Is sighing bad for health?

When we confront with stress in our lives, we usually sigh in order to relieve stress, as if sighing could help us relieve some of the negative emotions from our body. According to the dictionary, sighing is a action “to let out one’s breath audibly, as from sorrow, weariness, or relief.” There are also superstitious belief that sighing is bad for body because it release all the energy one stored in their body which was used to resist against stress.  

Why do we sigh? Scientist had discovered that the reason we sigh is because we want to reset a breathing pattern in order to prevent abnormal breathing and make our breathing more flexible. This definition sound realistic and is the easiest way for the public to accept. However, the definition had left out one of the most important factor that is closely related to sighing, emotions. A lot of time people sigh not because they consciously wanted to adjust their breathing pattern, but more likely to relieve. According to a group of studies(Abelson et al, 2001; Schwartz et al, 1996; Wilhelm et al, 2001a; Wilhelm et al, 2001b), excessive sighing is considered a panic disorder.

An other studies had conducted an experiment where 80 patients voluntarily perform a minute of hyperventilation, also known as sighing. They later on analyzed the oxygen inside of the brain during this procedure and graphed it out. As you can see, the darker the color is in the graph the less oxygen there are in the brain. Therefore the more you sigh the less oxygen is left in your brain.

In other cases, sighing is also a sign of stress. People who are under stress and anxiety tend to sigh more than normal people who do not have problems like that. According to studies (Teigen, et al, 2008), sighing can be an action to exclude the desires and intentions that are not wanted. Various causes could lead to intensify sighing, such as anxiety, overheating, stress and etc. Since sighing could also suggest weak muscle tissue in lungs therefore the body needs chest to help breathing procedure.

Scientist (Aljadeff G, Molho M, Katz I, Benzaray S, Yemini Z, Shiner RJ, Pattern of lung volumes in patients with sighing breathing, Thorax. 1993 Aug; 48(8): 809-11.) had discovered that sighing is a closely related to hyperventilating which is a severe breathing disorder. While hyperventilating patient exhale more than they inhale. This was caused by various reasons that resembles those that caused sighing. Therefore study supported the correlation between sighing and hyperventilation.

So is sighing bad for health? Hyperventilating is certainly bad and could cause harm one’s life, but sighing, which is correlated with hyperventilation , is a common phenomenon. This suggest that there are third variables caused in this relation. The cause may be that hyperventilation is inherited from the parents or predecessors, so sighing may be a symptom of it, or one’s environment could cause sighing more then hyperventilation break out after stress accumulate. The study about hyperventilation and sighing also pointed out that other studies had discovered artificial sigh have positive effects on oxygenation. Therefore there might be a Texas sharp shooter fallacy occurred. Even reverse causation is possible in this case: if someone has hyperventilation, they might sigh more than normal people. Therefore in order to understand whether sighing is truly bad for health or not, one must discovered its mechanism.

In sum, sighing may not be influence one’s health and cause major health issues, but it may serves as a sign of health problem so just be cautious while you sigh, be sure to feel your breath.

3 thoughts on “Is sighing bad for health?

  1. Claire E Going

    Sighing can also be a way to calm yourself down as a mini “start-over” or refresher, similar to a deep breath. It can clear your head and help you feel like you can continue pursuing a daunting task and help you relieve the stress built up from it. This article shows that deep breaths and sighs can help lessen inflammation and give you more awareness, as well as other health benefits. Great post!
    -Claire

  2. Caroline Maria Teti

    This was a very interesting blog. I never thought of singing to be a symptom of hyperventilation, but that does make sense. If we sign too much it may subconsciencely cause us to become more stressed. This intern will cause some individuals to hyperventilate more often. I will sigh once I have hit the bed after a long day. I do not know if this is good or bad – but it is definitely worth looking into!

    i was only confused on the Texas Sharp Shooter part. Are you stating that due to the studies resulting differently, there is a failure in someone needing to do too many studies?

  3. Daniel Liam Cavanaugh

    This blog surprised me because I would have expected the effects of sighing to be beneficial, though it does now make sense to me that sighing leads to a lack of oxygen in the brain. As a side note, I like how you tied superstition into your into because I haven’t seen that before in one of these blogs and it increases interest on the part of the reader. I can see the connection between sighing and hyperventilating, but I don’t think they’re nearly on the same level in relationship to health. I think hyperventilating for a minute, as done in the first study mentioned, generates results that are extreme when compared to sighing. Based off of all of this, the risk isn’t high enough for me to stop sighing. I only sigh occasionally when I’m very stressed and it always seems to alleviate my negative emotions. This blog reminds me of the ‘laughing’ blog discussed in class. For your next blog, you might be interested on the negative effects of hiccuping. Here’s a source.
    http://www.bmj.com/content/bmj/2/5760/504.full.pdf

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