The following article is about better sleep with relaxation exercise. A relaxation exercise with the name 4-7-8 technique may be what could help you to fall asleep easier.
Here is what it stands for:
- 4: slowly breathe in with a count to 4
- 7: hold your breath for 7 counts
- 8: exhale the air from your lungs with an 8-count
This form of breathing originates from yoga and was promoted in 2015 as the relaxing breath exercise by the integrative medicine specialist Dr. Weil. When you learn this technique initially, you should be sitting with a straight back according to Weil. Once you know how to do the technique you can do it lying down in bed.
Better sleep with relaxation exercise reduces sympathetic response
When we are stressed, our fight-or-flight response is maxed out causing the sympathetic nervous system to get into overdrive. This elevates our blood pressure, increases our pulse rate and leads to rapid, but shallow breathing. By doing the breathing exercise our parasympathetic nervous system gets activated. This is the natural counter force to the sympathetic nervous system. It helps us to rest, digest and relaxes our body to the point where we find it easier to fall asleep. The 4-7-8 method of relaxation also gives you something to focus on instead of having the thought: “why am I not sleeping”.
Research in Thailand of 4-7-8 relaxation method
43 healthy participants aged 19-25 were examined before and after a set of 4-7-8 breathing exercises. Researchers noted that subjects improved their heart rate variability and blood pressure. There was also an increase in theta and delta brain waves. One of the researchers commented: “Slow breathing like the 4-7-8 technique reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes and improves pulmonary function.”
Easing your way into the 4-7-8 relaxation technique
Dr. Raj Dasgupta is a clinical associate professor of medicine at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine. He said: “Normal breathing is a balance between breathing in oxygen and breathing out carbon dioxide. When you upset this balance by exhaling more than you inhale, it causes a rapid reduction in carbon dioxide in the body. Low carbon dioxide levels lead to narrowing of the blood vessels that supply blood to the brain. This reduction in blood supply to the brain leads to symptoms like light-headedness. 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.”
Stress can follow us into our sleep interfering with the amount of sleep we get and with sleep depth as well. A newer form of relaxation exercise, the 4-7-8 technique tones down the sympathetic overdrive and helps you to sleep better. It does so by rebalancing the equilibrium between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. When your parasympathetic nervous system is in charge during your sleep, your pulse rate, blood pressure and breathing all normalize and allow you to sleep deeply. There are even long-term benefits, namely reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and improving pulmonary function.