Have you tried this?

Earlier this week, I was speaking to a patient that seemed to have hit a roadblock in her progress. She seemed to be doing all of the rehab movements that we advised at the frequency that we had requested, but she was stuck. Her progress slowed, and her pain persisted. We had already gotten x-rays (which were negative) and had even discussed seeing a different specialist. Before we took that step we needed to take a step back and look at the bigger picture.

Our conversation turned to topics like hydration and nutrition. She assured me that she was eating well and drinking enough water. That's when we shifted to talking about sleep... Her eyes met mine, and she sheepishly admitted that she has been having some difficulty with sleep lately. Next, we discussed the importance of sleep in terms of our overall health and the fact that limited sleep may actually be contributing to her slow recovery. We had a conversation about one of my favorite books, Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker (which happens to be our book of the month for October), and the myriad of health benefits that we get from getting 7 or more hours of sleep per night.

She explained to me that she was having trouble getting the amount of sleep that she needed because her mind was always going at 100 mph in 100 different directions. She needed some help with falling asleep more quickly. We discussed a couple of different strategies for helping her to fall asleep. Ultimately, we settled on one of the simplest approaches that I have come across. She was going to implement the 4-7-8 method.

The 4-7-8 method has been shared and promoted by Dr. Andrew Weil as a great way to help our body (and brain) relax. The idea is that this breathing method will help by stimulating our parasympathetic nervous system. Which is essentially the opposite of the much more commonly discussed sympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for "Fight or Flight" while the parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for "Rest and Digest." In order to get our body, and brain, to be more relaxed, throughout the day and at night, we need to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous more frequently.

You may be wondering, what exactly is the 4-7-8 method? Let me tell you! The 4-7-8 method is pretty simple, but still very effective. All that you need to do is inhale for a count of 4, then hold your breath for a count of 7, then exhale for a count of 8 through pursed lips. This can be repeated 4 times and should be done 1-2 times per day. Dr. Weil has described this method of breathing as "a natural tranquilizer for the nervous system."

Give the 4-7-8 Method a try for a couple of days and let us know what you think!

And keep an eye on our social media feeds for tips on the importance of sleep all month as we dive into Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker!

Movement is my medicine,

Dr. William "Chip" Bleam

Dr. William "Chip" Bleam


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