About two-thirds of American adults suffer from occasional insomnia, says the Sleep Foundation. If left untreated, lack of sleep can cause daytime impairments, such as sleepiness or difficulty concentrating and can lower quality of life. Chronic insomnia puts you at increased risk of substance abuse, heart disease and diabetes. But experts say there are some unconventional but efficient ways to summon sleep without the side effects of medication.

Brain tapping is one, according to HuffPost.

“Brain tapping is a recently recognized technique that combines cognitive behavioral therapy with somatic stimulation using acupuncture pressure points. It utilizes some of the principles of traditional Chinese medicine and kinesiology,” says Dr. Daisy Mae, a British physician specializing in sleep disorders.

So, if you find yourself wide awake at midnight, try this: Tap seven to nine times on three areas of your face — around the eyes, below the nose and below the lips, then the collarbone, and under the arm and on top of the head, while making a statement out loud about your worries and how bad they are on a scale of 1 to 10. Repeat the sequence of tapping until you reach an intensity level of one.

While the technique seems strange, the journal Psychology published a review of the medical evidence about a group of Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFTs), which included brain tapping. This included 23 randomized controlled trials and 17 personal studies.

According to Healthline, EFT has been used effectively to treat war veterans and active military with PTSD. Within a month, participants receiving EFT coaching sessions had significantly reduced their psychological stress. In addition, more than half of the EFT test group no longer fit the criteria for PTSD.

A 2022 study found that EFT was effective in increasing self-esteem in nurses, and a 2023 study showed that the technique reduced anxiety and stress for healthcare workers during COVID-19. The study found there was a significant decrease in anxiety scores compared to participants receiving other care.

Another effective way to help you sleep is through measured breathing. This tried-and-true breathing exercise has its roots in ancient yoga practice but was first popularized in the Western world by integrative medicine specialist Dr. Andrew Weil in 2015. It’s a simple technique called the “relaxing breath.” By inhaling through your nose to the count of 4, holding that breath for 7 counts, and then exhaling through your mouth to the count of 8, you activate the parasympathetic nervous system responsible for resting and digesting.

According to CNN, this measured breathing not only sets your body up for rest, it also reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and improves pulmonary function. Researchers in Thailand found that the 4-7-8 breathing technique helped reduce heart rate and blood pressure in a study published last year.

“There is some evidence that 4-7-8 breathing helps reduce anxious, depressive, and insomniac symptoms when comparing pre- and post-intervention,” says Joshua Tal, a New York state-based clinical psychologist.  

“The 4-7-8 breathing exercise is utterly simple, takes almost no time, requires no equipment and can be done anywhere,” says Weil on his website. “Sit with your back straight while learning the exercise. Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth and keep it there for the entire exercise.”

Here’s how it’s done:

•Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whooshing sound.

•Close your mouth and inhale quietly through the nose for a mental count of four.

•Hold your breath for a count of seven.

•Exhale completely through your mouth making a whooshing sound to a count of eight.

Repeat this breath cycle three more times for a total count of four cycles.

Weil adds that if you have trouble holding your breath for seven counts, you can speed up the count for a while until your body adjusts.

“This breathing exercise is a natural tranquilizer for the nervous system,” he explains. “Unlike tranquilizing drugs, which are often effective when you first take them but then lose their power over time, this exercise is subtle when you first try it, but gains in power with repetition and practice. Do it at least twice a day.”

Watch a video of Weil demonstrating the 4-7-8 breath. The more you practice it, the better you will become, say experts. Your body and mind will be able to incorporate this useful technique into your toolbox of methods to reduce stress and anxiety daily before they can wreak havoc with your sleep cycles.

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