There were three days left for my exam. I felt confident in my knowledge. I had studied very hard. But I had one big problem: I was too nervous to fall asleep. I thought my head would explode, and the nervousness just wouldn't go away, especially as I saw every minute go by and worried more and more about the lack of sleep I'd get that night. I was desperate for a solution. And then, the solution came... in the form of a really effective breathing technique, known as "4-7-8".
The trick is simple: You breathe strictly through your nose for four seconds, hold your breath for seven seconds, and then exhale through your mouth for eight seconds. Repeat this four times. The combination of these elements has a chemical effect on the brain that lowers the heart rate and makes you completely relaxed– even euphoric.
For me it worked right away. I fell asleep before I even had time to count to eight. This type of breathing has been a part of yoga and mindfulness practices in countries in the East for centuries, but has yet gained momentum in the West. One of the biggest proponents of the method is American researcher and Harvard graduate, Dr. Andrew Weil.
In his study, he writes that people who are stressed and/or nervous breathe too little. When stressed, one inhales less and less, and may even hold their breath without being aware of it.
By carefully inhaling for four seconds, the brain is forced to take in more oxygen. Then, by holding one’s breath for seven seconds, the oxygen is able to be transported into the whole body and affect blood flow. Finally, by exhaling for eight seconds, the carbon dioxide is ejected from the lungs.
This effectively means a lower heart rate and an increase in oxygen in the bloodstream. It immediately calms the heart, brain, and central nervous system. Long, controlled breathing is much more effective than short and quick breaths.
According to Dr. Weil, this works for everyone with some practice, but that I cannot verify. For me it worked either way, and I’m passing this on to my friends to see if it works for them too :)
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