Women concentrating on breathing, she wears a white tshirt and is outside by a tree

Breathing Pattern Disorder - An Unnoticed Epidemic

Posted on Jan 7, 2021

More Important Than Eating Or Sleeping

Few of us give a second thought to how we breathe. But if we did, we’d probably think we should be breathing deep and getting plenty of oxygen into our system. Nothing changes how you feel faster than how you breathe. Just a few seconds of shallow breathing has an immediate effect on your state of mind. It affects your body’s pH and how tense your muscles are. When we get stressed, fearful, overtired or overwhelmed, one of the first things to happen is a change in your breathing. This can happen without you even realizing. Once you've been taught to recognize this Breathing Pattern Disorder you can start to change it.

What to find out if you're hyperventilating? Take our test

When you suffer from Breathing Pattern Disorder and Hyperventilation, your body reacts in specific ways. It can lead to reduced C02 in the body, a condition known as Hypocapnia. When this occurs, the following changes can happen:

  • Altered blood pH, creating respiratory alkalosis, depleting Ca and Mg ions – increases sensitivity, encourages spasm, reduces pain thresholds
  • Activation of the fight or flight emergency response - apprehension, anxiety, panic
  • Muscle contraction - colon spasm (IBS), migraine and chest pain
  • Reduced oxygen release to cells, tissues, brain (Bohr effect) - ‘brain-fog’, fatigue and pain

A Reminder Of Definitions

Hypocapnia: Deficiency of CO2 in the blood, resulting from hyperventilation, leading to respiratory alkalosis

Hypoxia Reduction of oxygen (O2) supply to tissue, below physiological levels, despite adequate perfusion of the tissue by blood. 

Chest pain is common and accounts for 700,000 emergency visits to hospital in England and Wales every year. The most common physical symptoms (abdominal pain, chest pain, headache, back pain) make up over half of primary care visits. But with only around 10% having an actual physical illness, many of these will be Breathing Pattern Disorder (BPD) patients.

And In the United States, as many as 10% of patients are reported to have hyperventilation as their primary diagnosis. But it's BPD that's become far more common a problem than hyperventilating. So what can you do to improve your breathing and help with those Breathing Pattern Disorder symptoms?

How Breathing Can Be The Problem AND The Answer

Breathing poorly is a bad habit, just like poor posture, not a disease. We understand that if we stand or sit badly for a long time we might get something like neck pain. It follows that if we breathe badly for some time that can cause problems as well. While not always the cause, poor breathing can exacerbate existing problems. Change the breathing habit and your symptoms will change as well.

All I Need To Do Is Breathe Differently?

Basically, yes. But this needs to be done in the right way or the results won’t stick. People who are over breathing tend to not know they're doing it. They often feel worse if they attempt relaxation or breathing exercises.

If you have any of these symptoms, they might be due to poor breathing habits.

  1. General anxiety
  2. Anxiety and panic attacks
  3. Weakness, fatigue, tiredness
  4. Light headiness, giddiness, dizziness
  5. Headaches, neck and upper body aching/pain
  6. Shortness of breath
  7. Heart palpitations
  8. Chest pains
  9. Dry mouth, difficulty swallowing, lump in throat
  10. Colds hands and feet, numbness, clammy hands
  11. Tremors, sweating, faintness

What Is The Solution For Breathing Pattern Disorder

To break the habit of over breathing causing reduced CO2 you simply have to breathe differently. Focus on the outbreath and breathe with slow, clam breaths.

Simple to say, hard to do. Bringing attention to your breathing can actually make many people feel worse.

Sensate uses passive, non-verbal sound-based stimulation to enhance the relaxation response without the need for attention of effort. This means it's much easier for the user to simply relax and switch off. In turn this reduces the tendency to become over alert when noticing and trying to actively change the breathing pattern.

Focus on breathing the right way. Learn to tell the difference and see if it helps with any of those symptoms I mentioned.


Stefan Chmelik