The correlation between stress and sleep deprivation is becoming increasingly apparent in American society. The NPR maintains that 60 million Americans are currently battling insomnia.
According to an American Psychological Association study titled Stress in America, more than 50 percent of Millennials report to having been kept awake at least one night over the course of the past month due to stress. This is comparable to only 37 percent of Baby Boomers and 25 percent of Matures.
Why does stress affect sleep? Stress is widely recognized as the body’s response to potentially harmful situations, whether real or imagined. Although the effects of stress most certainly vary from person to person, general reactions include quickened breathing, tightened muscles, spiked blood pressure, and an increased heart rate.
Fight or Flight or… Sleep?
These are, in short, all individual components of the body’s intrinsic and universally acknowledged “fight-or-flight” response. Many stressed out people have trouble falling asleep because they feel the weight of these symptoms most heavily at night.
Best-selling author Dr. Andrew Weil, who received his M.D. from Harvard University in 1968, is a huge advocate of the benefits of holistic breathing practices in combating stress and anxiety.
How to Do The “4-7-8” Exercise
Dr. Weil is an influential public supporter of a previously little-known breathing technique known as the “4-7-8 exercise.” This trick, which began to capture national attention several years ago and has since been the subject of innumerable headlines.
Here is how you do the exercise:
- Place the tip of your tongue against the tissue ridge right above your upper front teeth. Keep it there for the remainder of the exercise.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound as you do so.
- Close your mouth and inhale slowly through your nose while mentally counting to four.
- Hold your breath for a mental count of seven.
- Exhale completely through your mouth for a mental count of eight. Make the same whoosh sound from Step Two.
- This concludes the first cycle. Repeat the same process three more times for a total of four renditions.
In a nutshell: breathe in for four, hold for seven, and breathe out for eight. You must inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth.
The four-count inhale allows chronic under-breathers to take in more oxygen. The seven-count hold gives the oxygen more time to thoroughly permeate the bloodstream, and the eight-count exhale slows the heart rate and releases a greater amount of carbon dioxide from the lungs.
The 4-7-8 exercise certainly has the potential to help overly stressed, anxiety-ridden Millennials (as well as members of the general population at large) fall asleep more quickly. It is also known to have positive effects when implemented throughout the day during times of stress, anger, guilt, frustration, or internal tension.
When weighing the painlessness of this completely free method against the irritability, headaches, distractedness, impaired cognitive skills, weight gain, and even heart disease that can result from the “performance killer” known as sleep deprivation, it seems worth a shot.
Easy tricks that anyone can do to stop insomnia in its tracks.
Try to force yourself to stay awake
Get up and do something for 10 minutes
Hide your clock
Cool your room
Take a warm shower before bed
Wear socks to bed
Immerse your face in very cold water for 30 seconds
Scent your bedroom with lavender
Listen to music
Practice progressive relaxation
Give yourself acupressure
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