Medically reviewed by Susan Kerrigan, MD and Marianne Madsen, University of Utah
A study by global tech protection and support company Asurion found that the average person struggles to go more than 10 minutes without checking their phone and typically checks it 80 times a day.
Humans tend to do a lot of weird things. Even when presented with the facts, we can acknowledge the ridiculousness but remain fully addicted.
Between career obligations, childcare, housework, keeping up with social media, and many more tasks, life can be overwhelming. While we know we can’t live without food, some people believe that they can function optimally without enough sleep. The thing is–we can’t. Even if we are one of the lucky few who can perform adequately on little sleep, it will eventually catch up with us. Or we will continue running on empty, not performing optimally while believing that we are. And to borrow a metaphor, sleep is to our bodies as a charger is to a cell-phone–it’s not a luxury.
But sometimes, we really do try. We resolve to get an early night but alas, we toss and turn–our mind running circles around us.
Most of us have struggled with insomnia at one point or another during our lives. Sometimes we can’t fall asleep because we are excited or nervous about something happening the next day like a job interview. Sometimes it’s a side effect of a new medication we are trying. But sometimes it’s more insidious. What starts to happen is that after a few of these nights, we can become afraid to even lie down. Being anxious about trying to sleep just exacerbates the sleeplessness, and it can become a vicious cycle where the more we need to sleep, the more our body (or our mind) will not allow it.
So what’s the answer? While there isn’t just one, breathing is one of the most underrated natural techniques out there. Breathing correctly can help us in many different ways, including preventing panic attacks, alleviating labor pains, and even falling asleep.
A simple trick is the 4-7-8 breathing method. Taught by Harvard-educated Dr. Andrew Weil, its genius lies in its simplicity–you can do it wherever you are, and you need absolutely nothing with which to do it. Dr Weil cautions against doing it while you are driving because it can lead to a state of elevated relaxation which means that you might be less alert while driving.
It works like this: the first thing you need to do is exhale completely out of your mouth. For the next 4 seconds, you then breathe in deeply (keeping your lips closed). The next step is to hold your breath for 7 seconds. Finally you exhale for 8 seconds. To do this correctly, you will need to open your mouth and exhale while making a whooshing noise. You will most likely feel very out of breath by this stage. This in turn will force you to take in another deep breath, and you begin the 4-7-8 cycle again.
The next time you are struggling to fall asleep, try the 4-7-8 breathing method. Not only is it 100% natural and free, it’s also incredibly easy. You might be pleasantly surprised the next morning when you wake up and the last thing you remember doing is deep breathing.