Some experts think that a different set of numbers, 4–8, is much more likely to help people fall asleep or calm down from anxiety than the numbers 1-2–3.
A clinical associate professor of medicine at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine, Dr Raj Dasgupta, said in an email that the 4-7-8 technique is a way to relax by taking a breath in for four counts, holding it for seven counts, and letting it out for eight counts.
4-7-8, which is also called the “relaxing breath,” has its roots in pranayama, which is the yogic practice of controlling the breath. In 2015, integrative medicine expert Dr. Andrew Weil brought it to the attention of more people.
The 4-7-8 method
Rebecca Robbins, an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School and an associate scientist in the division of sleep and circadian disorders at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, said that a lot of people have trouble sleeping because their minds are busy. But exercises like the 4-7-8 technique give you a chance to get better at being calm. And we need to do just that before we go to sleep. ”
“It doesn’t ‘put you to sleep,’ but it may make you less anxious, which makes it easier to fall asleep,” said Joshua Tal, a clinical psychologist in New York State.
How 4-7-8 works
Weil says that you don’t need any equipment or a special place to do the 4-7-8 method, but when you first start doing it, you should sit with your back straight. Robbins said that practicing in a calm, quiet place could help. When you know how to do it, you can do it while lying in bed.
Throughout the practice, keep the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue behind your upper front teeth as you exhale through your mouth around your tongue. Weil says you should then do these things: Make a whooshing sound as you let all of your breath out through your mouth.
Close your mouth and take four slow, quiet breaths through your nose.
Hold your breath until you hear the number seven.
Could help you sleep
Make a whooshing sound with your mouth as you let out your breath for eight counts.
Do this three more times, for a total of four breath cycles.
Weil says that the order of the four, seven, and eight counts is more important than how long you spend on each phase.
“If you find it hard to hold your breath, you can speed up the exercise but keep the same ratio for all three parts. With practice, you can slow everything down and learn to breathe in and out more deeply, “the advice on his website.
What the studies show
Dasgupta says that when you’re stressed, your sympathetic nervous system, which controls your “fight-or-flight” response, is too active. This makes you feel overstimulated and not ready to relax and go to sleep. “An active sympathetic nervous system can make your heart beat fast and your breathing quick and shallow.”
The 4-7-8 breathing pattern can help turn on your parasympathetic nervous system, which is in charge of resting and digesting. This lowers the activity of your sympathetic nervous system, which makes it easier for your body to sleep well. Using the parasympathetic system also gives a worried mind something else to think about besides “why can’t I sleep?” Tal said.
Even though people who support the method swear by it, he said, more research is needed to find clearer links between 4-7-8 and sleep and other health benefits.
There is some evidence that 4-7-8 breathing helps
“There is some evidence that 4-7-8 breathing helps reduce anxious, depressive, and insomniac symptoms when comparing before and after the intervention,” Tal said. However, as far as I know, there have been no large randomized control trials on 4-7-8 breathing. “The studies on how diaphragmatic breathing affects these symptoms, in general, aren’t very good, so there isn’t a clear link between the two.”
A group of Thai researchers looked at how 4-7-8 breathing changed the heart rate and blood pressure of 43 healthy young adults right away. After these health factors and fasting blood glucose were measured for each participant, they did 4-7-8 breathing for three sets of six cycles each, with one minute of normal breathing between each set. In a study that came out in July, researchers found that the technique made people’s heart rates and blood pressures better.
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