4-7-8 Breathing Technique: A More Efficient Method for Anxiety and Sleep
When it comes to managing anxiety or falling asleep, the 1-2-3 technique may not always be effective. However, experts suggest that the 4-7-8 breathing technique, also known as the “relaxing breath,” could be a more efficient method to achieve the desired results.
The 4-7-8 breathing technique has ancient origins in pranayama, an Indian yogic exercise that focuses on breath regulation.
How Does the 4-7-8 Technique Work?
The primary goal of most breathing techniques is to induce a deep state of relaxation in the body. By following specific breathing patterns, such as holding the breath for a certain period of time, the body can replenish its oxygen levels. Techniques like 4-7-8 and 1-2-3 provide a vital oxygen boost to the tissues and organs.
These techniques also help regulate the hyperarousal experienced during periods of anxiety, bringing the mind back into balance. This is particularly beneficial for individuals struggling with insomnia or sleep disorders caused by anxiety or stress. Racing thoughts and worries often hinder restful sleep.
The 4-7-8 technique redirects the body and mind’s focus towards breathing instead of dwelling on unwanted scenarios when trying to sleep. Scientists believe that it can calm damaged nerves and soothe a racing heart. Dr. Andrew Weil, an integrative medicine specialist from Harvard University, even describes it as a “natural sedative for the nervous system.”
The general concept of the 4-7-8 breathing technique can be compared to practices such as visualization, alternate nostril breathing, mindfulness meditation, and guided imagery.
People experiencing anxiety, stress, or mild sleep disorders may find the 4-7-8 technique helpful in overcoming distractions and achieving a relaxed state.
With regular practice over time, experts suggest that the effectiveness of the 4-7-8 breathing technique increases. Incorporating this technique into a daily routine can yield better results for individuals prone to anxiety.
How to Practice the 4-7-8 Breathing Technique
Prior to starting the 4-7-8 breathing technique, find a comfortable sitting position. It is important to maintain good posture, especially when first beginning. If using this technique to fall asleep, lying down on a bed is recommended.
Place the tip of your tongue behind your top front teeth and keep it in position throughout the exercise.
Follow this breathing pattern for the 4-7-8 technique:
- Exhale completely through your mouth, emptying your lungs of air.
- Inhale silently through your nose, counting to four seconds in your head.
- Hold your breath for seven seconds.
- Exhale forcefully through your mouth for eight seconds.
Repeat this pattern four times initially. It is suggested to gradually increase the number of repetitions up to eight complete breaths.
Benefits of the 4-7-8 Breathing Technique
The 4-7-8 breathing technique offers various health benefits, as identified in a 2011 article published in the Health Science Journal. These benefits include reduced anxiety, lower blood pressure, improved stress management, alleviation of migraine symptoms, reduced aggressive behavior in adult males, and decreased signs of asthma in adolescents.