Being a mom is an exhausting job, especially if you are a new parent or have more than one kid. But despite the long hours and constant work, sleep may not come easy for many of us. If you ask me, there’s nothing worse than lying in bed like a dead log. Sure, most new parents struggle with very little time to get some shut-eye. But you know what’s worse? Laying in bed for hours desperately hoping to fall asleep while your mind wanders off and gives you an anxiety attack at 2 in the morning.
There’s something about staying in bed fully awake at night. Your brain suddenly reminds you about every wrong decision you made. You start by thinking about the dirty dishes in the sink. Then your mind wanders off to when you screamed at your child in the afternoon. So much for being a laid back parent! You start to question if you chose the right job or career. Or if quitting your job was such a good idea when you’ve got two kids growing up. And what if both of them turn out to be smart and want to join prestigious colleges? Will they be able to get in through scholarship and will you have to pay for their education? You think about your marriage and how it’s been forever since you had a steamy passionate night. You wonder if you are stuck in a rut and your marriage is about to fail. You shut your eyes tight hoping to fall asleep. But your mind keeps churning more unpleasant memories. Does this sound familiar to you?
The 4-7-8 Sleep Technique
I’ve tried everything from taking a warm shower to limiting screen time. But being a parent, it wasn’t practical advice for me to turn off my phone and social media 2 hours before bedtime when that’s the only time I get to unwind and relax. So, when I heard about the 4-7-8 sleep technique from Dr. Andrew Weil, I decided to give it a try. And though I’ve heard about people falling asleep in under 1 minute, I would say it definitely helped me fall asleep under 5 minutes.
Here’s How You Can Do It
The 4-7-8 sleep technique focuses on rhythmic breathing which helps people relax and ease into sleep. Before you start, sit in a comfortable position in your bed. Take a long quiet breath through your nose for 4 seconds. Hold your breath for a count of 7. Now exhale through your mouth for 8 seconds, which will result in a “whoosh” sound. Repeat the same for 4 cycles (1).
You can do this breathing exercise twice every day to see better results. Dr. Andrew Weil suggests to take it slow and avoid doing more than 4 cycles if you are just beginning to practice. It is normal to feel lightheaded in the beginning. Hence it is advised to practice sitting or lying down during the first few times.
If you are not able to hold your breath for that long, you can start with a smaller number. Remember, it’s not the total number of seconds, but the ratio that matters. So, if 7 seconds seem too long for you (or if you feel dizzy), you can start by doing the 2-3.5-4 breathing technique, i.e. breathe in for 2 seconds, hold for 3.5 seconds, and exhale through your mouth for a count of 4.
This deep breathing technique has other benefits as well. It helps reduce anxiety, decrease fatigue, improve migraine symptoms, reduce hypertension, reduce symptoms of asthma in kids and teenagers, and offer better stress management (2).
So, if you are a tired mommy who is struggling to fall asleep faster or you’ve got a toddler at home about to throw a temper tantrum and you find yourself losing your cool, the 4-7-8 sleep technique is definitely worth a shot. However, if you experience lightheadedness, you can choose to stop doing it or modify the length of your breathing technique to a shorter pattern.
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