Like many people, I went through a phase in my life of waking up in the middle of the night and being unable to fall back to sleep. I'd stare at the clock, watching the minutes tick by relentlessly, feeling more and more stressed about how tired and unproductive I'd be the next morning.
When I say "many people," that isn't hyperbole: in one study, more than a third of participants reported waking up during the night at least three times a week, and of those, 43 percent struggled to doze back off. There are a number of reasons you might wake up during the night — it could be stress, or that your room is too hot or noisy, or that you're hungry or too full. I tried everything from sleep apps to white noise to powering down my devices an hour before bed, but no matter how desperately I tried to solve the problem, it still happened.
Finally, I came across a breathing trick that promised to put me back to sleep in roughly a minute by easing stress and relaxing the nervous system. It's called the 4-7-8 method, and it worked wonders. The next time you're struggling to fall back asleep, try it for yourself, and enjoy how well-rested you feel the next morning. Here's how:
- Place your tongue just behind your front teeth. Keep it there throughout the exercise.
- Exhale through your mouth, making a whooshing noise.
- Close your mouth, and inhale quietly through your nose while you count to four in your head.
- Hold your breath for a count of seven.
- Exhale through your mouth, making a whooshing noise to a count of eight.
- Repeat three more times for a total of four cycles.