The easy guide to the 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.
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.
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.
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This really answered my problem, thank you!
This really answered my problem, thank you!
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?
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.
Excellent website. A lot of useful info here. Thank you for your effort!
Thank you Christiane.
HI DEEP SLEEP CO Thank you very much for your answer Best wishesIgor
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?
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!
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.
This is exactly the information that I was looking for! Thank you.
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!
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.
Thank you very much for your answer!
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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 :)
This sounds like an interesting technique. I have to try it out for myself see how it goes for me.
Good luck Lisa, We’d love to hear how it goes.
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.
We would love to know how it helped.
Good to know about this 4-7-8 breathing.I will try this whenever I feel stressed out.
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!
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.
I think this is great. I also think this breathing exercise is great for those who suffer with anxiety.
I have heard from people that it really works for anxiety attacks.
I will try to practice this every day. I need to keep my mind calmed so I can have a good sleep.
I practice this method ever night and it works like a charm!
That’s great Vanessa. I’m so glad yo hear it.
Sometimes overly fatigue gives me a difficulty to breath. But doesn’t happen during sleeping time (thank God!).
I have trouble falling asleep. I need to really learn how to do this. Wonderful post!
Thank you. I hope it helps you.
Oh i really need this.. relaxing mind. hope it would works for me. need it to sleep well.
Interesting. This sounds easy enough that I’ll give it go tonight when I head off to bed. 4-7-8…good stuff.
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.
YES! I have extreme difficult sleeping. My friends suggest meditation but I think I’ll try working on My breathing first!
I will to try this! I never knew about this, seems very relaxing.
I use this to calm down during an Anxiety attack. It works really well and I love how you explained it in this post.
Yes, it’s often used for people with anxiety. Thanks for reading.
I LOVE THIS POST. I am trying this tonight. I have such a hard time relaxing at night.
Thank you so much. I hope it goes well.
I would really like to try the 4-7-8 breathing technique. It seems really logical and effective. I hope it works for me.
Sounds like a great way to relax at the end of a very busy day. I’ll have to try this!
Thanks for sharing this tip! I must do this to improve my sleep.
I had no idea this existed. I have been practicing my breathing though so I’ll use this technique too.
This is very interesting. I will have to keep this in mind in the future.
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.
Agreed, that is why he has gotten so far. He doesn’t talk down to you and has lots of practical tips.
Lovely post, I am having huge trouble falling a sleep. Need to start doing these techniques to see if it helps.
I’m sure it will help you out.
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.
Be sure to try this out during the day and let us know how it goes.
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.
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.
I have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. This is a great idea and I will defiantly let you know how it goes!
I find it hard to breathe out for 8 seconds! I need to start shorter and work up to it I think!
I would recommend everyone start with shorter timings. And be very careful holding your breath whilst pregnant.
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! :)
It’s good to have something to focus on rather than your worries. That’s one of the reasons this works.
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.
We’d love to hear how it goes for you. Thanks for reading.