There’s nothing worse than being in bed without being able to fall asleep. Just knowing that right then, at that very minute you could be catching up on some much needed ZZZs and recharging for tomorrow, but instead, you’re stuck staring at the ceiling, too tired to do anything productive. We’ve all been there. Whether it’s because you had too much coffee during the day, it’s too hot inside your apartment, or you just can’t seem to quiet your restless mind, getting hit with a wave of insomnia always hurts (especially the next morning).
While there are a lot of tricks that “experts” say will work, we all know that’s a lie. Counting sheep only works if you’re getting put under for surgery, any tea you make yourself winds up all over your bed in a matter of minutes, and warm milk is just gross. Besides, anything that requires you to get up out of bed in order to fall back asleep just seems counterintuitive.
So how do you get yourself to relax enough so you can fall asleep without leaving the comfort of your bed? It turns out the answer may be as simple as changing the way we breathe.
Developed by Dr. Andrew Weill, the 4-7-8 breathing technique is inspired by yoga and, according to the good doctor, is “utterly simple, takes almost no time, no equipment and can be done anywhere.” The technique acts as a “natural tranquilizer for the nervous system” that chills you out and makes your body ready to fall asleep.
How? Basically, the more oxygen your body takes in, the more your nervous system can relax, which in turn relaxes you. As you begin to pay attention to your breath, you begin to connect with your body, abandoning all of the stresses that keep you up at night.
Sounds good, right? Now, here’s how you do it. Place the tip of your tone on the roof of your mouth – get comfortable, because this is how it’s going to be for the next couple of minutes. Exhale completely through your mouth while making a “wooshing” sound (I know this sounds silly, but it’s just you in your bedroom anyway, so you don’t have to worry about anybody finding out you make funny noises to fall asleep). Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose for a mental count of four. Hold your breath and count to seven. Next, exhale completely though your mouth, again on a whoosh for eight seconds. Inhale again, repeating the whole cycle three times for a total of four breaths.
Even if you’re not quite ready to fall asleep yet, just give your body a couple of minutes to get settled. Now that you’re feeling calm and attuned to your body, it should only be a couple more minutes more.