The easy guide to the 4 7 8 Breathing Technique

4-7-8 Breathing Technique

Do you ever have trouble quietening your mind at night to get to sleep?  The 4 7 8 breathing technique is an easy, yet effective method of calming your body and mind.  This is our favourite go-to breathing technique for relaxation and sleep.  If practised regularly, this method can lull you into sleep in just one minute.

What is 4 7 8 breathing?

The 4-7-8 breathing (or 478 breathing) technique was conceived by Dr. Andrew Weil, a world-renowned Harvard trained doctor with a focus on holistic health.  Deep, relaxing breathing has been used to soothe the mind for thousands of years, and is a key element of meditation and yoga.  The actual process of the Dr Weil 4 7 8 breathing method is very simple, making it a good choice for the end of a busy day.

How does 4 7 8 breathing work?

4-7-8 breathing works in three ways.  It focuses and calms the mind, by helping to quieten other thoughts, similar to meditation.  Some people also benefit from the sense of control they get from this breathing technique.  Feeling in control of your breathing and body helps to soothe anxiety and improve mindset.  It also has a physiological affect on the body because the deep breathing and increased oxygen makes the body think that your mind is relaxed, and encourages a resting heart rate.  It is basically a command to your body to slow down all its functions.  Dr Weil refers to the method as a ‘natural tranquilizer for the nervous system’.  It is a handy sleep tool but it can also be used to ease anxiety, stress and even pain during the day.

Dr Andrew Weil on breathing

How to do 4 7 8 breathing

Sit or lay with your back straight to allow your lungs to fill properly.  Make sure you are comfortable and (if possible) won’t be disturbed.  Keep the tip of the tongue resting lightly behind the front upper teeth throughout the entire exercise.  Exhale all the air from the lungs before starting the following steps.

  • Inhale quietly through your nose to the count of 4.
  • Hold your breath for the count of 7.
  • Exhale through your mouth to the count of 8, while making an audible ‘whoooosh’ sound.

Repeat this cycle a total of 4 times.

The 4-7-8 breathing technique

Things you should know about 4 7 8 breathing

The 4 7 8 breathing technique may make some people feel light-headed, especially at first, which is why it should be practiced in a safe place.  Dr Weil describes it as ‘a very pleasant altered state of consciousness’.  Most people find they need to start this method with shorter timings.  If you are feeling light-headed or out of breath simply make the times for the three phases shorter.  Try to keep the ratio similar to 4-7-8 though.  Your inhale should always be about half as long as your exhale.

This method needs to be done twice a day for two months to get the result of falling asleep in one minute, according to Dr Weil.  However, you can practice 4 7 8 breathing as many time as you like throughout the day.  The beauty of this technique is that, unlike sleeping pills, that lose their efficacy over time, 4 7 8 breathing actually gets more powerful with repetition and practise.

There are apps available that can help with the timing of your breathing, but don’t get too hung up on the precise timings.  Your focus should be on the process and relaxing your body.

Children can also practice this technique at night to get to sleep.  Adjust the number of seconds for each phase to your child’s lung capacity.  Your child should not be holding their breath for too long or be out of breath after using this technique.  The timings are not as important as getting your child to concentrate on their breathing.

Please note:  This article is not to be used as medical advice.  Always speak to a medical professional before trying a new sleep treatment.   This post may contain affiliate links.

63 replies
  1. amalgam says:

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    Reply
  2. hani says:

    i do this technique four times a day. i suffered few times high heart rate and nervousness with wet hands. why is this please guide?

    Reply
    • TheDeepSleepCo says:

      If you are experiencing these symptoms please try lessening the number of seconds whilst keeping the approx. ratio of the numbers. The task is not designed to stress the body out, quite the opposite. Always stop and take a break if you are experiencing shortness of breath or heart palpitations.

      Reply
  3. Igor Bozic says:

    Hi Deep Sleep Co i have again a question about the 4 7 8 breathing exercise can I do this 4 breath cycles every 15 minutes all day long?

    Reply
  4. Igor Bozic says:

    Dear TheDeepSleepCo,

    I have again a question about the 4-7-8 breathing exercise!
    For example, when I do 4 or 8 breath cycles: Can I do 4 or 8 breath cycles after 15 minutes again or must I wait longer to do them again throughout the day?

