What Is The 4-7-8 Breathing Technique and How Does it Work?

It seems to be the conversation of the decade, how can we shut down our brains at night and fall asleep? Recently the 4-7-8 breathing technique has gone viral as the solution to attaining relaxation at night quickly and easily.

Also known as the “relaxing breath” this technique is a relaxation exercise. Integrative medicine specialist, Dr. Andrew Weil, is credited with the popularization of this technique beginning in 2015. 

Breathing techniques aren’t new, and this one has ancient roots in the yogic practice of pranayama (meaning focusing on the breath).

Dr. Melissa Young, an integrative medicine specialist, explained to the Cleveland Clinic, “Yoga breathing techniques calm the body down and bring it into a more relaxed state. This kind of breathing can help us focus our mind and our body away from worries and repetitive thoughts.”

Many people use this technique daily to help manage their stress and anxiety, and Dr. Weil stated in a video, the technique can also be used to help you fall asleep. 

Essentially the 4-7-8 breathing technique involves breathing in for four counts, holding that breath for seven counts, and exhaling for 8 counts, repeating four times. 

Joshua Tal, a New York state-based clinical psychologist, told CNN, “It does not ‘put you to sleep,’ but rather it may reduce anxiety to increase likelihood of falling asleep.” 

This technique is meant to cause your body to relax by activating the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for relaxation. By doing this your body is suppressing your sympathetic nervous system, which is your stress response. By allowing your body to be taken out of its flight or fight response, your mind is able to regain tranquility. 

How To Do The 4-7-8 Breathing Technique 

One thing to remember before beginning this technique is to position your tongue. Move the tongue to the roof of your mouth, touching the back of your two top teeth. Your tongue stays in this position throughout the entire exercise.

If you are just learning this technique, you can start by sitting upright in a comfortable position. As you become more comfortable with it you can do this technique lying down before bed. 

According to Dr. Weil these are the five steps you need to be successful with the 4-7-8 breathing technique. For video guidance, watch this video

  1. Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
  2. Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
  3. Hold your breath for a count of seven.
  4. Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight. This is one breath.
  5. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths. 

Once you get comfortable with this technique, Dr. Weil recommends using it at least twice a day. For your first time you do this breathing exercise, go at a speed that is comfortable for you. Just like other breathing techniques, this does take time to master. 

Julia Medina

Julia Medina

Hi all, I’m Julia a Staff News Writer for Sleepopolis! From sleep news and education to the latest sleep trends, my goal is to keep you informed about what’s going on in the sleep world.

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