The "4-7-8 Breathing Technique" for better sleep

Young woman meditating on bed in a calming room

Plenty of research is available on the benefits of sleep. The quality of your sleep has a direct impact on your physical and mental well-being. Sleep is as important to humans as good diet and physical exercise.

The following benefits are associated with good sleep

  • Improved productivity and concentration 
  • Better weight control 
  • Better calorie regulation 
  • An improvement in athletic performance 
  • Lower risk of heart disease 
  • Better social and emotional intelligence 
  • Helps prevent depression 
  • A stronger immune system 

There is a strong case for the need to improve sleep quality. Yet, there are still many people who are unable to achieve this. According to an article by Healthline, many factors contribute to lack of sleep – some of which are: 

  • Consuming too much caffeine 
  • Noise disturbances 
  • Sleep disorders e.g. insomnia & sleep apnoea 
  • An uncomfortable bedroom

You can improve sleep quality in many ways. Using quality bedding, maintaining a cooler sleeping temperature, practising better bed hygiene, & reducing caffeine intake are some of them. But what about relaxing your body and mind to prepare it for sleep? 

This is an often over-looked and important aspect. Meditation and breathing techniques can help you sleep better. It can also make a difference in your ability to function well both mentally & physically. Breathing helps to lower your heart rate. To enter a state of deep sleep, your heart rate needs to be at 60 beats per minute. Most people’s heart rate is closer to 75-80. 

Stress and anxiety can also impact on our ability to sleep well. Most people face different daily life challenges. They can be financial, emotional or physical (or a combination). These challenges cause a lot of stress and anxiety. Dealing with daily stresses induces a “flight or fight” adrenal response from our body. This type of response can be healthy to identify and deal with physical danger. But events which are not life threatening can trigger this response too. Challenges like traffic jams, relationships & financial pressures. This is when it becomes a problem. Breathing techniques negate these “flight or fight” responses. They help the body to relax. 

It is difficult to sleep well in an uncomfortable environment... whether you are facing physical or emotional challenges. There is a well-documented breathing technique known as the “4-7-8” method which can help improve your sleep quality. 

The 4-7-8 breathing technique requires you to do the following: 

  • Breathe in for a count of 4 seconds. 
  • Hold the breath for a count of 7 seconds. 
  • Exhale forcefully, through the mouth by pursing your lips together. Make a “whoosh” sound – for a count of 8 seconds. 
  • Repeat the above cycle 4 times – up to 2 times a day. 

Deep breathing can induce many benefits. Some of these are:

  • reduced fatigue,
  • reduced hypertension,
  • better stress management,
  • reduced anxiety. 

The 4-7-8 breathing technique, is one of many breathing techniques. What makes it unique is that it is very easy to remember the sequence. Breathe in for “4 seconds”, hold for “7 seconds” and breathe out for “8 seconds”. It is not time consuming to perform it daily. If the “4-7-8” sequence is not suitable, then do a shorter “2-4-4” sequence. The "2-4-4" sequence shortens the "4-7-8" sequence by half. You then build up to a level that is suitable for you. 

Happy breathing, we wish you deep and restful sleep!

Shivani & Sam