In Pursuit of the Best Sleep Ever: The 4-7-8 Breathing Trick
One thing I've learned through years of a crazy blogger's schedule is that sleep is the single biggest component to mental health and well-being. Because I know how important it is, I've always been a big fan of sleep, so I make it a priority. So I've partnered with Mattress Firm to try out some of the tips and tricks I've seen out there for better sleep...and give you the inside scoop on whether they really work.
I'm one of the 2/3 of Americans that do get enough hours of sleep each night.
So, if I'm getting enough sleep, why am I on the hunt for better sleep?
Despite logging the same amount of hours, as I've entered my 30s, I've found it harder and harder to wake feeling rested. I am, for all intents and purposes, an average person — normal weight, I workout 3-4 times each week, and I don't have any sleep disorders preventing me from sleeping well. I don't stay up late and I attempt to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. Still, I always wake wishing I had more time to sleep, and instead of feeling ready to take on the day, I always feel ready to jump back under the covers.
I'm optimistic about two things: 1) that my best sleep ever exists and 2) that with a few small tweaks I'll be well on my way to a heavenly sleep cycle and better overall sleep hygiene. Thus, I've committed (for research, you know) to trying out six, very specific, non-medication based "sleep hacks" that anyone can do at home. The first one I tried out is called the "4-7-8 Breathing Technique."
The 4-7-8 Breathing Technique
I've always been a light sleeper, but I rarely have trouble falling asleep. I decide to begin this experiment with the 4-7-8 breathing technique, and since I don't need help falling asleep faster, I'm already a little skeptical this technique can help me sleep better.
The gist of the 4-7-8 breathing technique is in the name: a large exhale through the mouth, inhale through the nose for four counts, hold the breath completely for seven counts, and then a final exhale for eight counts. Many swear this technique can help individuals fall asleep in 60 seconds (although in the medical daily article linked above, they do disclaim it takes daily practice of the technique to reach full benefits and achieve deep sleep in less than sixty seconds.)
This video will guide you through it.
What Happened When I Tried the 4-7-8 Breathing Technique
I tried this on two nights. The first, I was already pretty sleepy, so I can't assess if this trick really made much of a difference. When I woke up I didn't feel much different than I normally do.
On the second night, I was feeling particularly jittery and attempted to do the technique again. While it did feel very calming, similar to breathing exercises at the beginning of a yoga class, it didn't help me fall asleep. Eventually, I got up and went to my old stand-by: journaling out my thoughts.
The 4-7-8 Breathing Technique: The Wrap-Up
Perhaps it works for others, but I'm a bit of a skeptic. Still, the science behind why this breathing rhythm works is very compelling, so it's at least worth a shot. I would probably use this technique as a de-stress technique in the middle of a workday or after a tense meeting. Very calming, but not sleep-inducing.
Stay tuned for the next post in this series when I attempt yoga for ten minutes before I hop into bed.