The 4-7-8 breathing technique, also known as “relaxing breath,” involves breathing in for 4 seconds, holding the breath for 7 seconds, and exhaling for 8 seconds.

The method, pioneered by Harvard-trained Dr Andrew Weill, is described as a ‘natural tranquiliser for the nervous system’ helping to quickly reduce tension and allowing the body to relax.

This breathing pattern aims to reduce anxiety or help people get to sleep. Some proponents claim that the method helps people get to sleep in 1 minute.

There is limited scientific research to support this method, but there is a lot of anecdotal evidence to suggest that this type of deep, rhythmic breathing is relaxing and may help ease people into sleep.

What is 4-7-8 Breathing?

The 4-7-8 breathing technique requires a person to focus on taking a long, deep breath in and out. Rhythmic breathing is a core part of many meditation and yoga practices as it promotes relaxation.

Dr. Andrew Weil, the founder and director of the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, teaches the 4-7-8 breathing technique, which he believes can help with the following:

  • reducing anxiety
  • helping a person get to sleep
  • managing cravings
  • controlling or reducing anger responses

How to Perform the Technique

Before starting the breathing pattern, adopt a comfortable sitting position and place the tip of the tongue on the tissue right behind the top front teeth.

To use the 4-7-8 technique, focus on the following breathing pattern:

  • empty the lungs of air
  • breathe in quietly through the nose for 4 seconds
  • hold the breath for a count of 7 seconds
  • exhale forcefully through the mouth, pursing the lips and making a “whoosh” sound, for 8 seconds
  • repeat the cycle up to 4 times

Dr. Weil recommends using the technique at least twice a day for best results, but suggests that people avoid doing more than four breath cycles in a row until they have more practice with the technique.

A person may feel lightheaded after doing this for the first few times, so it is advisable to try this technique when sitting or lying down to prevent dizziness or falls.

The total number of seconds that the pattern lasts for is less important than keeping the ratio. A person who cannot hold their breath for long enough may try a shorter pattern instead, such as:

  • breathe in through the nose for 2 seconds
  • hold the breath for a count of 3.5 seconds
  • exhale through the mouth for 4 seconds

As long as a person maintains the correct ratio, they may notice benefits after several days or weeks of doing 4-7-8 breathing consistently one to two times a day.

According to some advocates of 4-7-8 breathing, the longer and more frequently a person uses the technique, the more effective it becomes.

There is limited clinical research to support the claims about 4-7-8 breathing or other breathing techniques; the evidence is limited to anecdotal reports from satisfied users.

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