Most of us will suffer from sleeplessness at some point in our lives. For many, it is a build-up of stress and tension that makes it hard for us to truly relax and drop off to sleep.
You could also try breathing techniques designed to relax your body in preparation for sleep. Yoga and Ayurveda both utilise the power of the breath (or ‘pranayama’) and it can be incredibly effective at calming the body.
Dr Andrew Weill is an American physician who has developed a yoga-inspired breathing technique. He claims that it can help people fall asleep in just 60 seconds. The technique is called ‘the 4-7-8 breathing technique’, and this is how you do it:
- Before you start, place the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth just behind your teeth, and keep it there.
- Exhale through your mouth in a way that makes a ‘whoosh’ sound.
- Inhale softly through your nose for a count of four.
- Hold your breath for a count of seven.
- Exhale through your mouth, making another ‘whoosh’ sound for the count of eight.
- Repeat this cycle another three times.
So, how does this help you fall asleep? Breathing in this way encourages the body to take in more oxygen and this relaxes the body’s nervous system, promoting a sense of calm. This counteracts the effects stress may be having on your nervous system.
Focusing on your breath like this also helps you to be more mindful, stopping your mind from thinking about the past or worrying about the future. Oxygen has a relaxing effect on the body, so you should always come to your breath when you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed.
Practices like yoga and meditation can help you utilise your breath and reduce stress.