Insomnia is a frustrating condition with a multi-million dollar industry attached – and there’s no guaranteed cure.
Adding to the pills, herbs and mental exercises is a new technique from Dr Andrew Weil, a scientist from Harvard University who claims getting a good night’s sleep is all about breathing.
Dr Weil’s technique is called the ‘4-7-8 Breathing Exercise’, and it’s quick, requires no equipment and costs nothing.
Better still, Dr Weil claims the technique can also be used to help with bouts of anxiety, food cravings and generally upsetting situations.
A sleep specialist tells The New Daily similar breathing techniques were often used in treating insomniacs, but users should not feel they need to stick to the designated seconds.
How to do it
The technique involves inhaling through your nose for a count of four, holding that breath for a count of seven, then exhaling slowly through your mouth for a count of eight.
“Try and keep your tongue touching the roof of your mouth while performing the technique,” Dr Weiss says in an instructional video.
When you blow out at the end, you should make a “whooshing sound”, blowing forcefully so that your lips flare out.
He advises repeating for no more than four breath cycles in your first month, before moving up to a maximum of eight cycles.
Apparently holding your breath is the most important step, as that’s when oxygen floods your lungs and bloodstream, giving a natural feeling of calm.
Watch the video below for instructions on the technique:
‘Go at your own pace’
Delwyn Bartlett, a sleep researcher and clinician at Woolcock Institute of Medical Research, tells The New Daily she often uses similar breathing techniques on patients having trouble sleeping.
“Any breathing techniques are useful because they help people calm down, but it all depends on the person’s lung capacity,” Ms Bartlett says.
“If someone doesn’t have the capacity to breathe out for eight seconds they may become even more anxious and rigid, and that won’t help them sleep.”
Ms Bartlett suggests her patients try deep breathing at their own pace, without the pressure of adhering to a specific number of seconds.
“Do whatever’s comfortable for you.”
Ms Bartlett emphasises that it isn’t normally one technique that answers the prayers of insomniacs, but a combination of different ones.
On his website, Dr Weil explains the 4-7-8 technique can be used as more than just an insomnia cure.
“Use it whenever anything upsetting happens – before you react,” he writes.
It appears the technique can be used to assist you in just about any situation that requires calming the mind and body – even dealing with food cravings.
“Use it whenever you are aware of internal tension.”
Dr Weil also claims the technique works for mild to moderate cases of anxiety, helping you to focus on breath rather than a stressful situation at hand.