How to deal with Insomnia? Try this powerful breathing technique to cure your sleeping problems

woman in bed with insomnia

4-7-8 breathing exercise / relaxing breath method

The 4-7-8 breathing technique is a super easy yet effective breathing method. I learned this wonderful technique that can induce sleep at my yoga teacher training back in 2017 in Costa Rica.

Man meditating 4-7-8 breathing technique on a rock close to lagoon.
Practicing the 4-7-8 breathing technique can help with reducing insomnia and anxiety.

The relaxing breath is based on the ancient yogic breathing exercises called ‚Pranayama‘. These exercises were designed to learn how to control the breath and the mind. There’s more than 50 exercises that lead to different psychosomatic benefits. The 4-7-8 breathing technique is designed to induce sleep, it also helps in reducing stress and anxiety. By practicing this exercise it is said we switch from the sympathetic nervous system (‚fight or flight‘ mode) into the parasympathetic nervous system (‚rest and digest‘ mode).

The famous integrative medicine expert Dr. Andrew Weil, M.D. claims that practicing this technique on a regular basis can be calming and can help with stress-related health problems ranging from insomnia and panic attacks to digestive disorders.

Try this breath counting technique right before going to sleep. Breathe deeply and completely. Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Sit in a comfortable position with a straight back. You can lean on the wall for support and also sit on a pillow for extra comfort.

How it works

  1. Exhale completely through your mouth, sigh it all out.
  2. Close your mouth, relax your jaw and inhale profoundly through your nose to a mental count of four.
  3. Hold your breath for a count of seven. Relax your abdominal muscles and the part between your eye brows.
  4. Exhale slowly through your mouth, making a sighing sound to a count of eight.
  5. This is one cycle. Now inhale again and repeat this technique seven to ten more times.

“Practicing a regular, mindful breathing exercise can be calming and energizing and can even help with stress-related health problems ranging from panic attacks to digestive disorders.”

Andrew Weil, M.D.

The 4-7-8 technique brings the body and mind to focus on regulating the breath. As we can only focus on one thing at a time, the mental looping with its replaying worries and fears is forced to stop when you lie down at night. Practitioners say it can soothe a rapid heart beat or relieve anxiety. Dr. Weil has even described it as a “natural tranquilizer for the nervous system.”

Best practices have shown that you can see positive results already after the first time you’re tying this exercise. I always recommend to try 10 consecutive days though, as with more practice, you start to see also the other benefits of this breath work:

  • Sharpens focus in the long run
  • Helps to relax
  • Lowers the harmful effects of the stress hormone cortisol on your body
  • Lowers your heart rate
  • It helps lower your blood pressure
  • Reduces/eliminates looping thoughts
  • Helps to reduce anger responses
  • Helps to enjoy the present moment
  • Improves migraine symptoms

If you have any questions about this breathing technique, you can always reach out to me via contact form or just leave a comment below.

Other recommendations

If you feel light headedness while practicing don’t panic. Our brain has to learn this new breathing technique and therefore the first time we try this exercise this side effect can appear. Just come to normal breathing again. Drink water. Try again. Now it shouldn’t happen again.

“Unlike tranquilizing drugs, which are often effective when you first take them but then lose their power over time, this exercise is subtle when you first try it, but gains in power with repetition and practice.”

Andrew Weil, M.D.

If you liked this exercise you should try also my other breathing techniques and meditations.

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