Ladies and gentlemen, be prepared to have your mind blown.
In the year of 1914, The Lancelet published an anecdotal article regarding a parish whose dead body had been discovered in a pool. He had taken a bullet to his head and left the following letter, his last words: “Another sleepless night; no real sleep for weeks. Oh, my poor brain, I cannot bear the lengthy, dark hours of the night.”
If you’re an insomniac, these words will shockingly resonate with you. Most people believe it’s the grogginess and debilitating fatigue of the day that insomniacs abhor. But the truth, my friends, is that most insomniacs dread those dark, solitary hours past midnight, when that all-consuming thirst for sleep holds you enslaved. When your mental math skills excruciatingly improve, when the ticking of the clock becomes the background music of your very own living nightmare, and when you slowly slip into temporary insanity. Yikes.
One in 10 adults is plagued with chronic insomnia. Every year, 20 million people additionally suffer from occasional sleep difficulties or acute insomnia, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (1), (2). Yet, we still haven’t answered the most pressing questions regarding this condition. Scientists are, till date, debating the exact mechanisms and physiology of sleep, as well as why sleep is so unattainable to seemingly healthy individuals. The treatments in terms of reliability for insomnia are scarce. Meanwhile, medical journals persistently lecture on the associations between bad sleeping habits and diseases such as diabetes and cancer (3). Which makes sleeping so much easier (read: sarcasm)!
But There Is A Possible, Wonderful Solution
There exists a simple breathing technique (don’t roll your eyes), which some claim is almost magical in terms of its impact on your health and sleeping patterns. It’s called the 4-7-8 breathing exercise, aka the ‘Relaxing Breath,’ and it can allegedly help you go to sleep in just 1 minute by only inhaling and exhaling. No pills, no sheep counting, and no voodoo magic. Sleep in 60 seconds from simply breathing. Mind blown yet?
This amazing breathing technique was founded by a Harvard-trained medical physician, Dr. Andrew Weil. He says that this technique could potentially lower your blood pressure, slow your heartbeat, and place your body in a wonderfully calm and relaxed state. His method is actually inspired by an ancient yoga form practiced in India called Pranayama, meaning regulation of breath.
So, What Do I Need To Do?
Sleep is at your fingertips – all you need to do is practice this simple technique:
- Place your tongue’s tip on the ridge of tissue right over your front upper teeth. Ensure that you hold your tongue in this exact spot throughout the exercise.
- Exhale entirely through the mouth, enacting a ‘whoosh’ sound.
- Now, close your lips and proceed to inhale deeply through your nose quietly. Make a mental count till 4.
- Hold your breath for a mental count of 7.
- Then, exhale fully through your mouth, once again making that whooshing sound for a count of 8.
- This was one entire breath. Inhale once more and then proceed to repeat this exercise thrice more. In total, you will be performing 4 breaths.
How Does This Work?
Going through the technique outlined above, you may have noticed a mental pattern of 4-7-8. This breathing technique fundamentally changes your anxiety-driven breathing pattern.
When you’re stressed out, you tend to take shallow breaths that don’t properly oxygenate your blood. Described as “a natural tranquilizer for your nervous system,” this technique promotes a quicker carbon dioxide eviction from your blood, which helps to preserve your bicarbonate pool better, thereby allowing your body to maintain a proper pH balance.
Dr. Weil asserts that a pivotal part of this technique is the holding of your breath. This is because those 7 precious seconds enable your lungs to get filled with sufficient oxygen, which will then circulate in your blood. It is this very step that produces that wonderfully relaxing sensation throughout your body. The 8-second exhalation then proceeds to get rid of a greater volume of carbon dioxide from your lungs. According to Dr. Weil, to learn how to fall asleep in only 60 seconds, you must practice this technique twice every day for roughly 6-8 weeks to become a master.
Despite your self-depreciating humor and the very entertaining memes on the Internet, insomnia in any form – acute or chronic – is not an issue to be dismissed. You don’t need to brave those ‘lengthy, dark hours of the night’ till your warped thoughts get the best of you. This technique could very well be the solution to your sleep problems. However, if the problem persists, it is best to consult a specialist for proper diagnosis and further treatment.