Can’t sleep? The 4-7-8 breathing trick claims to help you fall asleep faster

Getting a good night’s sleep is a crucial part of maintaining good overall health. However, many people struggle with getting the recommended seven-plus hours of sleep.

One of the main reasons people struggle with sleep is that their minds are buzzing with several thoughts when we should be relaxing in preparation for sleep.

However, the 4-7-8 breathing technique might be helpful in relaxing you and helping you drift off.

The idea behind this method isn’t to cure all your sleep problems, but provide a way for you to find peace and reduce anxiety, which in turn might help you fall asleep.

What is the 4-7-8 breathing technique?

The 4-7-8 breathing technique has been designed to relax you with ancient roots in yoga practice pranayama but popularised by integrative medicine specialist Andrew Weil, M.D.

Also known as the “relaxing breath,” the 4-7-8 method involves breathing in for four counts, holding your breath for seven and then exhaling for eight counts.

How to do the 4-7-8 breathing technique?
Dr Andrew Weil who popularised the 4-7-8 breathing technique has several videos on how to practice the method.

Follow these steps to do the 4-7-8 technique properly:

  • Sit with your back straight
  • Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth and keep it there the entire time
  • Exhale through your mouth
  • Close your mouth and inhale through your nose for four counts
  • Hold your breath for seven counts
  • Exhale your breath through your mouth for eight counts, making a whooshing sound
  • Do this cycle four times

The more you practice the 4-7-8 technique, the better you’ll become at it and the more your body gets used to it as a method to manage stress and anxiety.

How can the 4-7-8 breathing technique help with sleep?

The 4-7-8 breathing technique helps individuals focus on their breathing rather than thinking about why they can’t fall asleep.

This method can help you activate parasympathetic nervous system – responsible for resting and digesting – which reduces sympathetic activity and makes your body more conducive to sleep.

There is also some evidence that the breathing practice can help reduce anxious, depressive and insomniac symptoms, though research on this specific link has not been in-depth.

The 4-7-8 technique also impacts heart rate and blood pressure in a good way.

It can be helpful to combine the breathing technique with other relaxation methods like progressive muscle relaxation, yoga, mindfulness or meditation.