Research suggests that approximately 30% of sleep apnea cases are related to breathing behaviors, not the physical size of the airway.
How we breathe matters
Breathing behavior analysis shows us the volume of air you take in, the speed at which you inhale and exhale, if you allow the breath or "control" it, your breathing biochemistry, and so much more.
We observe breathing using educational capnography, a biofeedback instrument that allows us to measure end tidal CO2. We learn about the subtle ways your breathing behaviors affect your body's pH and bring about symptoms.
Qualities of Healthy Breathing include
smooth, effortless, complete, nasal , silent, continuous, diaphragmatic
What is Breathing Behavior Analysis?
Educational Capnography Biofeedback
Your end tidal CO2 should be above 35 mmHg for your body to maintain a healthy pH. Abnormal pH can contribute to fatigue, pain, and many other physiological changes.We can see HOW your breathing behaviors affect your biochemistry.
Signs and Symptoms of Dysfunctional Breathing Habits
Crying, Low mood
Sudden shift in thoughts,
Sudden impact of memory
Self esteem issues,
Angina symptoms, ECG abnormalities
Oral & Digestive
Difficulty swallowing, Bloating,
Headaches, Tetany, Hyperflexia,
Weakness, Chest discomfort, Spasm,
Blurred vision. Sound seems distant,
Reduced pain threshold,
Vasoconstriction of smooth muscles leading to reduced blood flow to the brain
Coronary arteries, Lungs
Digestive tract, & Placenta
Concentration, Memory issues,
Bronchial spasms, Asthma symptoms,
Shortness of breath,
Behavioral and Performance
Test taking, issues
Public speaking issues,
Diminished reaction time,
Compromised perceptual judgement,
Endurance and muscle function issues
Nearly every known symptom of stress, short and long-term
Acute fatigue, Chronic fatigue
Neurological & Temperature
Trembling or twitching,
Are your breathing habits good?
Or are they compromising your health and performance?
Statistics suggest that tens of millions of people worldwide suffer with the profound and misunderstood symptoms and deficits of learned dysfunctional breathing habits, in fact, between 10% and 25% of the U.S. population! Unfortunately, these habits are rarely identified by practitioners, their effects mistakenly attributed to other causes, and their resolutions prescriptive in nature where focus is on symptoms rather than on causes.
Everyone has breathing habits. When these habits are dysfunctional they can severely compromise health and performance. Most people, however, are rarely aware of the presence of these habits, their potentially serious effects (symptoms and deficits), and their interaction with other related and/or unrelated healthcare issues.
Dysfunctional breathing habits can profoundly and immediately alter physiology, leading to disturbed extracellular pH, deregulated electrolyte balance, compromised blood flow, unfriendly hemoglobin, compromised muscle function, autonomic nervous system disturbances, central nervous system deficits, and anatomical compromise or damage (e.g., misalignment of teeth).
These far-reaching physiological changes may directly trigger, exacerbate, perpetuate, and/or cause a wide variety of emotional (anxiety, anger), cognitive (attention, learning), behavioral (public speaking, test taking), and physical (pain, asthma) symptoms and deficits that may seriously affect you. These symptoms and deficits can be powerful, insidious, and debilitating, especially when you don’t know where they are coming from. This fact is nicely illustrated by surveys indicating that up to 60% of ambulance runs in major US cities are a result of acute symptoms triggered by dysfunctional breathing habits.
Physical symptoms may include inability to focus, nausea, headache (reduced cerebral glucose) dizziness (reduced cerebral oxygen), tingling, numbness, blurred vision, muscle cramping, increased airway resistance, air hunger, cardiac changes, hyperarousal, and reduced pain threshold. Psychological changes may include (depending on the person) attention deficit, heightened emotionality (e.g., wanting to cry), anxiety, panic, disconnectedness, traumatic memories, learning impairment, changes in self-esteem, and even personality changes.
One important example of a dysfunctional habit is overbreathing, that is, breathing that leads to a carbon dioxide deficiency (hypocapnia) in extracellular body fluids, such as blood plasma. We need carbon dioxide (CO2) in our bodies to be healthy, not too much and not too little. When we have too little, we disturb the pH of blood plasma and it becomes too alkaline, that is, we suffer with respiratory alkalosis or hypocapnia. The consequence is symptoms and deficits, some short term and others long term, many that are subtle and others that are profound and unsettling.
The mechanics of breathing (muscles, like the diaphragm) normally operate in concert with breathing chemistry requirements (e.g., blood plasma pH, CO2, oxygen). This happens automatically in accordance with respiratory reflex mechanisms, but dysfunctional habits can easily get in the way, especially when you try to regulate the breathing yourself rather than simply allowing it.
Do you have any dysfunctional breathing habits?
Healthcare providers are now getting involved. Dysfunctional breathing habits can often play a serious role in in the issues that they routinely address in their work. Make an appointment for an assessment.
What can you do if you have a dysfunctional habit?
Sign up for a learning program
Copyright Peter Litchfield, Phd, Sandra Reamer, MS, MFA, CBBA, CBBP, CSOM, CST