Overbreathing or Hyperventilation

Hyperventilation, Over-Breathing, How to Stop Snoring

72% of the population have a breathing dysfunction!

In 40 seconds one can alter the Ph of the blood.  It takes a year of nutrition to do the same!

Why does it appear so many people are affected by and put themselves at such a disadvantage in breathing?  This is largely down to the simple facts of anatomy and its misuse.  North of the diaphragm is innervated by the excitatory nervous supply (the sympathetic system).  The diaphragm and south is innervated by the parasympathetic system (the relaxatory nervous system), so this includes not just the diaphragm but the gut and reproductory system.

In the modern day one often finds that attached with breathing dysfunction there is associated irritable bowel syndrome and then associated to the reproductive system one finds a large segment of infertility is of uncertain origin, could this be the over activity of the fear/flight system we often use in our over busy lives?

That is not to say by just improving breathing one can improve all of the above.

I feel that over-stimulated breathing is part of the answer.  If one can reboot or help balance the sympathetic system, or one might say exercise the parasympathetic (relaxatory) system, with the very well-used sympathetic system (excitatory system) being downgraded, then a better balanced nervous system and what it supplies will occur.

Going back to anatomy, that means if we can exercise the diaphragm and alter the emphasis away from the chest breathing to that of the tummy, so during quiet breathing say sat quietly at the desk or at night if you can’t sleep try the following:-

  1. Place one hand on your chest and one on your tummy and see where your breathing is.  It should be 90% in your tummy and 10% in your chest (that sounds easy but in trained singers 30% have a breathing dysfunction).
  2. Then note that you breathe through your nose.  The reason for this is that you will warm/ moisten the air and also through the sinuses nitrous oxide is added which has two very important functions.  It is one of the most efficient sterilisers of the body so cleans the air but also it dilates the airways, so effectively it is your on-board inhaler.  So by breathing through the nose one increases the lung capacity by 15%.
  3. Try to soften the palate (the roof of your mouth) or “relax your face” as I say to my patients.  If you are tight in your face you will not breathe through your nose.  The air should be felt at the back of your nose or back of your mouth.
  4. Now the hard part.  Time your breathing so you breathe in for four seconds and out for three and hold for one second before again breathing in.  This will give you a rate of about 7.5 cycles a minute.  Generally quiet breathing rate should be between six to eight second cycles per minute!
  5. The final ingredient for quiet breathing is volume.  If you have done yoga the guidance is to use all the lung volume, which will correctly slow the rate but keep the volume high.

The reason behind this is we are all very aware of with breathing it’s all about “feeding” the body with oxygen, but then there is carbon dioxide.  The balance of these two elements are crucial, somewhat like the mixture of petrol for a car, too higher octane and it will damage the engine, too low and the engine doesn’t fire up!  The body needs both, if one has too high an oxygen concentration in the tissues of the body it actually lessens the permeation or ease by which the cell can use this fuel to produce energy.  If the mixture is correct then carbon dioxide will allow a better ‘combustion’ of oxygen in the cell to make more energy.

Once you feel the nose is working, the rate is optimal, then see how little air you can do with.  The most common comment is that people relax and even drop off to sleep as the relaxatory system starts to be used.

The above is for ‘quiet breathing’ so as the activity increases the oxygen requirements and metabolic drive go up, so we can increase the volume of oxygen which may mean the mouth becomes involved, but as well as the nose keeping the palate soft so still feel the air at the back of the nose, being soft in the face.  So even in fitness training keep the above ideas in place but just increase the volume, rate and use of the mouth.

One should practice this quiet approach for three minutes three times daily to allow the relaxatory system to be used.

Capno training

Capno means carbon dioxide, so this is the use of a machine, a Capnograph, to measure the use of carbon dioxide.  Capnography shows how much carbon dioxide is being used during breathing.  As said above, breathing is to create the correct balance of carbon dioxide and oxygen so this balance of fuels helps optimise the energy level production.

So once attached to the machine via a cannula from the nose both patient and practitioner can see breath by breath progression towards improving these levels.

Whilst these levels are measured we can see plainly how altering volume, frequency and where breath occurs, the effect on CO2/O2 levels.

We will run through different effects on breathing, for example how a stressful thought quickly affects levels of carbon dioxide.

By doing this it will be seen how sometimes small alterations to the function of breathing will have profound effects on blood gas levels.

By running a small collection of tests or exercises on the machine, it will become quickly obvious where the functional issues are and how to correct them on the machine.

Following the Capno-training session and outcome ‘homework’ will be developed to reboot this crucial yet “taken for granted” function.  It will give the chance to take what was learnt and then develop to be able to apply this to various everyday life experiences.

As to how long it takes to be retrained to optimise this area depends on how long, how ingrained and how easy one finds the approach.  It is as they say “when the penny drops”.  Alongside and to complement the Capno-training of Apps for smart phones are used eg Breath Pacer, to allow the timing of breathing to be more easily accomplished.

If you require more information, please contact John Brewster.