Exhaled noisily: Sighing is important for our health

Researchers find biological cause: sighing to survive
Stress at work or worries at home: it is often stressful situations that make us sigh. Such a sigh usually has a liberating or relieving effect, but are there more reasons for it?

Sigh of grief and problems
Far too much work, worries about the family, trouble in the relationship: in most cases it is grief and problems that make us sigh loudly every now and then. The lungs are sucked full of air, which is then exhaled quickly and noisily. Scientists have long been concerned with why we actually do this. Some think it could have to do with people with a sigh trying to unconsciously show people that they need help. But it could also just relieve the inner tension. US researchers have now identified a biological reason for sighing.

Of great importance for our lung function
As the scientists from the University of California (UCLA) and Stanford University report in the journal "Nature", the involuntary sigh is extremely important for our lung function. Deep breathing causes the air sacs that have previously collapsed to inflate again. This is vital because "if they collapse, they interfere with the ability of the lungs to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide," said Jack Feldman, neuroscientist at UCLA in a statement from his college. The sigh, which brings twice as much air into the lungs as a normal breath, is the only way to inflate it again. "If you don't sigh, your lungs won't breathe over time," Feldman said. “One of the most important goals in neuroscience is to find out how the brain controls behavior. Our findings give us insights into the mechanisms that could be based on much more complex behaviors, ”explained the researcher.

Breathing center controls the type of breath
The biochemist Mark Krasnow from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute also emphasized the importance of her work in the communication. "In contrast to a pacemaker that only regulates how fast we breathe, the breathing center in the brain also controls what type of breath we take," says Krasnow. Be it regular trains, sighs or even yawning, sniffing or coughing. Normal breaths become deep. According to the information, this system also works in mice.

Not all sigh the same
An older investigation is also interesting, which provides an idea of ​​why we sigh with grief or out of relief. Psychologists around Disa A. Sauter from the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in the Netherlands compared the sounds that the British, for example, emit in anger, anger, grief, but also joy or amusement, with those of a native people in Namibia. As they reported in the "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America" ​​(PNAS), it was shown that the subjects of both ethnic groups understood each other well without words, but there were uncertainties when sighing. According to this, the people of the primitive people found it especially difficult to identify the sighing that British test persons gave as a sign of relief. The scientists assume that positive experiences in the history of evolution were mostly only shared with members of their own group and are therefore better understood within this group.

Sighing helps babies develop a regular breathing rhythm
In babies, sighing helps to develop a regular breathing rhythm. An international team of researchers led by David Baldwin from the University Hospital in Bern found out. They reported on their results in the journal "Journal of Applied Physiology". The unusually deep breaths are therefore used by the breath control center in the brain as a kind of reset switch that interrupts the rhythm if the breaths become too slow and uniform. In this way, a stable breathing rhythm is established in the long term, but it is variable enough to be able to react quickly to changes in oxygen demand. (ad)

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