Side effects of shallow breathing

Updated November 21, 2016

Shallow breathing almost always involves rapid breathing, or tachypnea. When a person does not breathe deep enough, the result becomes short, quick breaths. The normal adult should breathe anywhere between eight and 16 times per minute. Shallow breathing will produce a much larger number. The side effects of this shallow breathing are many and varied, none of which are beneficial to the human body.

Brain Function

Shallow breathing reduces the amount of oxygen taken into the body. Breathe shallow one time and then take a deep breath. The difference in oxygen intake becomes obvious. Multiply that over the course of an hour, a day or a week, and the oxygen deprivation adds up. The brain relies upon oxygen to function and when the supply becomes low, the brain cannot operate at full capacity. This side effect manifests itself in many ways such as memory loss, lack of concentration and extra time than normal to accomplish simple tasks.


Shallow breathing effects how a person acts. Low oxygen levels lead to nervousness, sluggishness, irritability, lack of energy, fatigue and depression. An individual's personality can be transformed by this side effect.

Sleep Deprivation

The reduced oxygen intake resulting from shallow breathing prevents sound sleep. This produces a revolving effect in that lack of sleep leads to all of the aforementioned side effects, which only increases the likelihood of shallow breathing, thus completing the cycle.

Poor Health

Shallow breathing leads to poor health, poor lung function, chest pain and a diminished immune system that increases exposure to disease.

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About the Author

Robert Alley has been a freelance writer since 2008. He has covered a variety of subjects, including science and sports, for various websites. He has a Bachelor of Arts in economics from North Carolina State University and a Juris Doctor from the University of South Carolina.