Sighing is usually associated with being sad or upset, but research has revealed that sighing is more than that. Some say it is a form of communication, but why do we sigh when there are no other people around?

We also sigh when we’re wishing for something to happen. But should we really sigh or will it affect our health if we stifle a sigh?

The 2010 Research

According to Karl Teigen, a scientist from the University of Oslo in Norway, sighs are connected to our negative emotions, including longing, boredom, frustration, disappointment, and defeat. These negative emotions, however, are not intense and often don’t have a huge impact on our mood. This is why sighing does not give an unpleasant feeling. There are also sighs that express positive emotion, such as when someone is in love or during a sigh of relief.

But Why Do We Really Sigh?

Stressed? Frustrated? Exhausted? / AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth
Stressed? Frustrated? Exhausted? / AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth

A neuroscientist from Pennsylvania State College of Medicine named Jordan Gaines Lewis says that sighing is a form of communication, but not a clear one. Rather, it is similar to a paralanguage whose main job is to help you convey your frustration, tiredness, or relief to other people – subconsciously. So, even though there is no one around you who can hear your sighs, you turn to sighing as a way to express what you are feeling within.

A Reset Button

Meanwhile, according to researchers from the University of Leuven in Belgium, sighing acts like a reset button of the body for our breathing patterns. The human way of breathing is very dynamic and can be truly chaotic due to the changes of the body’s needs for oxygen. When we sigh, it is a way of our body to help itself respond to something unexpected, such as random noise and meaningful signals. Other points in the study include:

  • Sighing helps keep the respiratory system stay flexible to various breathing patterns.
  • Based on the study performed by the researchers, there is indeed a difference between the dynamics of the respiratory system before and after we sigh. This is how the theory of sighing being some kind of a reset button.
  • A sigh is considered a noise factor since it is not a normal part of the respiratory volume, recognized as twice as large as the average volume of regular breath.

Sighing is definitely normal and it does not mean you’re unhealthy if you keep sighing. In fact, many of us sigh every five minutes without knowing it – thanks to the complex way our brain produces our very own behavior.