Medically reviewed by
Dacelin St Martin, MD
Triple board-certified in Sleep Medicine,
Internal Medicine, and Pediatrics.
Although falling asleep or conquering worry may never be as straightforward as 1-2-3, some experts believe a new set of numbers, 4-7-8, comes much closer.
The 4-7-8 breathing approach does not require equipment or a particular location. Experts suggest practicing in a calm, quiet environment.
Once you’ve mastered the technique, you may apply it while reclining in bed. However, Weil, an integrative medicine specialist, recommends sitting with your back straight while beginning the exercise.
According to clinical psychologist Joshua Tal, the 4-7-8 method may reduce anxiety to increase the likelihood of falling asleep.
The 4-7-8 Process
Start by placing the tip of your tongue on the ridge tissue behind your upper front teeth. You will exhale through your mouth around your tongue.
The 4-7-8 relaxation technique involves these three steps, starting with a complete exhalation via your lips, generating a whoosh sound, and repeating three times more for four breath cycles.
- 4 Counts: Close your lips and take four slow, deep breaths via your nose
- 7 Counts: Hold your breath for seven counts.
- 8 Counts: Exhale through your lips for eight counts, generating a whoosh sound.
Maintaining the ratio of 4, 7, and 8 counts is more crucial than the time spent on each phase. This technique, often known as the “relaxing breath,” has ancient roots in pranayama, a yogic breath control technique.
What Research Reveals
The 4-7-8 breathing exercise can assist in engaging your parasympathetic nervous system, responsible for relaxing and digesting, minimizes sympathetic activity, and puts the body in a condition more favorable to deep sleep.
According to Tal, activating the parasympathetic nervous system also distracts an anxious brain. While proponents of the approach may swear by it, he believes that additional study is needed to establish more precise correlations between 4-7-8 and sleep and other health advantages.
A group of Thai researchers investigated the immediate effects of 4-7-8 breathing on heart rate and blood pressure in 43 healthy young individuals. After determining these health indicators and fasting blood glucose levels, participants performed 4-7-8 breathing for six cycles each set for three sets, interspersed with one minute of regular breathing between each set.
Researchers observed that the strategy increased participants’ heart rate and blood pressure reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes and improving pulmonary function. The 4-7-8 method is safe, although dizziness isn’t uncommon with this approach for people who are new to it.
If you’re having trouble sleeping, try the 4-7-8 breathing approach. You’d be shocked at how much it can calm an active mind and help you get better sleep.
- Vierra, J., Boonla, O., & Prasertsri, P. (2022). Effects of sleep deprivation and 4‐7‐8 breathing control on heart rate variability, blood pressure, blood glucose, and endothelial function in healthy young adults. Physiological Reports, 10(13), e15389.
- Weil, A.(2022).Three Breathing Exercises And Technique.drweil.https://www.drweil.com/health-wellness/body-mind-spirit/stress-anxiety/breathing-three-exercises/
- Pramanik, T., Pudasaini, B., & Prajapati, R. (2010). The immediate effect of a slow pace breathing exercise Bhramari pranayama on blood pressure and heart rate. Nepal Med Coll J, 12(3), 154-157.
- Naiman, R. (2015). Integrative medicine approaches insomnia. Sleep Review.https://www.sleepreviewmag.com/sleep-disorders/insomnia/integrative-medicine approaches-insomnia.