4-7-8 breathing is a rhythmic technique that may help reduce anxiety and stress and improve sleep.

The creator of the 4-7-8 breathing based the technique on an ancient form of deep breathing associated with yoga known as pranayama. The technique is simple: breathe in for 4 seconds, hold the breath for 7 seconds, and exhale for 8 seconds.

Proponents of the technique claim that it can help reduce anxiety and stress as well as improve sleep. Limited evidence supports its use or effectiveness. Instead, most claims come from anecdotal sources or word of mouth.

Though it may not work well for everyone, you can easily learn and practice 4-7-8 breathing. Over time, you may notice it has a positive effect.

4-7-8 breathing involves inhaling, holding your breath, and exhaling for 4 seconds, 7 seconds, and 8 seconds respectively.

Andrew Weil, an American physician developed the breathing pattern based on pranayama, a yoga technique designed to help reduce anxiety and help promote sleep.

4-7-8 breathing is a type of rhythmic breathing pattern. Supporters of the technique believe that it can help with falling asleep as well as reducing anxiety. It may have other health benefits, but evidence supporting its use is limited.

Though some evidence supports the use of rhythmic breathing techniques for certain conditions, few studies look specifically at the 4-7-8 technique. Evidence of its effectiveness is mostly anecdotal from those who use it.

Benefits of 4-7-8 breathing

Rhythmic breathing techniques, like 4-7-8 breathing, may help with:

Though 4-7-8 breathing may help a person manage anxiety, anger, or sleep patterns, how well they work for you may vary. You may find that it works better over time and with practice.

But keep in mind that much of the evidence supporting the benefits of 4-7-8 breathing is limited. A 2020 review found only limited evidence supporting its help for blood pressure and heart and lung health.

A 2017 study showed that deep breathing may help with stress and anxiety levels. This may mean it can help provide supplemental treatment for anxiety or those undergoing severe stress.

The 4-7-8 breathing method doesn’t require any special equipment to practice. The only thing you need is a little bit of time and a comfortable sitting location.

Once you get into a comfortable position, place the tip of your tongue at the roof of your mouth where your front teeth meet the tissue.

To practice 4-7-8 breathing, perform the following steps:

  • breathe out all the air in your lungs
  • breathe in through your nose silently for 4 seconds
  • hold your breath in your lungs for 7 seconds
  • breathe out forcefully through your mouth for 8 seconds with a whooshing sound

You can repeat the breathing several times in a row. You can also do 4-7-8 breathing any time of day, several days a week. Often, people pair this method with yoga or other meditative practices.

When first attempting this breathing technique, you may find that you feel dizzy or lightheaded. Sitting down or lying on a couch or bed could help prevent injury from falling.

You may find that starting off slower may help. You can reduce the amount of time you breathe in, hold your breath, and release the air as long as you keep the proportions the same, such as 2 seconds, 3.5 seconds, and 4 seconds.

It will likely take several days to weeks to notice any benefit from doing 4-7-8 breathing.

The 4-7-8 breathing technique is one of several different types of breathing techniques and relaxation therapies you can try if you’re interested.

Some common relaxation techniques include:

If you want to practice the 4-7-8 technique, you can start right away. It doesn’t require any special training or equipment. Try to start off slowly to give your body time to adjust to the technique.

You shouldn’t expect instant results from trying the 4-7-8 breathing technique. It may take several sessions or weeks before you notice any benefits.

You should also not stop any anxiety medications or other therapies. This technique won’t replace formal treatment. If you find your current treatment isn’t working well for you, you should consider discussing your concerns with a therapist or doctor.