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In the U.S., 40 million people suffer from chronic long-term sleep disorders each year, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, while an additional 20 million people experience occasional sleep problems. Stimulants such as coffee and energy drinks, alarm clocks, and external lights, interfere with our “circadian rhythm,” also known as our natural sleep/wake cycle. This is why sleep deprivation is becoming more common. Although research cannot pinpoint the exact amount of sleep needed by people at different ages, eight or so hours for a healthy adult is a good “rule of thumb” according to the National Sleep Foundation.The 21st century’s digital revolution has made it increasingly difficult to get a sufficient amount of sleep, especially with the constant need to be connected 24/7. However, Dr. Andrew Weil, a huge advocate of holistic breathing practices to combat stress, anxiety, and insomnia, believes this can all be remedied with a simple breathing exercise. On his website, he writes: “Breathing strongly influences physiology and thought processes, including moods. By simply focusing your attention on your breathing and without doing anything to change it, you can move in the direction of relaxation.”This same philosophy is used in his well-known “The 478 Breathing Exercise,” also called “The Relaxing Breath”, which promotes better sleep. This is based on pranayama, an ancient Indian practice that means “regulation of breath.” The exercise is described by Weil as “a natural tranquilizer for the nervous system” that eases the body into a state of calmness and relaxation.Kevin Meehan, a holistic practitioner and founder of Meehan Formulations in Jackson, Wyo., believes this breathing technique could be effective because it encourages the fast removal of carbon dioxide. Appropriate respiration is effective in removing carbon dioxide from our systems. “Doing so equates into a better preservation of the bicarbonate pool; our reservoirs for helping maintain an appropriate pH balance,” Meehan told Medical Daily in an email.

The 478 Breathing Exercise

The technique is shockingly simple, takes hardly any time, and can be done anywhere in five steps. Although you can do the exercise in any position, it’s recommended to sit with your back straight while learning it. Weil explains to “place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth and keep it there through the entire exercise. You will be exhaling through your mouth around your tongue; try pursing your lips slightly if this seems awkward.”This is followed by the five-step procedure listed below:
  1. Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
  2. Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
  3. Hold your breath for a count of seven.
  4. Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
  5. This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.
Weil emphasizes the most important part of this process is holding your breath for eight seconds. This is because keeping the breath in will allow oxygen to fill your lungs and then circulate throughout the body. It is this that produces a relaxing effect in the body.From my own personal experience this technique works great. On nights I have difficulty sleeping I do this exercise for about 5 minutes and become drowsy and very relaxed. After that I am asleep. Although it does not work for everybody it is worth trying a few times.Click here for more information
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