Respiratory Disorders Community
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Avatar universal

Strange Involuntary Breath

I am a 53 year old female, non-smoker and have no weight problems, and no known health problems.

Over the past two years, I've had numerous episodes where my body takes involuntary deep breaths, one every 7-8 minutes, interspersed with my normal breathing.  The intake of breath can be when inhaling or exhaling, and it when it occurs, it disrupts a normal breath.  Often the involuntary breath feels "catchy" as if I'd been crying or sobbing when in fact I have not.  

When the involuntary breaths first started, Sometimes I would go for 3 months without an episode, but then it would come back again, last for a few weeks and go away again.

Within the past 4 months, I had a horrible cold, and then a bad case of bronchitis.  The involuntary breathing has started up with the cold, and it is now contiunous, every 7 to 10 minutes or so.

I recently had an upper endoscopy, and finished a regiment for h pylori bacteria, however this annoying problem remains.

Is it possible this could be related to stess?

I've mentioned it to my doctor, and she doesn't seem to be concerned about it,  Unfortunately, it is of concern to me, and I have no idea what might be causing it.

Any assistance that can be provided would be greatly appreciated.
275 Responses
Avatar universal
I have been having the same symptoms. I am a 59 year old African American male. This started about 5years ago and is still going on, intermittenly. And as with you my doctor do not seem to be concern. Still looking for some answers. Someone once told me that they was told by their doctor that it was from a  muscle strain. I don't know. I was lifting weights when it started though. But I need a professional diagnosis. This was to let you know that you are not alone;
Avatar universal
I get the same thing too!! My Dr. looked at me like I was a nut who worries too much! With me, this started, ...oh...maybe over a year ago, but with me it happens occassionally...like every few weeks, and then may do it a few times for a week. It feels like my throat, [like you say, involuntarily] opens up real quick, and sucks in a good breath of air. It can even happen when I am talking. It makes a sucking sound...my husband has heard it when we were lying in bed watching TV. Maybe it's just a quick little throat spasm?? I have had other muscle spasms in the past few years as I have a hypothyroid problem, which does affect the muscles. It's weird nonetheless...but I do feel better now knowig there are others with the same thing. I am 52, BTW....not overweight, don't smoke. [quit 4 years ago this month]

Avatar universal
I, too, have been having this problem more and more lately.  Did any of you ever find out what caused it?  It is annoying!  Has finally worried me enough to search here...was thinking maybe i was crazy!?!?  Glad to see there IS someone else out there with same thing!
Avatar universal
I know exactly what you and the others here are experiencing. I began to have the involuntary "extra" breaths earlier this year, and they occur fairly often. My doctor does not seem concerned either, and tried to explain it from the standpoint of how the brain and breathing work together.  It is both annoying and worrisome.  It is almost like a hiccup only it's a breath.
Avatar universal
I have the same problem. I am 44 and have recently come out of hospital were I was being treated for a severe case of pnuemonia. I had an operation that went wrong which resulted in me being admited into intensive care were I awoke 2 days later on life support. I now wonder if being put on a vetilator my have started this problem. It may also be because my lungs have not yet fully recovered although I will always now have scar damage to them. I am seeing doctor soon and will give an update.
Avatar universal
I can't believe that I found this site and it happens to others. I was afraid to tell the doc. because I just knew he was think I was crazy or chalk it up to nerves. If anyone finds the answer, please update.

Thanks, Kim
I saw on a similar website that magnesium stops it
I saw on a similar website that magnesium stops it
Avatar universal
hey all, I did some research and did find this on www.biblelife.org
maybe this is a start.......keep reading ....it does say something about shallow breathing which I know I do sometimes cause it also contributes to my anixity..

Breathing is partly voluntary and partly involuntary. We can increase our breathing rate as we desire. We can take deep or shallow breaths as we desire. Therein lies a BIG problem. The involuntary breathing takes over when we are asleep, deprived of oxygen (hypoventilation) or have excessive oxygen (hyperventilation). Most of the time we simply ignore our breathing and let the involuntary system take over. Therein lies a BIG problem.
Avatar universal
For about 4 years, I have had this involuntary sharp intake of breath. It may occur when I am walking, talking or just resting.  Most of my doctors do not seem concerned; although it is quite nerve racking for me.  When I was taking a swallowing test, I was told I probably have laryngospasm - a brief spasm of the vocal chords.
I am happy to find a site which discusses this problem.  None of my friends or family could relate to my problem.  Best of health to all of you.
Avatar universal
  Happens to me too! Usually at night when I'm lying down.
  The sudden deep breath feels like my diaphragm muscle has suddenly contracted.  I can see how doctors would compare it to a hiccup, because that's what a hiccup results from (though that movement is a lot faster and seems more spasmic).  This movement is smoother, just deep, and it does feel a bit like a sob.
  Breathing is supposed to be mostly involuntary anyway, but you can tell when a breath catches you by surprise!
  Your main "breathing muscle" is your diaphragm.  When it contracts, it pulls down, increasing the volume of the thoracic cavity, which increases lung volume, which causes a decrease in pressure.  Air always follows a pressure gradient (from high to low), so this causes air to rush in.  
  Two of the main nerves resposible for breathing are the Phrenic Nerve from the cervical spine (neck region) to the diaphragm, and the Vagus Nerve from the medulla. Brainstem participants are the medulla and pons.  Stimulation is also related to oxygen levels in the blood.
  With all that said, I have no answer (sorry!) but sometimes understanding the nuts and bolts helps.  Like, with knowing all that, would seem like a nerve thing?  Oxygen levels?  Both of the nerves are found in the neck, and the Vagus travels alongside a pretty big neck muscle...
I had this following bronchitis, always when falling asleep.  They tapered off after some months.  Now I've had bronchitis again, + have experienced it again.  As an RN I have wondered if my O2 saturation in the blood is getting low as my sleep resp's become shallow.  (The pulse- oximeter they put on your finger in the docs office measures this as well as your pulse. You can buy yourself one in the drugstore...) I have decided it is a normal body response, taking care of us, + nothing to worry about.
Avatar universal
ps - i think the vagus nerve has something to do with voicebox control as well
Avatar universal
I have had this problem for a little over a year, it used to come and go every few months or so, I recently passed out in the middle if the night on my way out of the restroom (and could never figure out why) , and ever since these involuntary gasps for air have been non-stop about every 7 -10 minutes, I do notice that when I am busy and active I get them less, but with out fail -  when I sit and relax, I get them. Sometimes my neck wants to strech out (pointing my chin up) to get more air. But I don't feel like I can't breath, or I am out of breath. It's like when you cry a lot and have like 3-4 quick breaths in a row. I really feel like I am  breathing fine, getting enough air, It feels like a spasm, I think that relaxing, and sitting make it worse. Weird huh?
Avatar universal
I also wanted to note, I have noticed that I don't yawn as much, and when I do, It just never quite finishes, maybe it's an alternitive to yawning? I heard that yawning is the way your body gets more oxyegen....maybe.
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