What is 4 8 7
Does This Breathing Exercise Really Help With Insomnia?
There have been several nights in the past week when I haven't been able to rest. I just couldn't sleep. That's why I tried everything in the middle of the night, from meditation to yoga, but nothing really helped. When I told a friend about this, she recommended a breathing exercise that she uses whenever she cannot sleep.
The 4-7-8 breathing technique is as simple as it sounds: as you inhale, count to four, then hold your breath and count to seven, and then slowly exhale to eight counters. You should repeat this until you fall asleep. The idea behind it is that conscious breathing relaxes the body and, above all, helps to distract yourself when thoughts are racing again.
For some people, like my girlfriend, this may work, but it's not always that simple. Dr. Jason C. Ong is a neurologist at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. He explains that while there is no scientific evidence that breathing exercises work for insomnia, deep breaths in particular can help you relax and calm down. “When we breathe deeply, the diaphragm is stimulated. This then sends a signal to the parasympathetic nervous system that it should switch off the flight or fight mode, which is still a holdover from the Stone Age and becomes active when stressed. ”The parasympathetic nervous system is also responsible for the bodily functions that come into play when we come to rest, for example the heartbeat slows down or the muscles relax. “Insomnia, especially if it is chronic, is often associated with an overreaction of the nervous system to stress. The flight or fight mode is then constantly activated. ”Deep breathing and the associated diaphragmatic stimulation can therefore help to end this mode and initiate falling asleep, says Dr. Ong.
He also explains that the 4-7-8 breathing technique can help distract yourself. After all, the harder you try, the harder it becomes to fall asleep. “When you look at it from that point of view, the breathing exercise can help you focus on something other than falling asleep. That is more of a psychological effect. "
I've tried it and I have to admit: it's nothing for me. First, because I found it extremely difficult not to be distracted, and second, because holding your breath for seven seconds takes a long time. Also for Dr. Ong, the effectiveness of breathing exercises is more likely to be attributed to a placebo effect.
“Even if these tricks work here and there, there is no scientific explanation for them and no one really knows why that is the case. You can compare these breathing exercises to a sugar pill. If you gave it to people and said it helps them sleep, a third of them would fall asleep after taking it simply because of the placebo effect, even though sugar is known not to promote sleep. "
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