4-7-8 Breathing: How to Use Techniques for Sleep or Anxiety

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Falling asleep or coming down from anxiety can never be as easy as 1-2-3, but some experts believe that a different set of numbers — 4-7-8 — comes very close to doing the trick. .

The 4-7-8 technique is a relaxation exercise that involves inhaling for a count of four, holding that breath for a count of seven, and exhaling for an eight count, Dr. Raj Dasgupta, clinical associate professor of medicine at Keck, University of Southern California. School of Medicine, via email.

Also known as “relaxing breath,” 4-7-8 has ancient roots in pranayama, a yogic practice of breathing regulation, but was popularized by integrative medicine specialists. Dr. Andrew Veilla in 2015.

Rebecca Robbins, medicine instructor at Harvard Medical School and associate scientist in the division of sleep and circadian disorders at Brigham, said, “A lot of sleep difficulties are about people who struggle to fall asleep because their brains are buzzing. ” Women’s Hospital in Boston. “But exercises like the 4-7-8 technique give you an opportunity to practice being at peace. And that’s exactly what we need to do before going to bed.”

“It doesn’t just put you to sleep, but it can reduce anxiety to increase your chances of falling asleep,” said New York State-based clinical psychologist Joshua Tal.

The 4-7-8 method doesn’t require any equipment or specific setting, but when you’re initially learning the exercise, you should sit with your back straight, according to Weil. Practicing in a quiet, quiet space can help, Robbins said. Once you understand this, you can use this technique while lying in bed.

Throughout the exercise, keep the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue behind your upper front teeth as you exhale through your mouth around your tongue. Then follow these steps, according to Weil:

  • Exhale completely through your mouth, making a sound of passion.
  • Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
  • Hold your breath to count to seven.
  • Exhale through your mouth, making a whoosh sound for a count of eight.
  • Repeat the process three times for a total of four breath cycles.

Keeping a ratio of four, then seven, and then eight, according to Weil, is more important than the amount of time you spend on each step.

“If you have trouble holding your breath, speed up the exercise but keep the ratio (consistent) for three steps. With practice you can slow it down and get used to inhaling and exhaling as deeply as possible.” are,” their website advised.

Dasgupta said that when you’re stressed, your sympathetic nervous system—responsible for your fight-or-flight response—is overactive, which leaves you feeling overly agitated and unprepared to rest and transition into sleep. Yes, Dasgupta said. “An overactive sympathetic nervous system can cause a rapid heart rate as well as rapid and shallow breathing.”

4-7-8 breathing exercises can help activate your parasympathetic nervous system — responsible for relaxing and digesting — which decreases sympathetic activity, he said, putting the body in a more conducive state for restful sleep. Gave. Activating the parasympathetic system can trigger an anxious brain to “Why am I not sleeping?” Apart from gives something to focus on. Tal said.

While proponents may swear by the method, more research is needed to establish a clear connection between 4-7-8 and sleep and other health benefits, he said.

“There is some evidence that 4-7-8 breathing helps reduce symptoms of anxious, depressive, and insomnia when comparing pre- and post-intervention, however, to my knowledge 4-7-8 breathing specifically But there is no large randomized control trial,” Tal said. “Research[the impact]on diaphragmatic breathing in general on these symptoms is spotty, with no clear association due to the poor quality of the studies.”

A team of researchers based in Thailand immediate effect studied 4-7-8 breathing on heart rate and blood pressure in 43 healthy young adults. After the participants measured these health factors and their fasting blood sugar, they performed 4-7-8 breaths for six cycles per set for three sets, with one minute of normal breathing between each set. According to a study published in July, researchers found that the technique improved participants’ heart rate and blood pressure.

Robbins said that when the researchers looked at the effects of breathing techniques such as the 4-7-8 breathing, they saw an increase in theta and delta brain waves, which indicate that someone is in a parasympathetic state. “Slow breathing, like the 4-7-8 technique, reduces the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes and improves pulmonary function.”

Dasgupta said the 4-7-8 technique is relatively safe, but if you’re a beginner, you may feel a little lightheaded at first.

“Normal breathing is a balance between breathing in oxygen and exhaling carbon dioxide. When you upset this balance by exhaling more than you inhale,[it]causes a rapid decrease in carbon dioxide in the body,” He said, “Low carbon dioxide levels constrict the blood vessels that supply blood to the brain. This reduction in blood supply to the brain leads to symptoms such as lethargy. This is why it is often recommended to start slowly and practice three to four cycles at a time until you are comfortable with the technique.”

The more you practice the 4-7-8 technique, the better you’ll become, and the more your body and mind incorporate it into your general roster for managing stress and anxiety, Dasgupta said. Some people combine this method with other relaxation practices such as progressive muscle relaxationYoga, mindfulness or meditation.

Robbins said that unmanaged stress can rear its head in the form of sleep difficulties. “But when we can manage our stress during the day[and]apply some of these breathing techniques, we can put ourselves in the driver’s seat instead of falling victim to the events in our lives.” Huh.”

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