Breathing – stress, hiccups, sleep, CO2, mouth taping

The proof a God exists is the fact the body can breath without conscious control. For if we were required to breathe by paying attention we would all be dead. Only a benevolent God would make us breath automatically. Anonymous.

There are a lot of ideas in this blog post, none are medical advice. This article and any article by Ward Willison R.Ac. if for discussion purposes only and NOT medical advice. You can come to the clinic and I will give you all kinds of medical advice, when we have a proper diagnosis of what to do.

I thought I knew about breathing until I stumbled upon “Breathe” by James Nestor. It’s worth a library loan or audio book. It will likely blow your mind about breathing.
From there I read a couple dozen books on breathing and remarkably there is still more to learn. From baby’s, sports, stress, pregnancy, daily life, incontinence (bad breathing is a huge cause of this), Kung Fu, spiritual practices, sleep and on it goes. There is better ways to breathe for each. Below are some ways for some things. Depending on the feedback I may make another post on other aspects of breathing.

I am always writing down ways to breath at work so I thought I’d make a little post about the most common ones I talk about. I put links in to find other sources and as always talk to your doctor before doing anything that can affect your health…. These note are not exhaustive and not meant to be attempted without personal instruction from someone familiar with the exercises.

In no particular order, I got a lot from listening to a Huberman podcast. He had a lot of breathing types in one area. *note – I have mixed feelings about Dr. Huberman Ph.D. I think this particular video/podcast is accurate and helpful.

Stress reduction

Physiological Sigh. Preferably via the nose. Take a deep breathe in and then take a top up breath on top of that to really fill your lungs up, then slowly let it all out via the nose or mouth with a sigh sound. Do 2-5 of these and you should be a calmer person. Do this 5 minutes a day (called Cyclical sighing) for a month and the studies say you’ll be less stressed and have better lung function.

Heart Rate Variability HRV

HRV is a super hot topic in, well everything. Athletics, performance, sleep, health… Many people are wearing the heart monitors all day. As I understand HRV (I have a certificate saying I am a HRV instructor) most people are not using it as I understand it.

There are lots of apps and equipment you can get but simply try this. Got the app store of your choice type “breathe pacer app” Apple here or Android here. Interestingly the link goes to the app I use for this type of HRV training.

HOW TO DO IT. In a perfect world you would set the in/out breath to 5 second each. So you breathe in for 5 seconds and you breathe out for 5 seconds via the nose. Set it to go for 5 minutes. Get that done for a month and up it to 10 min. Keep going until it’s 20 minutes and your life will change! If the 5×5 is too hard, start at 2 seconds in 2 seconds out and work your way up to 5×5. If you research HRV you will find there is some tweaking at the 5 second mark but don’t work on trying 8 sec in and 8 sec out. The 5×5 is the magic number for HRV and if you take a deep dive into HRV breathing you will find how to tweak it to you or you can ask me.

I do HRV sessions hooked up to a sensor and I run the Heart Math and Elite HRV programs at the same time. There are likely 100’s of options for sensors, I bought a Heartmath sensor a while ago. Many sensors will hook up to different software packages and they all show something slightly different.

BUT you don’t need to buy a sensor the free breath pacer app will do it. Well you have to do it, but the app will help you.

Box Breathing

Made famous by the ‘special forces’ this is a square style of breathing where you breath in for 4 seconds, hold 4 seconds, breathe out 4 seconds, hold 4 seconds and then repeat. Famous for how to get your calm back and/or keep your calm. But it never worked for me until I listened to Huberman’s add in of “a carbon dioxide tolerance test”.

How to do the carbon dioxide tolerance test:
Basically breath in and out normally 3-4 breaths then a BIG in and as soon as you start breathing out. Start your stopwatch. Now don’t kill yourself but see how long you can breath out for, but when you need to breath in or feel faint or any other mal-adaptive stress – stop breathing out and return to normal breathing.

How long did you breath out for? Under 20 seconds = 3, 21-49= 5-6 and over 50 seconds (that’s me) is 8-10.

If you are under 20 seconds you box breath 3 in, 3 hold, 3 out, 3 hold, repeat 2-3 minutes.

If you are 21-49 seconds you box breath 5-6 seconds in, 5-6 hold, 5-6 out, 5-6 hold, repeat 2-3 minutes.

If you breathed out for more than 50 seconds and it was not a big strain then you inhale for 8-10 seconds, hold 8-10, breath out 8-10 and hold empty 8-10 seconds, repeat 2-3 minutes and that really changed my state of mind.

Hiccups and side stiches

Your breathing phrenic nerves go into your diaphragm and liver. It can do weird things like cause hiccups and a ‘stitch’ in the right side of your lower rib area.
Here you do the “triple breath” – Inhale via the nose, then another, then another. Hold 15-20 and breath out.
Just a note on hiccups my daughter has used the drink from the far side of the glass technique (start at 40 sec) with success many times.

How to stay out of adult diapers

That title gets a lot of attention. It is AMAZING!!! how many adults have incontinence. There are many reasons and again talk to your GP/Dr. for medical help – but Dr. Belisa Vranich book Breathing for Warriors has some answers. Most of the book is for soldiers, fighters etc. But she has this one chapter on how to belly breath that is the best I have ever seen.

Her Ted talk gives some ideas but not as clearly as the book. Basically most people use secondary muscles to breathe. Which she calls “Vertical” breathing. Once a person returns to using their diaphragm properly they “Horizontal” breathe.

