Updated: Oct 30
The 4-7-8 breathing technique, also known as “relaxing breath,” quite simply involves breathing in for 4 seconds, holding the breath for 7 seconds, and exhaling for 8 seconds.
This breathing pattern aims to reduce anxiety or help people get to sleep. Many people claim that the method helps people get to sleep in 1 minute.
In this article, we look at how to perform this breathing technique, and why it works.
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.
The 4-7-8 breathing technique, can help with the following:
Helping a person get to sleep
Managing cravings and compulsions
Controlling or reducing anger responses
How to do it
Before starting the breathing pattern, adopt a comfortable sitting position. Set your intention for what you would like to release 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
A person may feel lightheaded after doing this for the first few times. Therefore, 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.
The longer and more frequently a person uses the technique, the more effective it becomes.
How it works and benefits
There is much evidence to suggest that deep breathing techniques have a positive impact on a person’s anxiety and stress levels.
For example, a 2011 review article in Health science Journal identifies some of the potential health benefits of deep breathing techniques, particularly for deep breathing from the diaphragm.
These possible benefits include:
Reduced symptoms of asthma in children and adolescents
Better stress management
Reduced aggressive behaviour
Improved migrane symptoms
Studies suggest that 6 weeks of practicing pranayamic breathing, or breathing that focuses on controlling breath movement, not only has a positive effect on a person’s emotional and psychological state but also their heart rate variability, which correlates with stress, and also improves cognition and decreases anxiety.
When you hold your breath, you activate your parasympathetic nervous system, which slows your heart rate and causes your body to relax and your mind to slow down. Breathing in deeply and holding your breath increases intra-abdominal pressure, thereby stimulating your vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is a powerhouse in the organ system and creates many, many positive changes in your body.
The most common uses of 4-7-8 breathing are for reducing stress and anxiety. With frequent use, it reportedly becomes more effective in helping a person manage their stress levels.
This improvement is in contrast to anti-anxiety drugs, which tend to lose some of their effectiveness over time as the body adjusts to them.
This breath is easy, quick and very powerful. It can be used any time, any place. Use it periodically throughout the day and see the benefits unfold in your life.
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