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Is your anxiety interfering with your ability to fall asleep night after night? Relying on over-the-counter meds to reach the land of nod? Just not getting the sleep your body and brain need? If this sounds all too familiar, we have a breathing trick to help you fall asleep quickly — no prescriptions required.
The exercise is called the 4-7-8 technique, and Andrew Weil, MD, founder and director of the Andrew Weil Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona, calls it a "natural tranquilizer for the nervous system." Study after study has linked meditation to lowered stress levels, and this easy-to-follow exercise will help you reap some of the de-stressing benefits that come along with consistent meditation practice.
Beyond bedtime, Dr. Weil recommends performing this exercise whenever dealing with a stressful situation. The next time you can't curb sugar cravings, get into a fight with your partner, or can't hit the hay because you're overwhelmed, try it out for yourself. You'll start feeling more relaxed immediately.
The 4-7-8 Method
- Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth, and keep it there through the entire exercise.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
- Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
- Hold your breath for a count of seven.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
- This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat three more times for a total of four cycles.
For more explanation, plus a tutorial, check out this video: