Too little sleep can lead to big trouble. Aside from feeling tired and groggy, it’s associated with poor heart health, weight gain, toxic waste build-up in the brain, paranoia, and poor performance.
Sleep hygiene and exercise can help, but a lot of the time, they may not. That’s because winding down and relaxing and sticking to a schedule, in addition to burning energy during the day, don’t always address the root cause of your sleep troubles:
Many people struggle with sleep because their mind is racing when they hit the pillow. It could be anxiety about the news, a looming appointment or deadline, relationship trouble, or some other stressor that comes to the top of your mind as soon as your head hits the pillow.
It’s not necessarily surprising that those thoughts start swirling as you lay still in the dark. For most, it’s really the only time they are distraction-free. There are no phone calls, screens, projects, or errands to occupy the attention.
When the lights go off, it’s really just you and your brain.
Dr. Andrew Weil, an alternative medicine doctor, believes he may have the solution to tame the mind at bedtime. It’s rooted in ancient yoga and focuses on breathing to calm the nerves by activating the parasympathetic nervous system.
When the parasympathetic nervous system is activated, it puts you in “rest and digest” mode.
He calls the breathing practice the 4-7-8 method and you can do it like this:
1. Inhale through your nose for four seconds
2. Hold your breath for seven seconds
3. Slowly exhale for eight seconds through pursed lips. It should create a “whoosh” sound.
4. Repeat up to four times.
This method can be done rather quickly and may help relieve stress and anxiety to help calm your mind and relax. It can be used throughout the day but may be most useful at bedtime.