Training of paced breathing at 0.1 Hz improves CO2 homeostasis and relaxation during a paced breathing task.PLoS One 2019; 14(6):e0218550Plos
Volitional control of breathing often leads to excessive ventilation (hyperventilation) among untrained individuals, which disrupts CO2 homeostasis and may elicit a set of undesirable symptoms. The present study investigated whether seven days of training without any anti-hyperventilation instructions improves CO2 homeostasis during paced breathing at a frequency of 0.1 Hz (6 breaths/minute). Furthermore, the present study investigated the effects of training on breathing-related changes in affective state to examine the hypothesis that training improves the influence of slow paced breathing on affect. A total of 16 participants performed ten minutes of paced breathing every day for seven days. Partial pressure of end-tidal CO2 (PetCO2), symptoms of hyperventilation, affective state (before and after breathing), and pleasantness of the task were measured on the first, fourth, and seventh days of training. Results showed that the drop in PetCO2 significantly decreased with training and none of the participants experienced a drop in PetCO2 below 30 mmHg by day seven of training (except one participant who already had PetCO2 below 30 mmHg during baseline), in comparison to 37.5% of participants on the first day. Paced breathing produced hyperventilation symptoms of mild intensity which did not decrease with training. This suggests that some participants still experienced a drop of PetCO2 that was deep enough to produce noticeable symptoms. Affective state was shifted towards calmness and relaxation during the second and third laboratory measurements, but not during the first measurement. Additionally, the breathing task was perceived as more pleasant during subsequent laboratory measurements. The obtained results showed that training paced breathing at 0.1 Hz led to decrease in hyperventilation. Furthermore, the present study suggests that training paced breathing is necessary to make the task more pleasant and relaxing.