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I've been overbreathing (essentially, chronic hyperventilation that you don't notice) ever since I had a bit of a health scare.

It's horrible.

Your CO2 levels drop, which inhibits your body's blood pH regulation. An increased blood pH leads to fuzzy thoughts, pinpricks all over your body, headaches, etc. Longer term, all kinds of aches start popping up. (Bloating, acid reflux, etc.)

It's difficult to fix something that you did unconsciously before. If anything, paying too much attention to your breathing works against you.

I have no real point here, except: breathing is important. And, if someone happens to read this and has some advice: let me know. :-)






Have you tried an incentive spirometer? They're about fifteen dollars on Amazon. I got one recently to track (what I assume is) my lung volume to use as a possible indicator of covid, but after reading the directions it seems like the device is purpose made for your problem.

You practice breathing with this thing 4 times a day, ten breaths a session, and track the volume of your inhalations. In order to get the number to go up you need to take long, deep, and slow breaths.

It will give you a clear numerical result to track. 4 sessions a day, 10 breaths each, record your measurements, plug them into Excel, get an average going and work on driving it up.

I also feel like there's potentially a market for a digital incentive spirometer that could help people do these things. Especially if problems like this are somewhat common.


I came to the conclusion that poor breathing habits are somehow connected to poor posture, mainly of the neck and the ribcage. I've had some poor breathing habits myself and doing deep breathing exercises incorrectly actually messed me up even worse for about a week or so. Yeah, that wasn't fun at all but it went away eventually. In the end I ended up concentrating more on posture and that seemed to correct the breathing as well. I find myself sitting in a poor posture from time to time and notice the breathing becomes limited and shallow as well.

It's a bit of a chicken and egg situation. For years I had poor posture (typical nerd-neck) to the point where standing up straight I couldn't actually breathe properly so I slouched around everywhere instead. My chest and neck were too tight to fully inhale otherwise. I had to fix both at the same time.

How did you fix it? I'm going through that exact thing. I think I have to retrain myself to relax my chest and stomach muscles and breathe deeply at the same time, but it's super difficult and I can only do 2/3.

I got a bit fat and my wife suggested we got to the gym together (pretty much the first time ever for me, age 30+). I had no idea until she mentioned it, it creeps up on you.

Pilates/yoga were good for core strength and stretching. If you want to start at home Yoga by Adriene on YT is very beginner friendly. I was never a fan of cardio or strength training but I did a bit of that too (it was a gym with various classes and instructors).

Also got a dog, it's a great excuse for daily walks.

One day I realised I was actually resting my head on the headrest in the car and wasn't uncomfortable. Until then it'd never felt right and made my throat feel tight at the front. I still have a way to go though, I have back issues and you don't fix 15 years of bad posture in 3 years.

Edit: I'll add after reading the other reply, at the start it's a struggle just knowing what good posture is. It doesn't feel right and natural, because your version of natural has been modified. You don't know how it's meant to feel. I found that exercises which exhaust certain muscle groups helped a lot. They gave up some of their grasp and let other muscles work. After a really heavy workout sometimes my back felt looser and more mobile and this helped me learn how it could feel.


Stretches and mobility exercises. Then one has to be aware of bad/good posture when standing/walking/sitting/doing any activities basically: playing guitar or any instrument, typing on keyboard, etc. We learn to do it wrong and then it becomes second nature. I’ll be honest, what helped me most to be aware and able to change the perception of my posture was after smoking a small dose of pot, small enough not to get one high, maybe buzzed is a better word. I think it helps relaxing muscles - and with poor posture some muscles have to more work and are always tense - and then it helps the proprioceptive awareness.

Poor posture can be slowly changed and it is life changing, obviously worth it.

Surprisingly the tongue has some major effect on posture, especially on forward head posture. There are all sorts of tongue exercises that benefit breathing, posture and even the looks. Tongue should be basically resting behind top front teeth and slightly press up the palate. For exercises look up muscular imbalances and see if you identify any on your posture. But all things start at the feet though, if feet have a problem the whole chain up gets affected so pay attention to the whole body.


> I also feel like there's potentially a market for a digital incentive spirometer that could help people do these things. Especially if problems like this are somewhat common.

I wonder how accurate an app could get with movement detection if you lie down with your phone on your chest. Probably not very, but might be useful.


