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4 7 8 breathing

The 4-7-8 technique can help you fall asleep.

Are you having a hard time falling asleep? Dr. Andrew Weil has shared the “most powerful” relaxation technique he knows, and it doesn’t require any equipment or cost a dime. It’s known as the 4-7-8 method and it’s backed up by science.

Dr. Weil is an expert in integrative medicine and the founder and director of the Andrew Weil Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona.

The technique is simple:

  1. Breathe in through your nose while you count to 4.
  2. Hold your breath while you count to 7.
  3. Exhale while you count to 8.

Dr. Weil says the method creates a "very pleasant, altered state of consciousness" that you may not experience the first time but will come as a "reward" of regular practice. Dr. Weil insists that the 4-7-8 technique is a practice, and you must do four breath cycles at least twice a day to get the benefits. "After a month, you can increase to 8 breath cycles if you're comfortable with it," adding that's the "absolute maximum."

Dr. Weil says that 4 to 6 weeks of doing the practice can lower heart rate, improve blood pressure, digestion and circulation and can promote sleep. A study published in Physiological Reports agrees, saying that practicing the 4-7-8 technique reduces heart rate and blood pressure for several minutes.

It’s also an easy way to help you fall asleep. "If you get up in the middle of the night for any reason, it is the most effective anti-anxiety technique that I've found,” Dr. Weil says.

This article originally appeared on 1.3.24