WHAT IS IT?
Paced breathing is a relaxation technique used to slow breathing. It prolongs the time spent breathing in (for example, to the count of 4) and breathing out (for example to the count of 6). It can be done once or twice a day to help you relax, or when you have symptoms.
There are apps that can help with paced breathing. There are also books, CDs, and YouTube videos to help people learn you control your breathing rate. Some clinicians may offer biofeedback training to help you learn to control your breath. You may see new devices on the market, too.
Paced breathing can also be done as part of mediation, mindfulness, yoga, tai chi, or Qigong practice.
Paced breathing has been shown to have positive effects on heart rate variability (HRV). HRV, in turn, is related to overall mortality and heart health. This is an active area of research, so we should learn more in the coming years.
OUR BOTTOM LINE: DOES IT HELP?
MAYBE. It may help with anxiety and it’s easy to try. It won’t hurt you.
NO. Paced breathing does not help with hot flashes.
MOOD, ANXIETY & DEPRESSION
While not studied specifically in menopausal women, slow paced breathing techniques at approximately 6 breaths per minute help against stress and anxiety.
HOT FLASHES AND NIGHT SWEATS
Studies of paced breathing find no impact on hot flashes and night sweats frequency, severity or interference.
POTENTIAL RISKS & SIDE EFFECTS
Some people may get lightheaded when trying to control their rate of breathing. Its normal to sit down when you practice paced respiration, but lay down if you feel light headed.
QUALITY OF LIFE EXPECTATIONS
IF I WANT TO TRY THIS TREATMENT WHAT ARE MY NEXT STEPS?
You can try it on your own for a few weeks to see if it makes a difference. We recommend using a diary to track your level of anxiety. Note your anxiety level daily and how many times you practiced paced respiration during the day. You can use our assessment tool to measure how anxious you were.
There are apps that can help you time your breaths. But you can also count on your own.
Sit comfortably. The goal is 10 breaths a minute. Breath slowly, counting in for 4 and out for 6. To breathe out longer than you breathe in, it can help to exhale through your mouth. Keep this up for 2 minutes at first, but gradually increase to about 10 minutes each time. Do it at least once a day. It’s relaxing, so you may want to do it more!
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Authors: Dr. Janet Carpenter, Dr. Katherine Newton, & Dr. Leslie Snyder. Last reviewed April 29, 2021