When you Vertical breath you put pressure on the sphincter valves. I.e. you can pee yourself and any other valve in the torso can fail. But when you Horizontal breath you leseesn the abdominal pressure off the pelvic floor and lower pressure in the chest, making it easier for your heart to beat and your lungs to work. It’s a huge difference. Also primary breathing muscles don’t work like most muscles. They do not exhibit fatigue.

There are thousand video’s on how to “belly breath” but really it’s not quite right. You want to Diaphragmatically breath. I have a multi step teaching process for it. It’s not hard at all but it takes a few months to retrain the body to breath correctly. But adult incontinence is not so fun and by now most people have realized Kegel exercises are NOT fixing it. Call if you are interested.

Snoring, Mouth Taping even Apnea

Another hot topic. Basically your nasal tissue is erectile tissue. Yup it swells. But unlike other erectile tissue in the body it swells with lack of use. Odd.

So use it or lose it. Nasal breath or you will have a hard time. As we can have some conscious control during the day, it’s night time that gets us. The answer is to tape your mouth shut. It is remarkably more popular than you think . That video shows the strip on the middle technique, but our family all put a strip of tape across our whole mouth, for years. I have seen video’s of ENT’s saying it’s possible to have negative side affects. We have not had any in three years. But again consult your GP/Dr/specialist.

There are so many good reasons to breathe through the nose instead of breathing through the mouth:

  1. Filtration and Humidification: The nasal passages act as a natural air filter, trapping airborne particles, allergens, and bacteria before they reach the lungs. The nasal cavity also adds moisture to the inhaled air, preventing the respiratory system from becoming dry.
  2. Warming and Cooling: Nasal breathing helps regulate the temperature of the inhaled air.
  3. Nitric Oxide Production: The nasal cavity produces and releases nitric oxide (NO) gas, which has numerous benefits for overall health. Nitric oxide helps dilate blood vessels, improving oxygen uptake, regulating blood pressure, enhancing lung function, and supporting the immune system.
  4. Improved Oxygenation: Nasal breathing facilitates more efficient oxygen uptake in the lungs. The nasal passages and sinuses provide a longer and narrower pathway for air to flow, allowing for increased contact time with the respiratory surfaces, leading to better oxygen exchange.
  5. Balanced Breath: Nasal breathing encourages a balanced and regulated breath pattern. It activates the diaphragm, the primary muscle of respiration, promoting full and deep breaths.
  6. Reduced Dry Mouth and Bad Breath: Breathing through the nose helps maintain saliva production, preventing dry mouth and associated issues like bad breath.
  7. Relaxation and Stress Reduction: Nasal breathing has a calming effect on the nervous system, activating the parasympathetic response and reducing the “fight-or-flight” stress response.

Wim Hof methods

Wim Hof is likely the closest to superhuman ever. He runs marathons in the artic, in his underwear! He climbs the tallest mountains in shorts with no added oxygen. He’s just amazing. But I don’t practice any of his stuff because I HATE COLD WATER and I am not interested in changing that. But he’s a big deal in breathing.

Carbon Dioxide and breathing

I follow Patrick McKeown a lot. I have most of his books and watched lots of his video’s for kids and adults and I think he’s great. Recently he’s gotten Aps and more products to sell. But he has a huge array of free resources especially for children’s asthma.

The value of carbon dioxide is something he is best at describing. Short story, you breathe in air to your lungs. Mixes with blood and goes to cells. To get it into your cells you need carbon dioxide or lactic acid. Otherwise you will have a problem. When people breath too much (most everyone) the CO2 lowers and you feel like you are not getting enough oxygen. Yet your hyperventilating. You need more air into your cells. Therefore you need higher CO2.

How? LSD (love the analogy) Lighter, Slower, Deeper. Breathe less often, less amount and deeper into the body (nasal, diaphragmic). Over time your CO2 rates will rise. Here is a video explaining the CO2 and here is a video explaining how to self measure with a BOLT score.

There is one problem a rapid increase of CO2 engages a primitive fear response in people. But if you do the LSD technique as described by me or other professionals you will be fine. It just takes a while to raise your BOLT score so you do not trigger a CO2 spike panic attack.

You can always buy a pulse oximeter finger monitor to keep an eye on how low you O2 level goes. The interesting thing to raise your C02 you need to lower your O2 oximeter level for the training time. There are video’s and I can show you also.

Mouth breathing

Is there ever a time to mouth breath? Yes, whenever you think you need to. It’s just that simple. It is like a lot of things we have all these great ideas and techniques. But without adequate practice the magic technique is actually a burden. When you can nasal breathe, when you need to mouth breathe.


Reading over this I realize there is so much more I could say about the simple act of breathing and I’ll save it for a later post. For now the summary is

  1. Breath through your nose. I have seen video’s of people running 1/2 marathons with their mouths taped shut, which is not a goal of mine.
  2. Horizontal breathe. Re-learn to use your primary breathing muscles better and exclusively. It will change your life.
  3. Breath less. With the 5 second in and 5 second out that’s 6 breaths/min. Most people are 18-22/min that’s a lot more work for the body.
  4. An added bonus with the 5×5 you will increase your HRV, that also does magic for your wellness.

I have a 800 page text book (actually I have several) listing dozens of diseases and a breathing exercise to help heal from them. It’s really amazing how many studies on diseases and breathing there are. Yet I have never had a patient come in knowing which to do for what. That list of 4 points will go a long way to help anything you many have.

For more information talk to me at the clinic.

Be Well,
Ward Willison R.Ac.
Kelowna Acupuncture & Other Natural Therapies

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