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Why This Breathing Technique is the Secret to Getting to Sleep Faster

There’s not a human alive who doesn’t enjoy sleep. Getting to sleep on the other hand? For some, it’s as easy as their head hitting the pillow but for many others, trying to convince yourself to catch zzzs is about as complicated as arranging a Rubik’s Cube in the dark (so, near impossible).

Fall into the latter category? You’re not alone. In fact, research conducted by the Sleep Health Foundation published in the report Re-awakening Australia – The Economic Cost of Sleep Disorders in Australia, found that 1.5 million Australian adults suffer from sleep disorders.

While many of us try counting sheep, calming our mind or medication to float off to Sleep Land quicker, Dr Andrew Weil has shared a breathing technique that could prove to be a much better option. The integrative doctor with over 30 years’ experience says the the 4-7-8 Breathing Technique doesn’t require forking out money or even time and it’s helping people fall asleep within 60 seconds. So what does it involve?

“Although you can do the exercise in any position, sit with your back straight while learning the exercise. Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth, and keep it there through the entire exercise. You will be exhaling through your mouth around your tongue; try pursing your lips slightly if this seems awkward,” explains Dr Weil.

Now that you’re in position, start by exhaling through your mouth with a “whoosh” sound. Now inhale quietly through your nose while counting to four. Hold your breath for seven counts then exhale through your mouth for eight counts making that “whoosh” sound again. There, you go —that’s Round One — now repeat the cycle three times.

So what the heck is this breathing technique actually doing to your body? Dr Weil, who is the founder of the Arizona Centre for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona, says it’s hugely relaxing.

“This breathing exercise is a natural tranquilizer for the nervous system. Unlike tranquilizing drugs, which are often effective when you first take them but then lose their power over time, this exercise is subtle when you first try it, but gains in power with repetition and practice,” explains Dr Weil.

Try the 4-7-8 Breathing Technique twice a day as practise so that you’re a pro when it comes to bed time. For something so disarmingly simple, this breathing ritual has had a gargantuan effect on people’s sleep the world over.

Insomniacs claim it’s helping them get shut-eye and Byrdie’s US editor Alina Gonzalez reported that she “was able to fall asleep the minute I tried the 4-7-8 trick”.

Why is it so effective? The breathing practice is based on “pranayama”, the ancient Indian practice of regulating one’s breath — yes, you’ve probably heard your yoga teacher harping on about it. Sleep aside, it’s a great way to relax your body and mind during stressful situations.

“Once you develop this technique by practicing it every day, it will be a very useful tool that you will always have with you. Use it whenever anything upsetting happens — before you react. Use it whenever you are aware of internal tension or stress. Use it to help you fall asleep,” explains Dr Weil.

If all of this is sounding a little woo woo for you, maybe consider taking some baby steps before you launch yourself into becoming a 4-7-8 Breathing Technique convert. Our advice? Make your bedroom a cosy sanctuary so that whenever you’re there, you’re relaxed and your mind is calm.

Work on your laptop in bed? Sneak dessert in there to watch your fave Netflix series? Enough. It’s time to make your bedroom a sleep and relaxation-only zone. Buy some soft, glowing lamps, pack away all the clutter (farewell, pile of clothes on the floor) and invest in some comfortable, quality bedding. 100% French flax linen will do the trick — it’s a great temperature regulator (you’ll stay super snug in winter and cool in summer), is durable and it looks chic, too.

Happy snoozing!

If you're experiencing any health issues, the first port of call should always be your GP, who will be able to advise a correct treatment plan.

Otherwise, here are 10 simple ways to enhance the quality of your sleep – starting from tonight! – plus the 7 surprising things making you tired.

Discover our range of luxurious and accessible 100% French flax linen bedding here.
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