Did you know that you might be holding your breath without even knowing it? When people are nervous, their natural tendency is to hold their breath. This unconscious act can be dangerous in some instances.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to help yourself breathe more easily. By knowing what happens to your body as you hold your breath, you can do your best to avoid future issues.
But, what happens when you hold your breath? By reading this article, you’ll have a better understanding of why our body does it and what happens to us as a result.
Increased Carbon Dioxide Levels
When you hold your breath, the oxygen levels in your body decrease and your carbon dioxide levels rise. As CO2 levels in the body increase, a chemical reaction begins to take place which causes smooth muscle tissue to contract. This contraction sends signals to your body to take a breath.
In addition to your body signaling you to breathe, the increasing carbon dioxide levels inhibit oxygen from being taken up by the body’s cells. This lack of oxygen causes fatigue and can lead to blackouts and fainting if someone is holding their breath for too long.
Decreased Oxygen Levels
As oxygen levels decrease, muscles tire more easily and the body struggles to perform physical activities. Eventually, hypoxia may set in, where your entire body begins to feel disoriented and your organs can no longer properly function.
If not treated immediately, severe hypoxia can lead to tissue death and in the worst cases cardiovascular collapse. Therefore, it is important to breathe regularly and not hold your breath for too long, to keep your oxygen levels in check.
Activation of the Diving Reflex
When a person holds their breath, the body begins to activate the diving reflex. This is a type of reflex that can be observed in aquatic mammals, such as sea lions and dolphins and is also present in humans. The diving reflex causes several changes to occur within the body.
Blood vessels in the extremities constrict, the heart rate slows, and breathing stops. A laryngeal spasm can occur, causing the larynx to close to avoid water entering the lungs. This reflex can be dangerous if a person holds their breath for too long, as it can lead to unconsciousness, and in extreme cases, death.
A Possible Attack of Stroke
Holding your breath can result in a breathing-related disorder, called a syncope. Syncopes occur when the body is unable to properly manage the oxygenation of the blood. When this happens, the blood vessels in the brain may become constricted, causing a decrease in the oxygen supply and affecting brain activity, leading to a possible attack of stroke.
The risk of stroke increases in those with heart or circulatory conditions, as well as in those who are holding their breath for more than a few seconds. If you regularly find yourself having issues with breathing patterns, ask your doctor for advice to reduce the risk of stroke and ask questions like how to avoid stroke, can a stroke kill you, and what diet should I take to avoid stroke.
Understand What Happens When You Hold Your Breath? When you hold your breath, some of the effects are minor and temporary, like lightheadedness. However, holding your breath for too long can lead to serious health issues, so it’s important to practice breath control but also be mindful not to overdo it. Start practicing mindful breath control today to improve your overall well-being!