(Mirror Daily, United States) – We sigh when we feel overwhelmed, when the pressure of the world is pressing against our shoulders and we feel like there is no way of relieving it, we sigh when we are sad when we don’t want to do something, but we get up to do it anyway. We sigh when we are feeling emotional, but nobody would have thought that sighing is vital for our health.
According to a group of researchers from Stanford University, the University of Los Angeles and the University of California, sighing is not just a physical response triggered by a certain emotion, but it is also a necessary action that prevents the lungs from collapsing.
The team of researchers from the three universities managed to pinpoint the neural circuitry of a sigh, and also isolate the precise brain location from which the sudden release of air originates.
Now, knowing the exact location where they could look in the brain, the scientists want to establish if sighing is really an emotional response or just an automated body function, like coughing. Doctors will also be able to treat people with disorders that make them sigh too much or too little.
The leading author of the paper and neurobiology professor at UCLA, Jack Feldman, says that an average individual sighs involuntarily approximately 12 times in a single hour.
If this sounds like too much sighing, you can make a simple experiment at home. All you have to do is sit quietly in a room where you will not be bothered by distracted noises and pay close attention to the rhythm of your breathing. You will notice than once in an average of five minutes you inhale and just before exhaling, you involuntarily inhale another time.
These involuntary unnoticeable sighs are not emotionally triggered, but they are crucial to the human body because they re-inflate the alveoli, the tiny sacs that make up our lungs.
The alveoli are crucial because they are the dumping point of carbon dioxide and the pick-up point for oxygen. When these tiny air chambers collapse, they can only be re-inflated by a sigh because it brings in a double amount of air than a normal breath does. Who would have thought that sighing is vital for our health?
And it seems humans are not the only mammals that sigh. According to the researchers, rodents sigh more frequently than we do. They re-inflate their lungs from 25 to 40 times in a single hour.
While it is clear why sighing is vital for our health from the re-inflating the lungs point of view, Dr. Feldman’s team is not yet sure how the sudden increase and release of air helps people emotionally.
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