These are great ideas. I'll try to pass them on to design students.

I bet there are interesting subtle dynamics beyond rate. Maybe interesting to record the acoustics inside the spirometer.

What's the product model? Prescription digital behavior change??


I've imagined building a digital version. I think the big opportunity is in how relatively hard it is track progress on an analog scale. You have to watch the little indicator that you raise with your breath until it stops rising. You don't get an exact reading.

I imagine the digital version using a range finder at the top of the tube to calculate how high you raise the thing you're raising by breathing in and then calculate and report the volume of air you inhaled.

If you combine this with an app you've got a little product going. App can track progress over time. Show you some graphs. Remind you to use the spirometer.

Sell the digital spirometers to hospitals who sometimes give them to patients who have respiratory problems. Get some data to prove the digital version works better and then get insurance companies to cover it or buy it.


> incentive spirometer

I want to try this. If you're happy with yours can you link to it? (everything I'm seeing is either under $10 or over $20 so I'm not sure which way to go)


It seems either the price has gone down or I remembered incorrectly. This is the 8 dollar model I own.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B000PAR7KQ

As for being happy with it - yeah pretty much. It's not like it's mind blowing or anything and I've not tried any others to compare it to, so take that for what it's worth, but it works.

I keep mine next to my desk and use it when I'm bored or need a moment to think. I tried following the recommend pattern of use in the instructions but didn't stick to it for very long. Now I just use it when the fancy strikes me.


That's great, thanks!

Also once you develop a history/baseline, you will quickly catch health conditions that affect your lung function and be able to quantify the effect.

Chronic anxiety is a vicious cycle of anxiety-inducing thoughts leading to physical symptoms leading to more anxiety-inducing thoughts. The most recommended solution is to chronic anxiety is to always just refocus on the task you're currently doing and continue on. You'll quickly forget about paying attention to your breathing and return to normal breathing.

Do NOT do breathing exercises to curb anxiety, because that will just reinforce the pathways in your brain and your anxiety will keep recurring.

If you're noticing you're mind is dwelling on anxiety-inducing thoughts you need to refocus on your current task.

Just keep doing that whenever symptoms popup.

The symptoms will popup less and less frequently, and you'll have developed such strong coping mechanisms that you automatically handle the issue.

This is approach is called "cognitive behavioral therapy" or CBT, and is an evidence-based approach used widely. You can consult a therapist and get taught CBT skills by a professional. (That's what I did)

In addition to learning CBT techniques, and get regular exercise and enough sleep. I recommend you cut out all caffeine until you have developed strong CBT skills. Of course, rule out any underlying medical issues and work on any medical conditions (obesity, bad posture).

Once you're comfortable you have anxiety under control you can slowly re-introduce caffeine.

Source: I used to have severe and debilitating chronic hyperventilation and anxiety, but sought help from a CBT therapist a few years ago. Now when I am living my life and notice I've started hyperventilating (or dwelling on an anxious thought), I can immediately stop it by refocusing. It's changed my life and I highly recommend learning the CBT techniques.

I highly recommend a few sessions with a CBT therapist. If you're not in a position to do that you might be able to learn about CBT techniques from elsewhere, such as YouTube.


I'll add a bit of caution for readers: CBT is useful to many but might not be enough, or the right tool, for everyone.

I tried it for years with multiple psychologists and had no progress. Eventually, I found a great psychologist who helped me with a blend of IFS ("internal family systems") and mindfulness to help me not constantly unknowingly suppress feeling and allow me to be present and process emotions.

There's lots of approaches out there, so if anyone's not making progress, try out some of the others!


> Do NOT do breathing exercises to curb anxiety, because that will just reinforce the pathways in your brain and your anxiety will keep recurring.

This sounds speculative. Is there actually empirical evidence that this is the case, or at the very least that intentional, focused breathing exercises interfere with handling anxiety?


Just a riff here based on my personal experience with anxiety, Ithink once an anxiety attack is happening is not the best of times of doing a practice. While slowing your breath helps for instance, its best to reinforce a pattern of breathing when you are at rest.

This is also why I recommend the book “the healing power of breath” its one of the best books I found on the topic without confusing you with all kinds of techniques and so on.

