is important during performing this technique. It’s easy to let your mind wander to the events of the day, but when you notice your thoughts straying, force yourself to turn back to the 4-7-8 breathing technique.
The 4-7-8 technique works because when it comes to your nervous system, breathing is special. It’s both an automatic reflex and a voluntary action. The way your breathing speeds up when you’re scared and slows down when you’re calm, all without your control. Stressful situations can trigger other automatic reflexes, such as an increase in heart rate and the release of stress hormones. But because breathing is part of that automatic system, consciously slowing your breathing can also slow down those other stress reactions. The 4:7:8 breathing ratio forces you to slow your breathing, which helps you fall asleep in a shorter period of time and sleep longer through the night.
You may find yourself feeling mildly light-headed after doing this. That’s actually a sign it is working, and it will quickly pass. Feel free to do this as often as you want, but you may need to get used to it first.
I recently learned this technique from a local psychologist who specializes in stress, panic, and anxiety. I find it tremendously helpful whenever I’m feeling irrationally worried or anxious.
If you’re conscious of your health, it’s a good idea to put away your smartphone, crank some pink noise, practice your 4-7-8 breathing, and get yourself to sleep.