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“4-7-8” Relaxing Breath and 5 Other Techniques for Improving Your Quality of Sleep

We know sleep is essential for our bodies to function, just like food and water. Not everyone can be Ruth Bater Ginsberg.

And yet according to a new Consumer Reports survey, 27 % of U.S. adults surveyed said they had trouble falling asleep or staying asleep most nights, and 68%—or an estimated 164 million Americans—struggled with sleep at least once a week.

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Most of us need about 7 hours of sleep a night, says Nathaniel Watson, M.D., co-director of the University of Washington Sleep Center in Seattle. Regularly getting less than 7 hours can, over time, be detrimental to your health. Watson says a lack of sleep can contribute to depression, heart disease, lowered immunity, obesity, and type 2 diabetes, among other ills.

So how do we improve the quality of our sleep? Try utilizing these techniques to improve your sleep hygiene.

First, make your bedroom a comfortable and relaxing place to be. Consider all five sense.

1. Touch

Invest in a quality mattress, pillows, and bedding that feels good to you.

You’ll also want to adjust the temperature of the room to one that feels most comfortable to you (and your partner, if you have one).

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2. Sight

Put. The phone. Down.

Science has proven that exposure to blue light, like our phones, tablets, and computers can suppress your natural melatonin.

To prevent light pollution, consider putting up black out curtains on your windows, or purchasing an eye mask.

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3. Sound

If you’re sitting in bed listening to the sound of cars driving by, or your upstairs neighbors getting a little rowdy, try purchasing ear plugs to block out the sound.

You might also consider trying a white noise machine and or listening to soothing music and/or a chill podcast through your earbuds.

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4. Smell

A pleasant aroma such as lavender can help to relax the body and mind.

Try spritzing some essential oil spray over the bed or buying a diffuser for your bedside table.

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5. Taste

Rather than flavor, consider what you might put consume before bed.

Some people enjoy a nightcap before turning in, but according to The Sleep Foundation, drinking alcohol or eating before bed can actually lessen your quality of sleep.

On the flip side, going to bed on an empty stomach can keep you tossing and turning. Aim to eat your last meal of the night 2-3 hours before heading to bed. If you need a late night snack, try to opting for something that will digest fast, like a piece of fruit.

You might also consider taking melatonin thirty minutes before bed, or asking your doctor for a prescription-strength sleep aid.

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Finally, and perhaps most importantly, find a way to wind down. Relax your body and your mind.

6. Breath

To relax and fall asleep quicker, try trying the “relaxing breath” or the 4-7-8 breathing technique.

To practice this technique, simply inhale for four seconds, hold that breath for seven seconds, and exhale for eight seconds.

According to Dr. Jo, a licensed physical therapist, this technique is designed to help you gain control of your breathing to relax and reduce anxiety.

If you struggle with falling or staying asleep, give these techniques a try. Keep a sleep journal or use a Smart Watch/Fitbit to track your quality of sleep. Explore what might be the root cause of your insomnia. When in doubt, consult a doctor.

What other techniques do you use to get a good nights sleep? Tell us about them in the comments.