Millions of Americans struggle with falling asleep each night — it's even more of a problem for women and those over the age of 65. And, sometimes the more tired you are, the harder it is to drift off — creating a vicious cycle. So, it's not surprising we're always on the lookout for ways to get better sleep, and this expert-approved breathing technique might just be the holy grail.
The 4-6-7 Technique
"The body basically needs a heart rate of below 60 to enter into a state of sleep," the Sleep Doctor founder Michael Breus, PhD, told Prevention. (Normal resting heart rate is between 60 and 100 beats per minute, according to the Mayo Clinic.) To lower your heart rate to optimal levels for sleep, Dr. Breus recommends the practicing the following breathing technique when your head hits the pillow:
- Breathe in for a count of four
- Hold your breath for six seconds
- Breathe out slowly for seven seconds
If you do this continuously, Breus estimates that you'll be in dreamland in 10 to 20 minutes. It may seem like a lot of concentration at first, but once you get the hang of it you'll be so thankful — it certainly beats tossing and turning for hours.
Many people lay in bed with their minds racing over what happened that day, or all the things they have to do tomorrow. With the 4-6-7 Technique, however, your mind will be so focused on timing your breathing that it will be hard for your thoughts to wander.
"Deep breathing is one of the best ways to lower stress in the body," according to stress-management tips from the University of Michigan. "This is because when you breathe deeply, it sends a message to your brain to calm down and relax. The brain then sends this message to your body. Those things that happen when you are stressed, such as increased heart rate, fast breathing, and high blood pressure, all decrease as you breathe deeply to relax."
So, basically, keep calm and sleep on (with the deep breaths)!