Sleep: the struggle is real. You can’t keep your eyes open after lunch at your desk and you definitely can’t keep them closed when you’re lying in bed thinking about all the things you totally should have done when you were trying not to nod off during the day. Well we may have some good news. Science has made a FTW discovery for us insomniacs – a supposedly fool-proof way to fall asleep in under 60 seconds.
When we first read Harvard-trained physician Dr. Andrew Weil’s methods for relaxing the body into sleep, we were doubtful. The stresses of everyday life, coupled with the bright blue lights emitted by smartphones and tablets mean sleep is often elusive and hard to come by, leaving a nation of tired half-zombies.
What’s his secret? Is it some magical pill, potion or lotion? Nope. Just some breathing techniques.
As Time reports, Weil is a huge supporter of the 4-7-8 breathing technique, an exercise which is meant to calm your body and your mind as you focus completely on your breathing.
The idea is quite easy: Breathe in for four seconds, hold for seven, breathe out for eight, and repeat. After four sets, you should not only be relaxed, but sleepy.
I’m a big fan of breathing techniques (after all, breathing is one of the core principles of practicing yoga, and great for reducing stress) but I was still wary that this technique could help me fall asleep in less than a minute. I often have to rely on melatonin supplements to finally get my doze on, hours after trying to go to bed.
So, in the true spirit of investigative journalism, I decided to try it out from a café where I was writing. I situated myself in a quiet, dark corner on a plush sofa. Closing my eyes, I breathed deeply, filling my lungs with air. According to Weil, you’re also supposed to rest the tip of your tongue against the tissue above your front teeth and keep it there for the next minute.
I breathed in for four counts, and then held my breath. Holding your breath for seven seconds allows the oxygen to spread better throughout your body – often, when we breathe, it’s too shallow, and we don’t get the full benefits of the oxygen.
Next, I exhaled for eight counts. OK, one over, and I was already feeling relaxed. By the second cycle, I wasn’t feeling the potent effects of my second espresso, and by three, I was totally relaxed. After the fourth cycle, the idea of a nap sounded not only nice, but pretty inevitable.
Weil notes the 4-7-8 technique is good in stressful situations too, and the more you practice, the more powerful the effects of breathing are.
Well played, science. Well played.
(Image via Shutterstock)