Sighing. We’ve all done it. That big inhale of air and the long exhale of breath. Many people use it simply as an expression of resignation, but did you know that there are actually physical benefits to sighing?
Your body actually causes you to spontaneously sigh regularly throughout the day to help expand the sacs in your lungs and to help to regulate the oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in your bloodstream. Dr. Mercola writes,
“The extra inhalation that a spontaneous sigh provides serves an important purpose. It brings in twice the volume of air, which serves to pop open your alveoli [the small sacs in your lungs].
“Your lungs contain 500 million of the balloon-like sacs, which are the points where oxygen enters your bloodstream and carbon dioxide is removed.
“When your alveoli collapse, a sigh is the only way to reinflate them. This likely explains why the average adult sighs involuntarily about 12 times every hour, according to Jack Feldman, Ph.D. a professor of neurobiology at UCLA.“
You should, however, try to pay attention to how much you sigh as frequent sighing may be a sign of deeper issues such as “hyperventilation syndrome.” Interestingly, hyperventilation syndrome can be deliberately induced “by taking 20 or 30 big breaths through your mouth within a span of one or two minutes.”
Also, research by Russian doctor Konstantin Buteyko indicated a connection, possibly causal, between heavy breathing and how sick a patient was.
Another point of interest is what breathing disorders do. They actually are over-breathing not lack of breathing. Dr. Mercola notes,
“Later research has revealed that normal breathing volume is approximately four to six liters of air per minute during rest, equating to 10 to 12 breaths per minute.
“Meanwhile, breathing volume for people with asthma tends to be around 13 to 15 liters per minute and those with sleep apnea breathe on average 10 to 15 liters per minute.
“In short, asthmatics and those with sleep apnea breathe far too much — upwards of three times more than normal — and this dysfunctional breathing pattern is part of their disease profile.”
In short, while sighing occassionally to open up the alveoli in the lungs is beneficial, too much breathing can actually cause you to feel out of breath and cause other health problems. Because of this, it may be beneficial to learn to breath slowly and evenly, both to control stress levels, and to provide a better oxygen to carbon dioxide ratio in your bloodstream.