- Updated on September 9, 2020
By Dr. Artour Rakhimov, Alternative Health Educator and Author
- Medically Reviewed by Naziliya Rakhimova, MD
Fast Breathing During Sleep
If you have healthy relatives or friends, you can see that their breathing during sleep is very light. In fact, the breathing of the healthy person is noiseless and so quiet, that it may scare some people to death (“Is he alive?”). Vice versa, the breathing of sleeping sick people is easy to hear and see: they have heavy breathing while sleeping, especially when they are sleeping in certain postures (details are below).
Numerous medical studies showed that morning hyperventilation (see this page: rapid breathing during sleep) leads to higher rates of heart attacks, strokes, epilepsy seizures, acute asthma exacerbations, and so forth, as well as highest mortality rates in comparison with any other part of the day.
Over 180 Russian and Soviet medical doctors (practicing the Buteyko method) invented various methods and techniques to prevent these acute life-threatening states. They also discovered that most symptoms disappear when the person has more than 20 s for the body-oxygen test.
Hyperventilation is breathing more than the medical norm. When our breathing is heavy (deep and/or fast) during sleep, we lack two crucial chemicals in the brain: carbon dioxide and oxygen. Cerebral hypocapnia (lack of CO2 in the brain) makes the nerve cells overexcited. Hypocapnia also causes reduced brain perfusion and lowered brain oxygen levels. Reduced blood flow to vital organs and vasoconstriction also leads to poor control of blood glucose, weight gain, headaches, acne and/or other symptoms.
Causes of Fast Breathing During Sleep
Mouth breathing during sleep
This is the most destructive sleep factor. Nasal breathing is crucial for one’s health during sleep and at all other times. It was considered before and is easy to check. Is your mouth dry when you wake up? If it so, consider using a simple mouth taping technique (see links below).
For many modern mouth breathers, the night mouth taping technique will immediately reduce their problems with after-sleep headaches, weight gain, acne, sleep talking and sleep paralysis.
Here is a video: Do Sleep Postures Really Matter?
Sleeping on one’s back makes breathing heavier
Among body positions, sleeping on one’s back (supine position) is worst for all tested conditions, as 24 medical studies suggest (see Sleep Positions Medical Research Summary). Some people experience sleep paralysis and sleep talking only in the supine posture. Research conducted in the Department of Psychology, University of Waterloo (Waterloo, Ontario, Canada) found that, indeed, “…A greater number of individuals reported SP [with terrifying hallucinations] in the supine position than all other positions combined. The supine posture was also 3-4 times more common during SP than when normally falling asleep…” (Cheyne, 2002). Kompanje (2008) also observed that “that sleep paralysis and hypnagogic experiences occur more often in supine position of the body”.
In order to solve this problem, you need to use the technique to prevent supine sleep. Sleeping on the right side also causes increased ventilation in comparison with sleeping on the left side or on the chest. The best sleep position, according to Russian medical Buteyko doctors, is sleeping sitting, while inclined sleep therapy can also be beneficial (see the complete manual for all sleep-related factors – Good Sleep Hygiene).
Children’s ventilation is minimum when they are sleeping on their tummies (Buteyko, 1977). Swaddled infants should sleep on their backs.
Presence of disease and existing damage in the body
Talking about sleep effects during his Lecture in the Moscow State University, Dr. Buteyko noticed,
“The horizontal position, lying intensifies breathing. Patients with asthma, heart disease, hypertension, and stenocardia often have acute states at night. If they lie down during the daytime or lie for 2-3 hours; the breathing gets heavier, the attacks come. Many severely sick patients sit, afraid to lie down. This is sensible. We should lie down only for sleeping. Our patients cannot control their breathing at night, and hence, sleep is poison for them.” (Buteyko, 1977).
Sleeping too long causes breathing more
Sleeping too long, according to Dr. Buteyko, intensifies breathing causing prolonged periods of gradually increasing hyperventilation (p.177, Khoroscho, 1982). Hence, it also leads to weight gain, headaches, sleeps talking, sleep paralysis, and acne. However, a lack of sleep also causes hyperventilation due to daytime sleepiness, hormonal misbalance, brain dysfunction, and other negative effects.
Other causes of rapid heavy breathing at night
Among other causes are poor air quality (especially due to carpets), soft beds, abnormal thermoregulation (e.g., too warm blankets causing overheating), etc. During sleep, as each hour passes, breathing gets deeper and heavier for most people. As a result, body-oxygen levels decrease. This is easy to check using the body oxygen test. The CP drop is especially noticeable after 4-6 hours of sleep. (We are physiologically created to sleep less than 5 hours.)
As your bonus content, there is a link to a page below here. This unique page analyzes the results of 26 clinical studies that compared 4 common sleep postures (left, right, chest and on the back) to avoid symptoms. This will help you to prevent or stop heavy and fast breathing during sleep.
Here is the link:
Best sleep positions
Related Web Pages:
– How to Maintain Nasal Breathing 24-7
– Manual (Instructional Guide) “How to prevent sleeping on one’s back”
– Webpage: Cold Shower Benefits and Rules (cold shower is excellent just before sleep too).
Buteyko KP, Lecture in the Moscow State University, Soviet national journal Nauka i zshizn’; [Science and life], Moscow, issue 10, October 1977.
Cheyne JA, Situational factors affecting sleep paralysis and associated hallucinations: posture and timing effects, J Sleep Res. 2002 Jun;11(2):169-77.
Khoroscho A, Interview with Buteyko [in Russian] 1982, in Buteyko method. Its application in medical practice, ed. by K.P. Buteyko, 2nd ed., 1991, Titul, Odessa, p.168-180.
Kompanje EJ, ‘The devil lay upon her and held her down’. Hypnagogic hallucinations and sleep paralysis described by the Dutch physician Isbrand van Diemerbroeck (1609-1674) in 1664, J Sleep Res. 2008 Dec;17(4):464-7.