Basically in the beginning you practice 20 minutes a day in rest, so your bodymind starts to adapt to it, and it may overcome the causality that leads to anxiety.


I'm not sure. That statement was paraphrasing what the CBT therapist mentioned when I asked about learning breathing exercises. For the same reason the therapist also advised against my previous coping mechanisms like getting up and leaving the room, in favor for the strategy of simply recognizing your anxious mental state and refocus on the task at hand.

> The most recommended solution is to chronic anxiety is to always just refocus on the task you're currently doing and continue on.

Usually I'm relaxed in the morning, then go to work, enter a state of flow / complete focus, then at the end of the day I'm anxious (this becomes worse when I enter the supermarket for my evening groceries, even as I continue to think about work) and my breath is messed up (short, shallow breathing).

How would your method help here? For me it seems there is a contradiction, or not? Could you explain?


The original poster and I have experienced the vicious cycle of debilitating chronic anxiety with panic attacks and the physical symptoms of hyperventilation like chest pain. CBT crucially helped me "break the cycle" of that mental illness, and I thought my experiences may be helpful for the original poster who solicited advice. But my knowledge of CBT techniques are not from my own research, but second hand knowledge via several sessions with the CBT therapist.

With that said, the CBT advice would be to recognize that thinking about your work in the evenings is causing you anxiety, so to stop getting anxiety you should refocus on the task at hand (shopping for groceries) and stop thinking about work. It's OK to let your mind wander while you shop for groceries, but CBT is about catching yourself when your mind drifts back to a topic which causes you anxiety (your work), and then using the task at hand (shopping for groceries) as a tool to basically distract yourself.

How you can make thinking about work cause you less stress is a different question. My personal advice is to try exercising after work, you'll feel very relaxed after. But if you're finding you're still stressed after work, my suggestion would be to seriously considering stopping your thoughts about work after hours (again, by catching that you're thinking about work and refocusing). Chronic stress kills.


It's like reading something I wrote! I've been in the same boat (chronic hyperventilation, acid reflux, headache, panic attacks) for the past 10+ years and it also started with a health scare. However in my case, it seems to be mostly related to muscle tenseness caused by serotonin imbalance. I finally had too many episodes few years ago and it forced me to learn about it and find ways to deal with it.

Without knowing the root cause in your case, the only thing I can suggest is to train yourself to breathe right while your figure out the underlying cause. The Breathing Retraining chapter of the PTSD Handbook [1] is the best resource I've found for this.

I suggest you see a psychiatrist as chronic hyperventilation can be related to mental health issues.

Feel free to PM me. My email is on GitHub.

Best of luck

[1]: https://www.amazon.com/Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder-Source...


Please read this book : the healing power of breath.

As someone who taught yoga and is familiar with overbreathing, they teach a very simple technique and the writers have a lot of experience.

You actually practice for twenty minutes a day at first, and the technique is very simple (so you don’t get lost in all kinds of details) Once you get the right rhythm for your body type you’re good to go.


Have you tried an oxygen deprivation tent?

Sounds like an easy way to die. Hmmm, yep, DDG for "oxygen deprivation tent" yields, as first sentence:

' Oxygen deprivation tents or “altitude tents” are risky at best. '

But I see their use and that of other athletic oxygen deprivation gear.

In all fairness, our swim team used to do freestyle "hypoxic" drills. For example, we would breathe every other swim stroke for a pool length, then every 3rd stroke for a length, then every 4th stroke, ... until we failed. Once we failed we would fall back to breathing every other stroke. Nobody, to the best of my knowledge, ever passed out but one could feel the hit to one's brain when the O2 level got too low (or the CO2 too high, or whatever).

Those drills were uncomfortable, to say the least, and I was never convinced that they did much good. OTOH they did help me to relax in holding my breath under circumstances where breathing was not possible (e.g., in turns and underwater pushoffs where you might not breathe for nearly a pool length, and they trained me not to panic b/c I needed a breath. I suppose that, thanks to such drills, I might be a little harder to waterboard than the usual suspects, but I chose a less exciting line of work!8-))


Hypoxic training helps swimmers acclimate to the feeling of hypoxia while swimming so they can time their breathing better, it doesn't improve lung function. Humans need much longer exposure to low oxygen for the desirable adaptations to kick in.

Wouldn't that increase hyperventilation, causing a further drop in CO2?



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