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Can’t Sleep? Try This Breathing Technique

Plagued by anxiety? Finding it hard to nod off at bedtime? A breathing exercise known as the 4-7-8 technique might be of help…


Find it hard to switch off at bedtime? A simple breathing exercise might be the answer to sleepless nights.

Dr Andrew Weil, a Harvard trained medical doctor with a focus on holistic health, believes getting the best sleep ever is as simple as breathing in and breathing out. Dr Weil has developed a method known as the 4-7-8 breathing technique which draws on some of the de-stressing elements of meditation, or the Pranayama, an ancient Indian practice which focuses on regulating the breath. Many studies have linked meditation to lowered stress levels and this easy-to-follow exercise will help you reap some of the benefits that come along with consistent practice.

To perform the technique:

1. Start by placing the tip of your tongue against the ridge just behind your upper front teeth. Keep it there through the entire exercise.

2. Exhale completely through your mouth, making a “whoosh” sound.

3. Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.

4. Hold your breath for a count of seven.

5. Exhale completely through your mouth, making a “whoosh” sound to a count of eight.

6. This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat three more times for a total of four cycles.

Dr Weil says the technique can be done standing, lying or sitting, but if you’re sitting it’s best to keep your back as straight as possible. He also emphasises that the most important part of this process is holding your breath for eight seconds. This is because keeping the breath in will allow oxygen to fill your lungs and then circulate throughout the body. It is this that produces a relaxing effect. Further, Dr Weil recommends undertaking the exercise twice a day for six to eight weeks to perfect it. And once you’ve mastered it, he promises it will become even more effective, and claims it can be used to deal with food cravings, tension and other stressful situations. According to the U.S. National Sleep Foundation, healthy adults should strive to get around eight hours of sleep per night.


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