What Is The 4-7-8 Sleep Method And How Can It Help You?
Sleeping or recovering from anxiety might not be as easy as 1-2-3, but some experts believe a different set of numbers – 4-7-8 – might be more effective.
Dr. Raj Dasgupta, a clinical associate professor of medicine at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California, said that the 4-7-8 technique involves breathing in for four counts, holding the breath for seven counts and exhaling for eight counts.
47-8 is an ancient pranayama technique that has roots in yoga, where breath control is practiced, but popularized by integrative medicine specialist Dr. Andrew Weil in 2015.
People who have trouble falling asleep because of their mind buzzing is what causes a lot of sleep difficulties, said Rebecca Robbins, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and an associate scientist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. It’s exactly what we need to do before we go to bed to practice being at peace with exercises like the 4-7-8 technique.
Joshua Tal, a clinical psychologist based in New York state, says it does not put you to sleep, but may reduce anxiety to increase the likelihood of falling asleep.
What 4-7-8 Is And How It Works?
When learning the 4-7-8 method, you should sit with your back straight, according to Weil, but no special equipment is required. Once you get the hang of it, you can use the technique while lying in bed, said Robbins. Practice in a calm, quiet place could help.
Follow these steps, according to Weil, throughout the entire practice as you exhale through your mouth around your tongue.
- Take a deep breath and make a whoosh sound with your mouth.
- Count to four in your mind as you inhale quietly through your nose.
- Hold your breath for seven counts.
- Make a whoosh sound with your mouth for eight counts.
- Continue this process three more times for a total of four breath cycles.
According to Weil, it’s more important to keep the ratio of four, then seven, and then eight counts than how long you spend on each phase. With practice, you will be able to slow the exercise down and get used to inhaling and exhaling more deeply,” he advised on his website.
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Stress causes your sympathetic nervous system to be overactive, making you feel overstimulated and unable to relax and transition into sleep, Dasgupta explained. Symptoms of an active sympathetic nervous system include rapid and shallow breathing as well as a fast heart rate.
A Review Of Research Findings
By practicing 4-7-8 breathing, you will activate your parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for resting and digesting, which reduces sympathetic activity. This will help you sleep more peacefully, he explained. As Tal explained, activating the parasympathetic system also gives anxious brains something else to think about besides “why am I unable to sleep?”
He added that despite the belief that 4-7-8 promotes good sleep, more research is needed to establish a clear relationship between the method and other health benefits.
It has been shown that 4-7-8 breathing reduces anxiety, depression, and insomnia when compared to pre- and post-intervention, however, to my knowledge there have not been any large randomized control trials specifically on 4-7-8 breathing. According to the poor quality of studies, there is no clear correlation between diaphragmatic breathing and these symptoms in general.
Four-7-8 breathing was studied for its immediate effects on heart rate and blood pressure among 43 young adults in Thailand by a team of researchers. Participants were asked to measure their fasting blood glucose and these health factors before performing four sets of four-7-8 breathing interspersed with one minute of normal breathing between each set.
According to a study published in July, the technique improved participants’ heart rate and blood pressure.
The researchers have observed an increase in theta and delta brain waves when people use breathing techniques like 4-7-8 breathing, according to Robbins, which indicate a parasympathetic state. A 4-7-8 breathing technique can reduce cardiovascular disease and diabetes risk and improve pulmonary function.
You may feel a little lightheaded at first if you’re new to the 4-7-8 technique, Dasgupta said.
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