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People Swear By the '4-7-8' Breathing Technique To Fall Asleep Faster: 'A Game-Changer'

This tried-and-true breathing technique gets the stamp of approval from experts.

Leave it to TikTok to come up with all the relaxing pre-bedtime hacks and tips you never knew you needed, but can't live without once you try them. If you're dealing with sleep issues, you're certainly not alone. It's always comforting to find a community on social media that's dealing with some of the same sleep woes and already has tried-and-true tricks. More recently, people swear by the "4-7-8" breathing technique to fall asleep faster, so we chatted with an expert who breaks down the method and its benefits. Read on to learn more, and when you're finished, be sure to check out I Tried 3 Pairs of Brooks Running Shoes & One Beats the Rest by a Mile.

What is the 4-7-8 breathing technique?

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This pre-bedtime ritual is all about bringing yourself to a relaxed state. "The 4-7-8 breathing technique, often called 'relaxing breath,' is a controlled breathing practice where you breathe in for four counts, hold the breath for seven counts, and exhale through pursed lips making an audible 'whoosh' sound for eight counts," explains Dorsey Standish, MS, a mechanical engineer, neuroscientist, wellness expert, and CEO of Mastermind Meditate. "Note: The exact counts of each part of the breath are not as important as the emphasis on elongating the exhale to be about twice as long as the inhale."

For instance, Standish puts things into layman's terms by comparing the nervous system to a car. The inhale portion of the technique would be like hitting the gas pedal, "associated with the sympathetic nervous system," and the exhale portion would be like hitting the brakes, "associated with the parasympathetic nervous system." So elongating your exhale soothes your nervous system and aids in achieving that relaxed state.

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Standish shares that 4-7-8 breathing is an excellent practice to work into your bedtime routine because the lengthened exhale calms your nervous system and gets it ready for sleep. In addition, counting your breath helps decrease mental activity and chatter.

"To experience these benefits and promote a restorative night's sleep, try practicing four rounds of the 4-7-8 breathing technique before bed. You can also use this technique if you wake up in the middle of the night and feel unable to get back to sleep," she says. "Bonus benefit: The 4-7-8 technique also supports a healthy respiratory system by encouraging the complete release of all air from the lungs."

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People swear by 4-7-8 breathing to calm anxiety and relax before sleep.

If you're curious about giving the 4-7-8 breathing method a try, get inspired by people who have already tested it out for themselves and rave about the results. TikToker Emilie Leyes, for instance, dubs the technique "a game-changer when you're feeling overwhelmed, when you forget to breathe deeply, when you just want to recenter yourself."

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The Sleep Doctor (@thesleepdoctor) on TikTok shared in a video, "One of the top questions I'm asked is how do I lower my heart rate either just before bed or in the middle of the night. My favorite technique is called 4-7-8 breathing. [It's] where you slowly breathe in for a count of four, you hold for a count of seven, then you slowly breathe out for a count of eight. Science behind this is pretty cool; you actually dump excess carbon dioxide, which means your heart has to work less and it lowers your heart rate."

Another TikTok user, Dr. Mamina Turegano, MD, wrote in a clip, "anti-aging tips from my Japanese mom, part nine: 4-7-8 breathing." She explained, "My mom has been using this breathing technique for years. She learned about this widely used technique from Dr. Andrew Weil in 2005. It's based on pranayama, which is the practice of breath regulation in yoga. It's reportedly supposed to help with anxiety and sleep."

Alexa Mellardo
Alexa is the Mind + Body Deputy Editor of Eat This, Not That!, overseeing the M+B channel and delivering compelling fitness, wellness, and self-care topics to readers. Read more about Alexa
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