The 4-7-8 breathing technique 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. It is a form of pranayama, which is the practice of breath regulation. Pranayama is common in yoga.

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.

This article discusses how to perform this breathing technique, why it might work, and apps that could help.

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

Deep, rhythmic breathing may have multiple benefits, including:

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:

  • emptying the lungs of air
  • breathing in quietly through the nose for 4 seconds
  • holding the breath for a count of 7 seconds
  • exhaling forcefully through the mouth, pursing the lips, and making a “whoosh” sound for 8 seconds
  • repeating 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 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:

  • breathing in through the nose for 2 seconds
  • holding the breath for a count of 3.5 seconds
  • exhaling 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.

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

There is some evidence to suggest that deep breathing techniques positively affect a person’s anxiety and stress levels.

Evidence regarding the benefit of deep breathing techniques in clinical practice is often low quality, and support for the practice is typically anecdotal.

However, a 2020 review found limited evidence deep breathing techniques may help in the following ways:

  • improving heart and lung function
  • reducing blood pressure
  • improving quality of life in chronic disorders
  • reducing the frequency and severity of migraine attacks

There is an association between certain breathing techniques, such as 4-7-8 breathing, and other relaxation techniques. Some people couple this breathing with the following practices:

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 antianxiety drugs, which tend to lose some of their effectiveness over time as the body adjusts to them.

Which meditation apps are available?

People interested in trying breathing techniques but unsure of their ability to self-regulate may wish to use an app to help them. People can find apps for various devices in the Apple and Google Play stores.

Discover the 7 best sleep meditation apps for 2023.

The 4-7-8 breathing pattern and other breathing techniques may offer many potential health benefits, such as reducing anxiety and helping a person fall asleep faster.

The only reported side effect is lightheadedness. If a person experiences this, they should either stop using the technique or modify the length of their breaths.

Interested mobile users can also try apps to remind them to use the technique throughout the day and help them pace their breathing.