Hyperpnea is the term for taking deeper breaths than usual, which increases the volume of air in the lungs. This condition is often a response to an increase in metabolic demand when the body needs more oxygen, such as during exercise.

Most people experience hyperpnea at some point during their lifetime. The cause is often physiological, as exercise and other activities can lead to a rise in oxygen demand. However, certain medical conditions can also trigger an increase in air consumption.

Anyone with concerns about their symptoms should speak with a doctor.

This article discusses hyperpnea, including its causes and the treatment options. It also looks at other types of abnormal breathing and explains when to seek medical advice.

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Exercise causes a rise in metabolic demand, which means that the body needs to increase the amount of oxygen it takes in and dispose of the carbon dioxide. Generally, a person breathes more deeply when they are exercising or doing another strenuous activity.

The body automatically initiates hyperpnea without a person’s input, and it is not generally a cause for concern. However, during long periods of exercise in cold air, a person may experience bronchospasms, which can cause narrowing of the air passage. The condition usually resolves after the activity stops.

Hyperpnea means that a person breathes more deeply. However, it does not necessarily involve an increased breathing rate, and the concentration of gases in the blood generally stays at a normal level. Most of the time, particularly when the causes are physiological, hyperpnea does not need treatment. However, if the cause is a medical condition, a person may wish to seek advice from a doctor.

Breathing is a natural, complex process that involves several parts of the body, including the lungs, diaphragm, and intercostal muscles. Breathing out releases carbon dioxide as a waste product. The average breathing rate for a healthy adult is 12–20 breaths per minute, and the volume of air in a typical respiratory cycle is about 500 milliliters (ml) for males and close to 400 ml for females.

Learn how to breathe properly for better health.

Either physiological or pathological causes may lead to hyperpnea. Exercise is a common physiological cause. The table below shows some other causes, which we then describe in more detail.

Feeling coldYesNo
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)NoYes


Changes in altitude cause atmospheric pressure and decreased oxygen levels, which can lead to altitude sickness.

The symptoms of altitude sickness include:

The body will generally take deeper breaths to inhale more air and absorb more oxygen to counteract each of the listed effects.


The body goes through many important processes during sleep, as each stage of rest has a specific function. During one of these stages, the body relaxes the respiratory dilator muscles, which are the muscles that enable a person to inhale and exhale when breathing.

A person with respiratory conditions may experience problems with sleep. In some cases, sleep apnea may occur due to a breathing pattern called Cheyne-Stokes, during which a person’s breathing alternates between hypopneas or apneas and prolonged hyperpnea. It is a serious condition, and a person should seek medical advice.

Learn more about Cheyne-Stokes respiration here.


Anemia occurs when the body lacks red blood cells, which transport oxygen around the body. A person who has anemia needs to take in more oxygen than normal, which can lead to hyperpnea.


A person with asthma may be more likely to become short of breath, potentially increasing the possibility of hyperpnea. However, according to a 2016 study, a person can undergo training in how to use the deeper breathing involved in hyperpnea to help with airway inflammation and lung-related issues.


The findings of a 2015 study suggest that controlled hyperpnea may boost the performance of the respiratory muscles of a person with COPD.

Eupnea is the term for normal breathing. Types of abnormal breathing include:

  • Hyperpnea: This is the term for abnormally deep breathing.
  • Hypopnea: Hypopnea refers to unusually shallow breathing.
  • Dyspnea: Dyspnea means that breathing becomes difficult due to shortness of breath.
  • Agonal breathing: This shallow, slow, irregular breathing can develop into apnea.
  • Apnea: A person with apnea may completely stop breathing, which can be life threatening without immediate CPR.
  • Tachypnea: This is the term for a breathing rate that is above average for a person’s age.
  • Bradypnea: Bradypnea describes a breathing rate that is below average for a person’s age.
  • Hyperventilation: A higher-than-necessary breathing rate results in the release of higher volumes of carbon dioxide.
  • Hypoventilation: A lower-than-necessary breathing rate causes the release of lower volumes of carbon dioxide.

Changes in breathing patterns are common, but anyone who suspects that they may have abnormal breathing should consult a doctor. An unusual breathing pattern may be a sign of a metabolic condition or an underlying injury.

Understanding individual breathing patterns can help provide an insight into a person’s overall physiology, as respiration controls other processes in the body.

Hyperpnea is generally a normal breathing process, and treatment is usually not necessary. However, anyone who thinks that their breathing is abnormal and has concerns about an underlying problem should seek medical attention. If a person notices that hyperpnea has a negative effect on their sleep, for example, they may need treatment for an underlying respiratory issue.

Hyperpnea refers to an increase in breathing depth. It can be an everyday response to exercise, colder temperatures, or a certain stage during sleep. However, if hyperpnea is causing problems, there may be an underlying injury or respiratory condition to address.

It is always best to see a doctor about concerning breathing patterns.