Finding relief at last
Finally, I came across a method that had the least research to back it up, but seemingly the most promise for me. It’s called 4-7-8 breath and it sounded relaxing, like something you might do in a yoga class. It was developed by physician-author Andrew Weil and its proponents claim it will put you to sleep in a jiffy – 60 seconds.
I wanted to try it out immediately, so I quickly skimmed the instructions, which note you keep your tongue in one spot, just behind your upper front teeth, for both inhales and exhales. They also said your exhales should be audible, and last twice as long as your inhales. As for the breathing pattern itself:
On my trial run, I was still awake after 60 seconds, but I did feel more relaxed. I think I nodded off after about 10 rounds. I didn’t stay down for long, though. Having apparently drifted off during Step 3, I woke up gasping for breath.
The next day, I took a closer look at the instructions. In fact, I watched a video of Weil explaining how to do the technique. That’s when I learned you’re only supposed to do four rounds of this breath at one time and practice it twice (at a minimum) daily for four weeks for best results.
The advice to practice the exercise more than once a day reminded me of something Johns Hopkins Medicine’s Salas told me when we were discussing the impact stress can have on sleep. “The more you can get people to recenter — practice a couple of minutes of mindfulness or meditation — throughout the day, the less stress they are going to have when they’re going to bed.”
In the same way some people might watch their caffeine consumption throughout the day in order to better their sleep at night, I began to monitor my stress level using the 4-7-8 breath. I did this midmorning, late afternoon and, of course, at bedtime.
I began getting into bed earlier each night, perhaps because taking time out to think about sleep throughout the day primed me to prioritize sleep at night. Or maybe I was becoming relaxed enough that the thought of getting into bed was more appealing than it was anxiety provoking. Whatever the reason, something was putting the brakes on my insomnia and driving the numbers in my Fitbit sleep log up.
About two weeks in, on a Wednesday night, I logged 7 hours, 55 minutes. The very next night I logged 7 hours, 51 minutes. On Friday, I dipped slightly to 6 hours, 31 minutes, but I was back on track at 7 hours, 27 minutes on Saturday, 7 hours, 53 minutes on Sunday and a steady stream of 7-hour-plus nights followed.
My mind is sharper, I’m happier, less irritable, more productive. I’m off the roller coaster for now and, hopefully, for good.
This content was originally published here.