The Simple Breathing Technique That Helped Me Fall Asleep So Much Faster

There’s nothing worse than finally making it into bed after a long day at work and then being unable to actually fall asleep. We’ve all been there—laying wide awake, getting increasingly stressed at how much valuable shut eye we’re losing with each passing minute.

In an effort to cure this problem, I decided to try the 4-7-8 exercise—a popular breathing technique that’s supposed to help you fall asleep in under one minute.

The practice is easy: Breathe in through your nose for four seconds, hold your breath for seven, exhale through your mouth for eight. It was developed in this way so that you take in more air on your inhales, let the oxygen hit your bloodstream by holding your breath, and slow down your heart rate on your exhales.

It sounded simple enough to me. However, the first time I tried it I felt silly. As a perfectionist, I was so focused on counting right that it actually made me more awake. So the next night, I decided to just let my breathing go for as long as it felt right—in, hold, out—instead of counting the exact seconds. This worked so much better that after a few breaths, it happened naturally. I woke up the next morning feeling great and I couldn’t actually remember when I’d fallen asleep.

In conclusion: It works!

Gif courtesy of GIPHY

So, here’s what I’d recommend for anyone who wants to test this out: Take it at your own pace. The practice is not about holding for exactly seven seconds or taking five specific breaths—it’s about tuning into your breathing and simultaneously letting go of whatever else is on your mind.

Tonight, when you lie down in your bed, focus intently on your breathing and let each inhale and exhale unwind you more and more. If it’s not working (fast enough), try to relax each individual limb from toe to head with every new breath. You’ll fall asleep so quickly you’ll forget you were ever stressed!

Photo of woman sleeping courtesy of Shutterstock.

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About Richard Moy

Richard Moy
Richard Moy is a Content Marketing Writer at Stack Overflow. He has spent the majority of his career in talent management, including a stint as a full-cycle recruiter and hiring manager. In addition to the career advice he contributes to The Muse, he also writes test prep and higher education marketing content for The Economist. Say hi on Twitter @rich_moy.

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