Julie Hambleton
Julie Hambleton
January 15, 2024 ·  6 min read

Having trouble sleeping? Here’s how to fall asleep in just 1 minute

Have you ever been completely exhausted, but when you try to actually go to bed you then can’t seem to actually fall asleep? Most often this is because we have trouble quieting our minds. We live busy lives with many stresses, worries, and things that excite us. All of that can start flipping through your mind like a record on loop and you can’t seem to turn it off. You spend the majority of the night staring at the ceiling, and then before you know it the alarm goes off and you’ve barely slept a wink. Before you jump to grab melatonin pills, try this instead: The 4-7-8 breathing technique. Using this technique you should be able to fall asleep in 60 seconds, maybe even less.

The 4-7-8 Breathing Technique to Fall Asleep Fast

When you’re lying in bed at night and your thoughts start racing, it can be hard to stop them. This is when you need to be able to calm your mind and focus on something else. Preferably, that something else will also put your body into sleep-mode. That’s where the 4-7-8 breathing technique comes into play. Invented by Dr. Andrew Weil, it’s designed to help you gain control over your breathing. It is based on an ancient yoga technique called pranayama. By focusing on your breathing, your mind quiets, your body relaxes, and you will be able to fall asleep. (1)

How The 4-7-8 Breathing Technique Works

The 4-7-8 breathing technique involves following a pattern of inhaling, holding your breath, and exhaling. The holding your breath part is critical because it allows your body to replenish with oxygen. It gives your organs and tissues some necessary extra oxygen, which over the course of the repetitions brings your body into a state of deep relaxation. It also forces you to focus your mind and body on your breathing and away from your worries from the day. Dr. Weil calls it a “natural tranquilizer for the nervous system”.

Feeling relaxed in this way is important for proper sleep. Our lives are stressful and often we live in this constantly moderately stressed-out state. The levels of our stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline are too high, leaving us in our fight-or-flight mode rather than a relaxed state. These hormones cause wakefulness – even when we feel completely wiped out from the day. Lack of sleep combined with consistently elevated levels of stress hormones in the body is damaging to our health. You’re more likely to get sick, develop illnesses, and will also quickly notice the differences in your physical appearance, especially in your skin.

How To Perform The 4-7-8 Breathing Technique

The 4-7-8 breathing technique is not just to help you sleep. It can also be used to help you relax midway through the day, say, after a stressful meeting at work or when your kids are driving you mad. If you’re using it to fall asleep, naturally you want to be lying down in a comfortable position in the place that you are trying to sleep in. Otherwise, find a comfortable place to sit and be sure that you are practicing good posture. Once you are comfortable, you can begin.

The first step is to place the tip of your tongue against the roof of your mouth, right behind your front teeth. Keep your tongue in that position throughout the whole practice. It will take some practice for you to keep your tongue from moving throughout the technique, so don’t worry if you let your tongue fall. Just put it back into place and continue. Now you can begin the breath cycles. Each cycle should look like this:

  1. To start, you are going to breathe out. Part your lips and make a wooshing sound as you fully exhale.
  2. Next, close your mouth and breathe in through your nose over a four-second count.
  3. Hold your breath for seven seconds.
  4. Exhale out of your mouth over the course of an eight-second count, again making the wooshing sound. When you’ve fully exhaled, start again with the four second inhale and repeat. Do so until you feel relaxed or until you fall asleep.

If you have trouble holding your breath for seven seconds, you can speed up the ratios. Just be sure the ratio is consistent for the three phases. With practice, you will be able to slow it down. (2)

Improves Heart Rate and Blood Pressure

While there have not been any large, randomized, controlled trials on the 4-7-8 technique, there has been evidence that it helps to improve anxious, depressive, and insomnia symptoms. A study in Thailand also found that it improves peoples’ heart rates and blood pressure. They did so by taking the heart rate and blood pressure of 48 healthy young adults before performing the breathing technique. After performing six rounds of the technique, with a minute of normal breathing in between each set of three, they had a calmer heart rate and reduced blood pressure. This shows that controlling the breath in this way does have a physiological impact on the body and can bring your body physically into a more relaxed state. (3)

Other Techniques To Help You Sleep

We are all different and not everything works the same way for everyone. If the 4-7-8 technique doesn’t work for you, there are other things you can try to help you get that much-needed shut eye. Alternate nostril breathing, mindfulness meditation, guided imagery, and visualization can all be helpful techniques at calming your mind so that you can sleep. Doing some sleep time yoga before bed might also help you. If you find meditation difficult, there are apps such as Headspace or Insight Timer that have many guided meditations specifically to help you go to sleep at night. Other considerations include:

  • Wearing a sleep mask or getting black out curtains. Sometimes there is simply too much light in our room.
  • Ear plugs or a white noise machine. If you live in a noisy area, earplugs will help to block out noise so you can sleep. Or, if you are used to sleeping in slightly noisier environments and now where you live is too quiet, a white noise machine can be very useful.
  • Listen to relaxing music or sounds. Again, apps such as Insight Timer have options for either relaxing music or sounds, such as gentle beach waves or rain in Bali.
  • Diffusing essential oils meant to promote sleep and relaxation, such as lavender.
  • Reducing caffeine intake and not drinking caffeinated beverages past a certain time, say 2pm.

There could be many other reasons why you are not sleeping, such as hormonal changes, medications, or even certain illnesses and conditions. If you are still struggling no matter what you try, go talk to your doctor. They may be able to better get down to the real reason why you aren’t sleeping and then take the appropriate steps to correct for it.


  1. What Is the 4-7-8 Breathing Technique?Healthline. Ana Gotter. April 20, 2018.
  2. The 4-7-8 method that could help you sleep.” CNN. Kristen Rogers. September 20,2022.
  3. Effects of sleep deprivation and 4‐7‐8 breathing control on heart rate variability, blood pressure, blood glucose, and endothelial function in healthy young adults.” NCBI. Jaruwan Vierra, et al. July 2022.