I can’t tell you how many times I’ve laid in bed and stared at the ceiling, hoping sleep would find me. If this happens to you, then you know how frustrating it can be. The good news is, there might be something you can use to fall asleep faster. And anyone can do it.  

The 4-7-8 breathing technique is said to help you fall asleep in 60 seconds flat. Sounds like a dream, right? As it turns out, it’s reality, and there is science to back it up. 

How Does the 4-7-8 Sleep Method Work?

Founded by Dr. Andrew Weil, 4-7-8 breathing is derived from Pranayama or the ancient yogic practice of controlling your breathing. By using it, you can reduce stress and relax your body. 

We know what you’re thinking; how does 4-7-8 breathing actually relax you? That’s a fair question. This type of breathing activates your parasympathetic nervous system, which is the counterpart to your sympathetic nervous system or your body’s stress response. Essentially, controlled breathing, like the 4-7-8 technique, promotes relaxation by controlling the stress response you’re experiencing. 

Benefits of the 4-7-8 breathing

You’ve probably caught on by now to the theme, but 4-7-8 reduces anxiety. However, there are also several other benefits. 

Deep breathing helps you sleep better. We all know that anxiety and stress are huge factors in keeping us up at night. 4-7-8 breathing gives you the power to have more control over your anxiety, which will help you sleep better. 

How Do You Do the 4-7-8 Breathing Technique? 

Luckily, the 4-7-8 breathing technique is really easy to do. There are just a few things you should keep in mind. First, you want to be in a comfortable sitting position. Second, you’ll place the tip of your tongue behind your front teeth. Yes, it takes a second to get used to, but you won’t notice it after a while. 

Once you’re comfortable, then you can start 4-7-8 breathing.  

  1. Exhale until your lungs are “empty.” You’ll likely hear a whoosh sound as you breathe around your tongue. 
  2. For four seconds, breathe in through your nose. 
  3. For seven seconds, hold your breath.
  4. For eight seconds, forcefully exhale. 

And that’s it! That’s a cycle of the 4-7-8 breathing technique. Complete the process three more times for a total of 4 iterations. 

How often should you do 4-7-8 breathing? 

How often you should practice 4-7-8 breathing is someone dependent on how long you have been using the technique –– but twice a day is a good marker. If you’re a beginner using it to manage anxiety, it’s recommended that you do four cycles, twice a day. 

You can increase the number of cycles you do as you become more comfortable. If you’re using it to sleep, we recommend you do it every night. 

Does 4-7-8 Breathing Actually Work for Sleeping?

Full disclosure, you’re likely not going to fall asleep in 60 seconds on your first time. The 4-7-8 method is something you have to do consistently to get the maximum amount of benefits –– we’re talking weeks, months, and years of consistent use. 

You might be shaking your head right now, but think about it. It’s just a practiced breathing technique –– you’re going to breathe anyway. Why not be intentional about how you do it and derive some additional benefits from it?

Too Long, Didn’t Read?

If you’re someone who has trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, 4-7-8 breathing might change your life. Or at least help you sleep better. Admittedly, getting used to 4-7-8 breathing is a little strange at first. The way you have to hold your tongue isn’t exactly natural. That said, once I got used to it, I did find that it was very relaxing.