How Long Can A Person Go Without Breathing (And Why)?

Exact Answer: 3 To 6 Minutes

We have hundreds of things in our minds and we struggle to keep track of everything we need to do. But there is one important thing that we don’t have to worry about remembering, breathing. Do you know that we breathe in 17,000 times a day without even thinking about it? When you breathe you transport oxygen to all the cells in your body so that they keep working. Breathing helps us to release out the toxic carbon dioxide from our bodies. If a person holds their breath for a long time, they may even die. So overall respiration is extremely important.

How long can a person go without breathing?

Time of holding breathWhat happens?
0 to 30 secondsFeel relaxed
30 seconds to 2 minutesUncomfortable pain in lungs
2 minutes to 3 minutesStomach starts to contract and convulse rapidly
3 minutes to 5 minutesLightheaded feeling as the oxygenated blood traveling to your brain is reduced
5 minutes to 6 minutesBody starts shaking and is dangerous
Longer than 6 minutesYou blackout

The vital organs in our body play a huge coordinated effort in the breathing process. The oxygen should be delivered to all the cells in our body. This is achieved with the help of Red Blood Cells. They are the gaseous exchanges between the living cells and the external environment. Delivering oxygen throughout the body is a tedious process that involves the lungs, brain, intestine, blood, and bones working together.


About 65% of the mass of our body is made of oxygen. It is one of the most important elements in our body and without it, none of the organs can function. Holding your breath for a smaller time like 30 seconds to 1 minute is not dangerous. But holding longer than that is not good for our body. If you are holding your breath for 3 to 5 minutes the oxygen supply to your brain is reduced and you may feel lightheaded. If you are underwater for longer than 6 minutes you will become unconscious due to the less supply of oxygen to the brain and will start inhaling the water which can lead to death.

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The Red Blood Cells are circularly shaped in the front view and biconcave shaped in the side view which makes them easy to travel through the blood vessels. They deliver oxygen to all the cells and tissues in our body. If we don’t breathe properly then the cells in our body will not receive enough oxygen and they may not function properly. Breathing exercises are best for your health as you use the full capacity of the lungs during the exercise.

Why a person cannot hold their breath longer?

Holding your breath too long could have some serious health implications like brain damage, loss of coordination, increased blood pressure, and even unconsciousness. Our muscles, tissues, and organs will also be unable to produce results for our bodies when we hold our breath for a long time.

An average healthy person can hold their breath from anywhere between 30 seconds to 2 minutes. Any duration of time after that is most likely due to practice, training, and even where they hold their breath. Take deep-sea divers for example. They can hold their breath twice as long underwater as they can on land. These professionals develop few tactics to train the body to adapt to these unnatural conditions. One of which includes the diving reflex. This training teaches the body to slow down its heart rate and metabolism to conserve energy and oxygen when submerged in water.

Another common technique used amongst divers is hyperventilation which allows a great intake of pure oxygen before going underwater. This way even though they are not actively breathing their body still stores a certain amount of oxygen to last until they resurface. Holding your breath for a long time has shown no sign of long-term damage to the brain. But while researchers took a close look at the brains of divers they found an elevated level of protein that could signal brain damage. But findings have been definitive and as per interviews from famous divers, they haven’t suffered any brain damage. From this, we understand that normal, untrained people holding breath for a long time can be dangerous.

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Conclusion

Breathing keeps the body alive. It is an involuntary activity. Involuntary activities are mostly the crucial ones that occur within us and which helps us sustain life. Incorporating breathing exercises into our lives, on a daily and regular basis has lots of great benefits. It helps improve lung functioning and also helps to shift our body from a stress state to a parasympathetic nervous state, which is our relaxed state.

Doing these deep breathing exercises at least for 10 minutes a day will have huge physiological benefits on your health. Therefore by learning the entire process of breathing we can clearly understand the benefits and also the damages that can be done to our body if we don’t breathe properly.

References

  1. https://journals.physiology.org/doi/abs/10.1152/jappl.1974.37.3.291
  2. https://jnm.snmjournals.org/content/48/1/22.abstract
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