Do People Notice Their Over-Breathing (Hyperventilation)?

- Updated on December 4, 2021

Do People Notice Their Over-Breathing (Hyperventilation)? 1By Dr. Artour Rakhimov, Alternative Health Educator and Author

people notice hyperventilationPeople very rarely do notice their over-breathing or hyperventilation. Usually, people agree that their breathing is heavy when they breathe more than about 20 l/min at rest (or over 3 times the norm!).

Why is this? Air is weightless, and breathing muscles are powerful. During rigorous physical exercise or during maximum voluntary ventilation, an average person can breathe about 160 l/min, with about 40 breaths per minute and 4 liters of air for tidal volume for each breath (p.545, Straub, 1998).

Some athletes can breathe up to 200 l/min during strenuous exercise. So it is easy to breathe only a small portion of our maximum abilities: for example, “only” 16 l/min (or “only” 10% of the maximum capacity) at rest, throughout the day and night and overlook that it is, in fact, a high rate of breathing. It is nevertheless normal during rigorous exercise to breathe 100 l/min or more since CO2 and O2 concentrations in the arterial blood can remain nearly the same as at rest.

Usually, it is possible to estimate the breathing rate (or minute ventilation) of a person visually. If the chest is moving at rest, the person is breathing at least twice more air than the physiological norm (over 12 l/min for a 70 kg man). If his shoulders are moving, he is breathing four times the norm.

Normal breathing is invisible, inaudible, and regular. Moreover, when healthy people are asked about their breathing, they usually say that they feel nothing, while sick people have various sensations about movements of the air through the nostrils, at the back of the throat, and around the abdomen.

Unfortunately, modern medical doctors are not trained to pay attention to the breathing rate of their patients. A patient can come to the doctor’s office while heavily panting, even through the mouth, and the GP or MD will not even mention or suggest breathing through the nose or to reduce his or her breathing rate.

Extract from Dr. Artour Rakhimov's Amazon book "Normal Breathing: The Key to Vital Health", also available in PDF.