Dr. Andrew Weil has developed a new breathing pattern known as 4-7-8 breathing technique. It has its roots in the ancient yoga-based technique, known as pranayama, which allows practitioners to establish control on their breathing. When it is done on a regular basis, it may allow people to sleep in a shorter span of time.
Working of the 4-7-8 Breathing Technique
This helps the body attain a state of deep relaxation. There are some patterns that involve holding the breath for restoring the oxygen levels. This technique is particularly helpful in boosting oxygen levels in various organs.
Relaxation techniques balance the body and regulate the flight or fight response, which gets activated when we feel stressed. This is beneficial in cases of anxiety and worry, when you are fretting over what happened in the past and what may happen in the future. These thoughts prevent us from resting well.
The focus of 4-7-8 breathing is to regulate the breath instead of going into loop thoughts and worrying about them. Advocates of this breathing technique claim that it can help you overcome nervousness and calm you down. It is a natural tranquilizer.
This technique can be compared to:
- Alternate Nostril Breathing: In this technique, you are required to breathe through one nostril while keeping the other closed.
- Visualization: It helps you focus on patterns of natural breathing.
- Mindfulness Meditation: It requires you to focus on your breathing to help you concentrate on the present moment.
- Guided Imagery: It lets you to focus on a positive memory that will take your mind away from tensions and worries.
According to Dr. Weil, this technique is particularly useful in beating stress, anxiety and counteracting sleep disturbances. With repeated practice of this technique, it becomes more powerful. Maybe, the first time you try it, you may become lightheaded. Also, the more you do it, the better you will be at it.
Method to Perform 4-7-8
Dr. Andrew Weil suggests finding a place, where you can comfortably sit or lie. Make sure your posture is appropriate. Rest your tongue against the mouth’s roof. You should keep your tongue in this position while practicing this technique.
1. Part your lips. Exhale from your mouth making a whooshing sound.
2. Inhale from your nose and close your lips. Count from 1 to 4 in your mind.
3. Hold your breath for about 7 seconds.
4. Exhale from your mouth for 8 seconds, making a whooshing sound.
New cycle of breath will start once you inhale again. Do it for four complete breaths.
The most important part of this practice is holding the breath for seven seconds. Initially do it for four breaths and you can increase it up to eight breaths.
The space where you perform this breathing practice should allow you to relax completely. This practice sends you in a state of deep relaxation.
Techniques to Help You Get a Good Sleep
If you are not able to sleep because of stress and anxiety, this breathing technique will help you get enough rest. It may not be effective when used alone; thus, can be combined with other techniques.
- Relaxing music
- Essential oils such as lavender
- Bedtime yoga
- Reducing the intake of caffeine
If 4-7-8 doesn’t work for you, a better alternative could be guided imagery and mindfulness meditation. In some cases, medical intervention may be needed to treat insomnia. Some conditions that could cause lack of sleep are:
- use of some medicines
- substance abuse
- hormonal changes in menopause
- sleep apnea
- restless leg syndrome
- autoimmune diseases
Dr, Weil advises to speak to your doctor if the insomnia is chronic. You may be referred to a sleep specialist, who will diagnose the underlying reason for your insomnia. He will work in collaboration with you to find the best possible treatment for your condition.