Inhaling oxygen and exhaling carbon dioxide are part of respiratory process. Breathing is important for maintaining life. However, the way you breathe, that is the rate of breathing, its depth, timing and consistency all are needed to keep the delicate balance of respiration. Illnesses and injuries can change the way you breathe. Shallow breathing is one such abnormal pattern of breathing.
Shallow breathing can be described as breathing some amount of limited air into the chest rather than in the entire lung space. Shallow breathing causes rapid breathing. It can occur during day as well as at night.During shallow breathing minimal amount of air is inhaled into lungs. While in diaphragmatic breathing the entire lung gets filled up with air. People who have rapid shallow breathing during sleep need prompt medical attention.
What Causes Shallow Breathing While Sleeping?
Shallow and rapid breathing during sleep is often troublesome. It may lead the person to insufficient sleep. As a matter this can affect entire system and health of a person. If you do not have proper sound sleep, the damaged cells of tissues and organs fail to repair. Hence person will feel exhausted during daytime even without doing any strenuous physical work.
Less amount of inhaled oxygen cannot saturate the blood properly. This means the cells do not get sufficient amount of oxygen. This will over a period of time can produce devastating effect on health. There are several causes of shallow breathing such as:
- Asthma: Asthma is caused due to various reasons such as allergy, hereditary etc. In this disorder the air passages and smaller structures in the lung become inflamed. Patient presents with rapid and shallow breathing. Besides this patient also suffers from difficulty while breathing, chest tightness, wheezing sound in the lung, blue discoloration of tongue and nail etc.
- C.O.P.D: Short and shallow breathing also occurs in chronic obstructive lung disease (COPD). It is an umbrella term used for lung conditions such as emphysema, bronchectasis and chronic bronchitis. In this condition the airflow into the lung is limited. Hence patient has to forcefully breathe in the air. This causes rapid and shallow breathing.
- Lung infection: Rapid shallow breathing is commonly observed in pneumonia. It is a lung infection caused by microorganisms such as bacteria, virus and fungus. Patient also complains of other symptoms such as chest pain, high fever, lack of appetite, breathing trouble etc.
- Pulmonary edema: This condition can also cause shallow breathing, especially when patient is asleep. Pulmonary edema is a condition in which the tiny alveoli of the lung gets filled up with fluid. This condition usually occurs in left ventricular failure.
- Mental stress: Some people breathe shallow and short when they are under mental stress. Stress can have impact on your breathing pattern aside from other physical and mental manifestations.
Alternative Therapies For Shallow Breathing
If you are having shallow and rapid breathing at night, you have to consult your physician as early as possible to know the underlying cause. There are host of causes that may lead to distressed and shallow breathing. Hence it is important to know the underlying causative factor so that it can be managed without any delay. Your shallow breathing will stop once the underlying cause is addressed.
- Nebulizer, bronchodilator medicines and oxygen therapy are primary treatment measures for breathing trouble.
- CPAP also called as continuous positive airway pressure mask on nose and mouth is beneficial to adjust air pressure.
- Avoid smoking as it weakens the lungs as well as the chest muscle which in turn can affect healthy respiratory process.
- Diaphragmatic breathing is one of the most effective ways of treating shallow breathing. During diaphragmatic breathing the stomach should move outwards while inhaling air and the stomach must move inwards while exhaling the air outwards. Pranayam yoga and meditation are useful alternative methods to alleviate shallow breathing and strengthen the lungs.