4-7-8 Breathing for Better Sleep and Stress Reduction



Sleep Better: This technique will help you get to sleep faster. It will also help you get back to sleep when you wake up in the middle of the night.

Stress Reduction: This technique will help you when you feel stressed during your day. It will also help you build resilience and to deal better with stressful situations.


How does it work?

When you hold your breath, you activate your parasympathetic nervous system, which slows your heart rate and causes your body to relax and your mind to slow down.

Breathing in deeply and holding your breath increases intra-abdominal pressure, thereby stimulating your vagus nerve. This sends signals to your brain and your body that reduces the “fight or flight” part of your autonomic nervous system.



This is a paced breathing technique, adopted from Yoga breathing practice (Pranayama). It was made popular by Dr Andrew Weil.

How to do it.

  1. Make yourself comfortable and preferably be somewhere on your own. I do it lying down to help me sleep. For stress reduction I find that I can do it whenever and wherever I feel the need.
  2. Press the tip of your tongue on the ridge of tissue just behind your top front teeth.
  3. Breath in deeply through your nose for a count of 4.
  4. Hold your breath for a count of 7.
  5. Breath out slowly through your mouth for a count of 8
  6. Repeat steps 2-5, for up to four breathing cycles.

When you start you may need to count more quickly. Over time slow down your counting so that each count is 1 second or more.

You can gradually increase over time to a maximum of 8 cycles.

It is normal to feel a bit lightheaded or short of breath the first few times you do this. Over time you will become more comfortable with the technique and feel it working within you.