Coming down from anxiety or falling asleep might never be as easy as the 1-2-3 technique; however, some experts think that a different technique – 4-7-8 – is a more efficient method to do the trick.
The 4-7-8 breathing technique, also known as “relaxing breath,” has ancient origins in pranayama, which is the Indian yogic exercise of breath regulation.
How does the 4-7-8 technique work?
Most breathing techniques are essentially designed to bring your body into a deep state of relaxation. Certain patterns that entail holding the breath for a specific period of time enable your body to recharge its oxygen. So, techniques like 4-7-8 and 1-2-3 can give your tissues and organs a vital oxygen boost.
These techniques also help our body regulate the hyperarousal (acute stress response) we feel when we’re anxious and bring our minds back into balance. This is especially helpful when you’re experiencing insomnia or any other sleep disorder due to anxiety or stress in your everyday life. Swirling concerns and thoughts can keep us from sleeping well.
The 4-7-8 technique compels the body and mind to focus on breathing instead of replaying unwanted scenarios when you lie down to sleep at night. Scientists believe it can calm damaged nerves or comfort a racing heart. An integrative medicine specialist, Dr. Andrew Weil of Harvard University, has even described it as a “natural sedative for the nervous system.”
The general concept of 4-7-8 breathing technique can be equated to practices like:
- Alternate Nostril Breathing
- Mindfulness Meditation
- Guided Imagery
People experiencing anxiety, stress, and mild sleep disorders may find the 4-7-8 technique helpful for beating distractions and falling into a relaxed state.
Over a period of time and with regular practice, experts of this technique say it becomes more and more effective. Doing 4-7-8 breathing techniques at least once regularly could yield more results for people who often get anxious.
How to do it?
Before starting the 4-7-8 breathing, acquire a comfortable sitting position. It is essential to practice good posture, particularly when you’re starting out. If you want to fall asleep using this technique, lying down on the bed is best.
Then rest the tip of your tongue right behind your anterior teeth, which are the top front teeth in your mouth. You are required to keep your tongue in place for the duration of this exercise.
To use the 4-7-8 technique, follow this breathing pattern:
- Exhale completely through your mouth, and empty your lungs of air.
- Then inhale through your nose silently and count for four seconds in your head.
- Next, hold your breath for seven seconds.
- Exhale forcefully through your mouth for eight seconds.
Repeat this pattern four times. It’s also suggested that you only repeat 4-7-8 breathing for four breaths when you’re first beginning. Then you can slowly progress up to eight complete breaths.
Benefits of 4-7-8 Breathing technique
An article published in Health Science Journal in 2011 identifies some of the health benefits of deep breathing from the diaphragm. These benefits include:
- Reduced anxiety
- Reduced hypertension
- Better stress management
- Improved migraine symptoms
- Reduced aggressive behavior in adult males
- Reduced signs of asthma in adolescents