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Breathing Techniques for People With Lung Disease

By

Ellen Greenlaw

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This content is created or selected by the Healthgrades editorial team and is funded by an advertising sponsor. The content is subject to the Healthgrades medical review process for accuracy, balance and objectivity. The content is not edited or otherwise influenced by the advertisers appearing on this page except with the possible suggestion of the broad topic area. For more information, read the HealthGrades advertising policy.

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Sleep Problems and Lung Disease

Lung disease can make it harder to breathe at night. Try these tips to get more shut-eye.
COPD Ask Questions

Shortness of breath is a problem for many people with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). If you have trouble catching your breath, you may want to learn a couple of breathing techniques. These techniques can help get air into your lungs and improve your breathing. Talk with your doctor or respiratory therapist about when and how to use these techniques.

Try Pursed-Lip Breathing

Pursed-lip breathing can help you relax and prevent shortness of breath. It can also help you stay more active. It’s easy to learn on your own. Follow these steps:

  1. Sit in a chair, leaning forward slightly, with a straight back.

  2. Relax your neck and shoulders as you breathe in through your nose. You should feel your stomach muscles relax.

  3. Purse your lips, as if you were going to whistle, and exhale slowly through your mouth. You should feel your stomach muscles tighten. Try to make your exhale last as long as possible. Ideally, it should be about 2 to 3 times longer than your inhale.

  4. Relax and repeat. If you start to feel dizzy, take a rest between breaths.

These helpful breathing techniques give you more control over your COPD.

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Feb 16, 2015

2016 Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the Healthgrades User Agreement.

Learn Belly Breathing

Belly breathing, also called diaphragmatic breathing, is using your diaphragm instead of muscles in your upper body to breathe. The diaphragm is your main breathing muscle at the base of your lungs. Learning how to use your diaphragm when you breathe is another way to help you breathe easier. It can also help remove any air that is trapped in your lungs. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Sit in a comfortable position. Try to relax your shoulders and neck.

  2. Place one hand on your stomach and the other on your chest.

  3. Breathe in through your nose as you count to two. You should be able to feel your stomach muscles relax.

  4. Tighten your stomach muscles while you breathe out for a count of four.

  5. Repeat.

This type of breathing can be a little harder to learn on your own. It can help to work with a respiratory therapist who can teach you how to do it properly. 
If you have any questions about these techniques, or other ways to improve your breathing, talk with your doctor. Your doctor may also refer you to a pulmonary rehabilitation program to learn more. 

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Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Sep 22, 2016

© 2016 Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the Healthgrades User Agreement.

View Sources

Medical References

  1. Breathing Techniques. COPD Foundation. http://www.copdfoundation.org/What-is-COPD/Living-with-COPD/Breathing-Techniques.aspx.
  2. Living Well with COPD: your patient workbook. American College of Chest Physicians. http://www.chestnet.org/sitecore%20modules/web/~/media/chesnetorg/Foundation/Documents/Living%20Well....
  3. What Is Pulmonary Rehabilitation? National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/pulreh/printall-index.html.

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