Do you struggle to sleep? I know I do. There's nothing worse than laying in bed wide awake at night when you've got work the next morning, checking your phone every ten minutes, anxiously noticing that there's less and less time until your alarm is set to go off. But what if there were a way to fall asleep in one minute? Well, apparently, there is.
I know — sounds cray, but it is possible, I promise. Pioneered by Harvard grad Dr. Andrew Weil (author of the book, Healthy Sleep), this particular technique is all about breathing. In doing this, you can successfully switch off your body's stress response so that you fall asleep much quicker.
So how does it work? The technique, which he has christened the 4-7-8 Exercise, involves first breathing out through your mouth, while making a whoosh sound (this is no time for feeling self-conscious). Then, close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose while counting mentally to four. Next, hold your breath and count to seven. Finally inhale completely through the mouth, making a whoosh sound again, while counting mentally to eight. Repeat the cycle three more times.
Speaking to Metro, Dr. Weil has likened his approach to a "natural tranquilizer for the nervous system", but said that "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."
And it's not just useful for when you're struggling to sleep; the technique is also great for just general relaxation and reducing stress, and you shouldn't be afraid to try it during the daytime too. On his website, Dr. Weil writes: "Practicing a regular, mindful breathing exercise can be calming and energising and can even help with stress-related health problems ranging from panic attacks to digestive disorders."
A recent study by the European Society of Cardiology stresses the importance of getting enough sleep. The research found that getting six to eight hours' kip a night is most beneficial for your heart, and getting any less can have a negative impact on your cardiological health. The study found that people who slept for fewer than six hours, or more than eight, were at greater risk of developing coronary artery disease or suffering from stroke; with those not getting enough sleep having 11 percent more risk and those getting too much sleep being at 33 percent more risk.
Study author Dr. Epameinondas Fountas of the Onassis Cardiac Surgery Centre in Athens said in a press release: "Our findings suggest that too much or too little sleep may be bad for the heart. More research is needed to clarify exactly why, but we do know that sleep influences biological processes like glucose metabolism, blood pressure, and inflammation — all of which have an impact on cardiovascular disease."
Further to this, a study carried out by the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, compared results on a group of middle-aged men after a 20-year time period and found that the men who slept less than five hours a night had double the risk of suffering from a serious cardiovascular illness — an increased risk that is comparable to the risk imposed by long-term smoking, Elle magazine reports.
Study author Moa Bengtsson from the university stated in a press release: "For people with busy lives, sleeping may feel like a waste of time, but our study suggests that short sleep could be linked with future cardiovascular disease."
With that in mind, perhaps Dr. Weil's 4-7-8 exercise are worth a try. After all, what have you got to lose?