There’s nothing worse than finally making it into bed after a long day at work and then being unable to actually fall asleep. We’ve all been there—laying wide awake, getting increasingly stressed at how much valuable shut eye we’re losing with each passing minute.
In an effort to cure this problem, I decided to try the 4-7-8 exercise—a popular breathing technique that’s supposed to help you fall asleep in under one minute.
The practice is easy: Breathe in through your nose for four seconds, hold your breath for seven, exhale through your mouth for eight. It was developed in this way so that you take in more air on your inhales, let the oxygen hit your bloodstream by holding your breath, and slow down your heart rate on your exhales.
It sounded simple enough to me. However, the first time I tried it I felt silly. As a perfectionist, I was so focused on counting right that it actually made me more awake. So the next night, I decided to just let my breathing go for as long as it felt right—in, hold, out—instead of counting the exact seconds. This worked so much better that after a few breaths, it happened naturally. I woke up the next morning feeling great and I couldn’t actually remember when I’d fallen asleep.
In conclusion: It works!
Gif courtesy of GIPHY
So, here’s what I’d recommend for anyone who wants to test this out: Take it at your own pace. The practice is not about holding for exactly seven seconds or taking five specific breaths—it’s about tuning into your breathing and simultaneously letting go of whatever else is on your mind.
Tonight, when you lie down in your bed, focus intently on your breathing and let each inhale and exhale unwind you more and more. If it’s not working (fast enough), try to relax each individual limb from toe to head with every new breath. You’ll fall asleep so quickly you’ll forget you were ever stressed!
Previously an editor for The Muse, Alyse is proud to prove that yes, English majors can change the world. She’s written almost 500 articles for The Muse on anything from productivity tips to cover letters to bad bosses to cool career changers, many of which have been featured in Fast Company, Forbes, Inc., CNBC's Make It, USA Today College, Lifehacker, Mashable, and more. She calls many places home, including Illinois where she grew up and the small town of Hamilton where she attended Colgate University, but she was born to be a New Yorker. In addition to being an avid writer and reader, Alyse loves to dance, both professionally and while waiting for the subway.More from this Author