    I would be very happy if I will get a answer of your!

    Best wishes
    Igor

    Reply
    • TheDeepSleepCo says:

      Hi Igor,
      Are you finding the technique helpful? I am not a doctor so I can’t give out medical advice. However, in my personal opinion, if you are feeling completely fine after 15 minutes then do it again. The danger would be that you would not be getting enough oxygen, however there should be warning signs that your body will tell you before this becomes dangerous. If you feel dizzy or light headed at any point then stop the exercise. Maybe your doctor can offer further advice.

      Reply
  5. Igor says:

    Hello TheDeepSleepCo,

    I have a question about the 4-7-8 breathing exercise!

    Dr. Weil says after one month increase 8 breath cycles:… So can I do 8 breath cycles as many times as I like troughout the day?

    And why Dr. Weil says to do never more than 8 breath cycles??
    Can you explain to me why this is so?

    It would be great to hear from you soon!

    Best wishes
    Igor

    Reply
    • TheDeepSleepCo says:

      Hi, thanks for reading and thank you for the question. I am not an expert so maybe Dr Weil would be the best person to ask these questions. However, he does say ‘you cannot do it too frequently’ so you are free to do the eight breath cycles as often throughout the day as you like.
      Dr Weil warns not to do more than the eight breaths in one cycle. I don’t know exactly why this is. I can only assume that oxygen levels in the body would drop too low and become dangerous.

      Reply
  6. jacklyn says:

    Ꮋello, I read your new stuff гegularly. Yⲟur writing style is awesome,
    keep doing what you’re doing!

    Reply
  7. Ayesha Heart says:

    Wow! I needed this so bad. It’s been a stressful month and I’ve just tried this and helped me a lot! Thank you so much :)

    Reply
  8. Florence says:

    I did this to test and my first impression was I couldn’t hold my breath for 7 seconds. But in fact I can and I like it. Will do more often.

    Reply
  9. Sheleen says:

    Wow, this is really useful and definitely something I will try as I often have trouble sleeping! I know there a lot of research that has been done talking about how breathing techniques help overall wellbeing, I better start practising!

    Reply
  10. Nina says:

    I’ve heard about this breathing method. I’ve also heard that it can be great for those who struggle to fall asleep at night. It seems very calming for sure.

    Reply
  11. Sheri - A Busy Bee's Life says:

    I think this is great. I also think this breathing exercise is great for those who suffer with anxiety.

    Reply
  12. Blair villanueva says:

    Sometimes overly fatigue gives me a difficulty to breath. But doesn’t happen during sleeping time (thank God!).

    Reply
  13. Kristyn says:

    I tried this out and it definitely helped calm my mind before bed. I hope this will always help me out when I find it hard to fall asleep.

    Reply
  14. Jeuelle says:

    I really enjoy Dr. Weil’s approach to healthy living. This is something that’s so simple and practical yet has enormously high yield in our overall well being.

    Reply
  15. Yocana talaia says:

    Lovely post, I am having huge trouble falling a sleep. Need to start doing these techniques to see if it helps.

    Reply
  16. Allison Cooper says:

    I’ve never heard of this before but need to follow these steps! Being a busy wahm mom, I have so many moments during the day where I could use this technique.

    Reply
  17. Joan Cajic says:

    I need to really learn how to do this because as much as I even try to meditate or “quiet the mind” as people say, never works for me but this looks doable and I will be trying it.

    Reply
    • TheDeepSleepCo says:

      It can be hard when your mind has so many things to think about. Its good to try to focus your thoughts on something else.

      Reply
  18. Judith Ramsey says:

    I have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. This is a great idea and I will defiantly let you know how it goes!

    Reply
    • TheDeepSleepCo says:

      I would recommend everyone start with shorter timings. And be very careful holding your breath whilst pregnant.

      Reply
  19. Ayushi says:

    My mind is never calm in the nights and I hope this helps. One of my friends tried it and she said that the mind wanders more into the controlled breathing and hence ends up less relaxed. Let me see how it goes for me! :)

    Reply
  20. Erika Ramona says:

    It would be great for me if I’d be able to fall asleep in a minute. Thank you for sharing this, perhaps if I try to do this technique, my sleeping patterns might improve.

    Reply

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