The majority of people get an insufficient amount of sleep every night. Between a third and half of all Americans have insomnia and an additional percentage of the general population are chronically sleep deprived because they burn the candle at both ends or live lifestyles that result in inadequate sleep or poor sleep quality. Going without adequate sleep brings about both short- and long-term health consequences. According to sleep deprivation studies, chronic sleep deprivation can lead to health problems including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, impaired control of blood glucose, increased inflammation, elevated stress levels, mood disorders, reduced life expectancy and early mortality.
Taking sleeping pills to induce and/or maintain sleep may be effective at ending sleep problems on a short-term basis, but long-term use carries countless side effects ranging from diarrhea, headaches, constipation and burning or tingling in the hands, arms, feet, or legs, to more life-threatening side effects. A study published in the British Medical Journal has revealed that taking sleeping pills increases your risk of death from heart disease, stroke, cancer, infection, and a host of other health conditions. The people who take sleeping pills regularly (2 to 3 times a week) have the highest risk of death, but the study also says that taking just one sleeping pill a year can increase your risk of death.
Fortunately, a holistic breathing technique has been discovered, which has proven itself to be a modern-day miracle in helping people with sleeping problems. This breathing technique, called the “4-7-8” exercise, was developed by Harvard professor, Dr. Andrew Weil, who’s also a bestselling author of several health books. The breathing exercise, which acts like a natural tranquilizer, helps people fall asleep in a few minutes, and in some instances, in less than 60 seconds.
How to Do the 4-7-8 Exercise That Enables You to Fall Asleep in 60 Seconds
1. Position the tip of your tongue on your upper palate behind your our upper front teeth, and keep it in that position during the entire exercise.
2. Exhale completely through your mouth with your lips pursed, while making a ‘whoosh’ sound as you do.
3. Next, close your mouth and slowly inhale through your nose to a count of four.
4. Hold your breath for a count of seven.
5. Exhale completely through your mouth for a count of eight, making the same ‘whoosh’ sound while pursing your lips.
Repeat this cycle three more times, keeping the ratio of 4-7-8 for all three phases of the exercise. You may find that you’ll fall asleep even before you complete the three repetitions.
Why does this 4-7-8 exercise work? It increases oxygen intake on the four-count inhale. During the seven-count breath-holding, the oxygen flows through the bloodstream. Finally, the eight-count exhale slows the heartbeat and releases carbon dioxide. The whole cycle induces sleep effectively and gives new meaning to the claim that counting breaths is more effective than counting sheep.