Do you 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 for sleep. If practiced regularly, this method can lull you to sleep in just one minute.
What is 4-7-8 breathing?
The 4-7-8 breathing technique was conceived by Dr. Andrew Weil, a Harvard trained doctor with a focus on holistic health. Deep, relaxing breathing has been used to sooth the mind for thousands of years, and is a key element of yoga. The actual process of Dr Weil’s 4-7-8 method is very simple, making it a good one 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. People also benefit from the sense of control they get from the breathing technique. Feeling in control of their breathing and their body helps to sooth anxiety and improve mindset. It also has a physiological affect on the body because the deep breathing and increased oxygen makes the body think you are 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 it 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
This 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 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 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 pills, that lose their efficacy over time, 4-7-8 breathing actually gets more powerful with repetition and practice.
There are apps available that can help with the timing of your breathing but don’t get too hung up on the precising timing. 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.