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Let me say one thing: the people who can fall asleep as soon as their head hits the pillow are very, very lucky. They don’t know what it’s like to lie awake until wee hours in the morning trying to silence the whirlwind of thoughts in your head or feeling absolutely exhausted but unable to close your eyes all the same.
If you know what it’s like, you also know that counting sheep doesn’t work, and neither does warm milk or chamomile tea. Sometimes it seems like medication is the only way out, but personally, I don’t like the idea of being dependent on drugs, so I’m always looking for other tricks that might help fall asleep faster. Recently I found one that seems to work so far, so I’m sharing it with you guys.
What we are talking about is a breathing trick known as the “4-7-8″ technique. You breathe in through your nose for four seconds, then hold your breath for seven seconds, then exhale through your mouth for eight seconds. It sounds simple, but there is actual science behind this technique.
Here is how this trick affects you: when you are stressed, your breathing becomes shallow and short, and you may even hold your breath unconsciously. When you force yourself to keep inhaling to a count of four, you take in more oxygen. Then, by holding your breath for seven seconds, you allow the oxygen to enter your bloodstream. Then, by exhaling for eight seconds, you emit carbon dioxide from your lungs. As a result, your heart rate will slow down and the oxygen level in your bloodstream will increase. This has a sedative-like effect on your body, relaxing your heart, mind, and the central nervous system.
When you first start, it might be hard to keep to the count: you’ll be desperate to take in another breath or just take a break and breathe “normally” for a while. But if you stick to the numbers, repeating them without going back to your normal breathing pattern, you will feel your heart rate slow down and your body start to relax. If you do everything right, you will fall asleep within a minute.
This technique can also be used in situations when you are feeling anxious or angry. It effectively calms you down in just the same way it helps you fall asleep: by changing your heart rate. Sounds almost too simple to be true, doesn’t it? But even if you are feeling skeptical, give it a try. You might be surprised at how well it works.