Air hunger is respiratory distress marked by gasping, labored breathing or dyspnea. With air hunger, you’ll feel the need to take deep breathes, but likely will have difficulty when you try. So you’re left with an ongoing and destressing feeling of not being able to get enough air. And in an effort to resolve your air hunger feeling, you might force yourself to yawn repeatedly in an attempt to get more oxygen.
Often the root cause of air hunger is overbreathing, or hyperventilation. Breathing is essentially oxygen in and carbon dioxide out. When you breath to fast, it can lead to a drop in carbon dioxide in your blood.This in turn causes that air hunger feeling.
So why the disordered breathing in the first place? Well, your brain may be driving you to breath at an increased rate. However, your body may be at rest and doesn’t need extra oxygen. Yet, something occurred that triggered this sympathetic nervous system response causing a drive to breath more.
Stress, anxiety and panic attacks are the usual causes for an air hunger feeling. Unfortunately, the feeling of air hunger can cause anxiety or panic. So you wind up in a frightening cycle that requires immense concentration to break.
However, there are other causes for an air hunger feeling, for instance:
- severe pain
- drug overdose
- overactive thyroid
- excessive bleeding
- fight/flight response
- acidosis, ketoacidosis
- phobia, claustrophobia
- infection ~ pneumonia, sepsis
- heart ~ heart failure, heart attack
- lungs ~ asthma, COPD, pulmonary embolism
Some of these health conditions that cause an air hunger feeling are very serious. As such, they need to be ruled out. So, your first episode should be treated as a medical emergency.
Some other frightening symptoms may accompany your air hunger, like:
If your air hunger is caused by anxiety, stress or panic, there are steps you can take when it happens, as well as reduce the likelihood of a future attack.
When you feel yourself starting to hyperventilate, you want to try and raise the carbon dioxide level in your blood. Here’s a couple ways you can go about disrupting the vicious cycle:
- breathe through pursed lips
- stress management techniques
- increase your level of activity ~ aerobic exercise
- practice relaxation techniques ~ meditation, yoga
- breathe through only your nose by covering your mouth
- ask someone to help you relax your breathing via calm reassurances
- focus on breathing from your diaphragm & abdomen, rather than your chest
- breathe in through your nose, hold your breath, then exhale through your mouth slowly
No doubt, air hunger causes a most unpleasant feeling. Relax and focus on breathing down low and slow.