Sighing is something that we both consciously and unconsciously do, but we don’t really give much thought to what it means. Below are some of the most important facts about sighing that you may want and need to know.
Sighing involves long, deep, and slow deep inhaled and exhaled breaths. When we hear ourselves and other sighing, we initially associate it with emotions – sadness, exhaustion, frustration, stress, and even relief. These emotion-related sighs are more often consciously done.
On the other hand, our body also does spontaneous sighs every few minutes to fill up the alveoliwith much needed air. Alveoli are the tiny sacs found in the lungs that aid in transporting oxygen and carbon dioxide from the lungs to the bloodstream. These spontaneous sighs usually happen unnoticed, but if you observe closely, you can identify them easily. If you want to see for yourself right about now, simply lieon your back in a comfortable position and in a quiet room. Breathe normally, paying close attention to your body. You will notice that every five minutes, more or less, you take one deep inhalation and another before you exhale.
This impromptu sighing seems trivial, but this serves an essential purpose. It inhales twice the volume of air to be able to open the alveoli. The lungs have 500 million of balloon-like sacs, which is the entry point of oxygen and the exit point of carbon dioxide. When alveoli collapse, the only way to inflate them again is by sighing. Based on experiments and trials, an average adult gives out around 12 sighs every hour.
What Does Frequent Sighing Mean?
While the spontaneous sighs that we make is necessary for our body functions, frequent sighing can be a symptom of a negative health disorder. It is most often linked to hyperventilation syndrome.
The first case of this syndrome was reported during the American Civil War, and it was coined as“irritable heart.”In 1940s, it was discovered that the symptoms of this syndrome can be manifested by taking 20to30 big breaths through the mouth in a duration of one to two minutes. Later on, more experts discussed how overbreathing leads to a chronic case of hyperventilation.
In 1957, Dr. Buteyko devised a breathing technique to recover from this disorder. His study also led to the discovery that sicker patients tend to have heavier breathing.
Frequent sighing may be a sign that your body is not getting enough oxygen distribution, that iswhy you need to bring in more air to refill the alveoli. However, a few deep breaths cannot compensate this, and with such heavy breathing, you will lose carbon dioxide.
What Health Problems Are Associated with Overbreathing?
This constriction results to construction of the smooth muscles surrounding the airways, which may eventually lead to chronic hyperventilation as well as exercise-induced asthma. Some cases also lead to cardiac arrest or heart attack.
Overbreathing has serious consequences or repercussions such as cardiovascular, neurological, respiratory, muscular, gastrointestinal, and even psychological effects.
You can observe that if you do six big inhalation and exhalation through your mouth, you may feel some light-headedness and dizziness.
This being said, you will have to avoid losing too much carbon dioxide. Overbreathing will force your body and push it over the edge wherein a simple emotional stressor can trigger symptoms such as anxiety attack or even cardiovascular-related problems. Remember that what would provoke the attack is not the stressor itself but the activity of overbreathing. Instead of using frequent breathing to deal with these emotion-related circumstances, it’s much better to address your normal breathing.
How Do You Improve Your Breathing?
The first thing that you need to know about normal breathing is that you need to breathe through your nose. This is a simple fact that is overlooked by most people. Breathing through the mouth is not normal.
The main reason why you should breathe through the nose is because of the nitric oxide in the nose. Nitric oxide helps achieve homeostasis or balance within the body. To be specific, this beneficial gas has the ability to open the airways, open the blood vessels, and neutralize bacteria and germs. Breathing through it will help you carry a small amount of nitric acid to your lungs.
Furthermore, nose breathing is helpful in normalizing the volume of air that we breathe.
Buteyko Breathing Technique
It was Dr. Buteyko who discovered that the level of carbon dioxide found in the lungs is consistent to your ability to hold your breath after normal exhalation. The method he introduced includes a test to identify your carbon dioxide levels. This is something that you can doon your own. Simply get a stopwatch todo this test.
-Get a chair with a comfortable form and height. Sit straight without crossing your legs, and start breathing in a way that is comfortable and steady to you. Don’t force anything. Simply observe.
-Inhale one silent and small breath and quickly exhale with your nose. Right after you breathe out, pinch your nose to avoid air to enter.
-Now start your stopwatch and hold your breath for as long as you can and until you first feel the need to breathe.
-Resume breathing and take note of the time. You will identify this urge to breathe. You may observe your breathing muscles doing involuntary movements or your tummy jerking or your throat contracting. Remember that you are not in any competition, and you will just need to measure how long you can hold your breath comfortably and naturally. Don’t force to hold it out when your body cries an exhalation.
Now that time on the stopwatch is what we call a control pause or CP. It identifies the body’s tolerance to carbon dioxide. See what your current CP indicates:
40-60 seconds – normal, healthy breathing pattern, excellent physical endurance
20-40 seconds – mild breathing impairment, moderate tolerance to physical activity, potential health problems in the future
10-20 seconds – significant breathing impairment, poor tolerance to physical exercise or activity
<10 seconds – chronic breathing impairment, extremely poor tolerance to exercise, chronic health issues.
The shorter your CP is, the more easily you get breathless when doing physical activity. If your CP is less than 20 seconds, you need to make changes in your lifestyle. Perhaps you have poor diet, and you need to address that. You may also look into your alcohol intake and the current stressors in your life. If it’s even less than 10 seconds, you’rein serious danger. This usually corresponds to a serious health risk, and it’s best to consult your physician. If you start exercising as part of your lifestyle modification, for 20 seconds and less CP, you need to avoid keeping your mouth open while exercising since your breathing is extremely unstable.
It’s important that you take note of this especially if you have asthma. Fortunately, you can do something about this. You can improve your endurance with a five-second increase in CP. The question is, how can you raise your CP?
Below is an effective exercise to help you learn howto unblock your nose. This exercise is safe for most, but if you have cardiovascular problems, increase blood pressure, diabetic, experiencing panic and anxiety attacks, or pregnant, make sure that you don’t hold your breath longer than your first urge to breathe out.
Here are the steps:
-Sit up straight, comfortably and steadily.
-Take a small inhalation using your nose and breathe out small.-Using your fingers, pinch your nose and hold your breath with your mouth closed.
-Nod your head or sway your body gently until you can’t fight the urge to hold your breath anymore.
-If you need to breathe in, let goof your nose and breathe gently through it, still with your mouth closed.
-Catch up with your breathing calmly as soon as possible.Breathing is the most unconscious thing that we do that we tend to forget how important it is to do it right. Along with improving your lifestyle such as your diet and exercise, make sure that you take time to observe your breathing and improve it if necessary.