The Ultimate Sleep Hack? A Simple Breathing Technique Called 4-7-8

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We currently live in an age in which not getting an adequate amount of sleep is seen as a badge of honor, showing everyone that you’re a hard worker. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that 40 million Americans are dealing with chronic long-term sleep disorders.

But the fact of the matter is that adults need at least seven hours of sleep a night, with nine hours being the ideal. However, more and more factors are playing into our inability to fall asleep.

The overconsumption of sugar, caffeine and energy drinks, in addition to the hustle and bustle of life and anxiety, can result in overactivity in the brain causing sleep to come at a much slower pace. For this reason, any sort of sleep “hack” is most welcome, and one new technique may be exactly what you’ve been looking for.

4-7-8 Technique

Monitoring your breathing can help you fall asleep. This new breathing exercise is designed to slow down the heart rate and mimic a resting heart rate. Once you get your heart rate to about 60 BPMs, you can fall asleep.

The breathing method is called the 4-7-8 Technique and relies on holding certain aspects of breath in the body for a certain amount of seconds. The technique is based on the ancient Indian practice known as pranayama that means the “regulation of breath.”

The breathing technique is intended to lull the body into the right state of deep relaxation than can induce sleep. The breathing technique also creates a sense of calm and relaxation that can ward away any overarching signs and effects of anxiety by bringing balance back into the body, ridding the fight-or-flight instincts that arise in times of stress.

The breathing method can be compared to other ayurvedic methods like mindfulness meditation that relies on focused breathing while centering conscious attention into the present moment, and guided imagery, which coaxes you to center your energy on a positive memory to interrupt the negative thoughts that may be ailing you.

The technique is said to calm and soothe quickly intensifying heart rates that can come with anxiety before bed.

How to Do the 4-7-8

Breathe in for four seconds, holding that breath in your diaphragm for seven seconds. At the end of this time, blow the breath out slowly for a total of eight seconds. It definitely sounds easy but can take some practice in order to get used to and master.

How Long Does It Take to Work?

While it is a quick technique, it should not work instantly and should take about 10 minutes to affect you. However, with regular practice, the 4-7-8 technique can actually shorten the time it takes to fall asleep.

Other Methods to Help You Sleep

If the 4-7-8 technique isn’t working on its own, there’s nothing wrong with seeking out and later combining other sleep methods to bring you the night’s rest that you need after a hard day. Here are a few additional methods to add to your bedtime routine.

Mindful Caffeine Consumption

While caffeine can be a morning boon to some, it is absolutely important to watch how much you consume and when. If you’re someone who knocks back a couple of mugs a day, make sure you only do so in the morning, because anything in the afternoon will have an effect on your sleep.

Essential Oils

According to the National Sleep Foundation, a study showed that “those who sniffed lavender before bed had more deep sleep and felt more vigorous in the morning.” Utilizing candles or oils before bed can have a calming effect on one’s own heart rate and blood pressure.

Sleep Mask

A sleeping mask is typically useful for sleepers that are sensitive to light. Sometimes alarm clocks or the rising sun is enough to either deter our sleep or wake us before we’ve acquired the recommended hours of rest a night.

By using a sleep mask at night, you remove those outward distractions.


In the same vein as sleep masks come the earplugs. If a simple creaking of a floorboard or street traffic from outside bothers you at night, consider using earplugs to block out unnecessary sound.

Cutting Down Screen Time Before Bed

A little known fact that is starting to make its way into the mainstream is how blue light affects your sleep and overall brain health. The blue light in sunshine alerts our brain’s energy levels, mood, and memory in order to suppress melatonin and keep us awake throughout the day.

| Related: You Need Sleep: The Real Cost of Burning the Midnight Oil |

But artificial blue light is also on the screens on our mobile devices, computers or televisions. Using these devices before bed actually tricks our bodies and brains into believing it is still daytime and that we should still be awake and alert.

It is suggested that you cut off-screen time at least 30-minutes before bedtime, but cutting it back a bit more, in general, wouldn’t hurt either.

The Bottom Line

The next time you can’t seem to get to sleep at night, try using the 4-7-8 technique to ensure you’ll get a good night’s sleep. It’s simple enough to remember and an easy way to focus and calm yourself before getting to sleep.

Fighting the health issues associated with sleep deprivation is easy: just get more sleep. This technique and other strategies and lifestyle modifications can help.

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