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  • Writer's pictureTom W

5 Ways to Spot Dysfunctional Breathing

Updated: Jan 17, 2023

If you read my last post all about ‘How well can you breathe?’ then you might have got your own BOLT score. (Might be a good idea to find out what your BOLT score is now) But what does that mean? How do you know what good or bad breathing is? Here are my 5 ways to spot if you have bad breathing habits.

The Mouth Breather

Is your nose always congested? One of the top bad breathing habits is mouth breathing. In my classes I constantly remind people that your mouth is for eating and your nose is for breathing. When we breathe through our mouths we simply cannot regulate or filter what enters our lungs and bodies. It bypasses our nasal airways which play a crucial role in regulating the breath and distributing gases.

The Chest Breather

Rest your chin down on your chest and place one hand on your chest and the other just above your naval (belly button), AND BREATHE. Take a few breaths in and out and watch which hand moves. If the hand on your chest is moving then you’re breathing in your chest area. Breathing in this way only utilises the top section of your lungs. The bottom part of your lungs are where the higher concentration of alveoli are which play an important role of gas exchange meaning if you are only breathing from your chest you are not sending enough oxygen to your blood. Breathing in this way also triggers a signal to our brain making it think we are in a stress state.

The Snorer

Ever been kicked or rolled over by your partner in the night because you sound like thunder? Well apart from it not being very pleasant the person you share a bed with, it is a very audible sign that your breathing is being obstructed. In most cases your mouth drops open when you are sleeping and your tongue relaxes to the back of the throat causes the obstruction and as you continue to snore through the night your airways dry and constrict.

The Sigh

It’s ok to sigh on occasion, like if someone has told you a ‘dad joke’. But to sigh frequently is a sign that your breathing isn’t consistent. This could be from over or under breathing and either way isn’t helpful. You can simply adjust this by switching from mouth to nasal breathing.

Breath Speed

Get out your phone or watch and count how many breaths you are taking in one minute at a normal pace. If you wear a smart watch, you might have data on this already in the settings. How much did you breathe in that one minute? Or what is your average breath per minute if you have the wearable tech? 5,10,15 or more?

The average adult respiratory rate (RR) is 12 -16 breaths per minute.

The ideal breath is between 10 – 12 breaths per minute, because this triggers the rest and digest response (the parasympathetic).

And the perfect respiratory rate is between 4.5 – 6.5 per minute. This breathing is resonance frequency breathing.

Do you notice any of these breathing patterns?
Is it affecting your day to day activities in home or work and you want to find out how to improve your breathing?

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