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View Full Version : Can you make yourself pass out by holding your breath?


Astroboy14
07-11-2001, 03:11 AM
I'm sure this has been asked before, but a search revealed nothing...

Is it physically possible to hold your breath until you pass out? Could one possibly commit suicide that way?

Thanks all!

Astroboy14
07-11-2001, 03:49 AM
OK... so I'm guessing that everyone who has looked at this thread has tried to hold their breath until they passed out and have succeeded; ergo, no answers!:p

Ferggie
07-11-2001, 04:08 AM
It is possible to hold your breath until you pass out...however, upon passing out, you start breathing again.

warmgun
07-11-2001, 04:08 AM
Here's how to do it:
Take 10 really slow DEEP breaths, on the last one take in as much air as possible, hold it while sqeezing you own chest as tight as you can. It won't work everytime but we used to do it in high school. Don't know the dangers, but we never had a problem.
Let me know how it comes out.
I am NOT a DR.

mmmiiikkkeee
07-11-2001, 04:10 AM
I beleive that it's possible to hold one's breath until one passes out, but I don't know how many people can actually do it. However, once you pass out your body will start breathing again, so suicide is out (unless you fall off a building when you black out). Then again, would you really want the coroner to write up you cause of death as:
Expired due to gross stupidity; forgot to breath.

mmmiiikkkeee
07-11-2001, 04:16 AM
That was the fad for some kids who didn't need all those extra brain cells in my high school too for a time; but they had someone else press their hands on the neck to restrict blood flow, so it's not really the same thing. Once I saw the people who were supposed to catch they guy not do it, and he fell over and spit his chin open on a chair back... probly still has the scar to this day.

reprise
07-11-2001, 04:20 AM
Toddlers are notorious for holding their breath until they pass out. In the absence of some physical obstruction, you body will resume normal breathing when you lose consciousness - clearly, a full bathtub is not the appropriate place to experiment with breath-holding or hyperventilating to the point of unconsciousness.

warmgun
07-11-2001, 04:29 AM
You can EASILY make yourself passout by gently pressing on the arteries in your neck....but that's not the OP.

grimpixie
07-11-2001, 04:49 AM
My mother tells me that it used to be a "game" when she was at school - to bend over with your head between your knees, hold your breath and squeeze your arms around your chest and then to straighten up very quickly - resulting in a faint.

[little old lady voice]
Oh the fun we had when we were children...
[/little old lady voice]

Homer
07-11-2001, 04:57 AM
Hey! Some of my fondest memories involve making myself pass out! You hyperventilate then a friend squeezes you until you go out, then they let you sag to the floor. Great kicks.

--Tim

Astroboy14
07-11-2001, 06:59 AM
Thanks all, but let me clarify... what I (well, actually not me, but someone else who has forbidden me to use his name) want to know is this: can an otherwise healthy adult (not speaking of mental problems here) consciously decide (with no outside help, squeezing of chest, standing up fast, or any other way of cheating) to simply stop breathing and continue to refuse to breath until he/she loses consciousness?

I contend that it is virtually impossible... but I could be wrong!:D

Guinastasia
07-11-2001, 07:06 AM
From what I understand, it is VERY dangerous. Anytime you start cutting off oxygen I would think could be damaging.
Brain damage, etc etc. Over time, I would think you would have some problems.

Astroboy14
07-11-2001, 07:14 AM
Originally posted by Guinastasia
From what I understand, it is VERY dangerous. Anytime you start cutting off oxygen I would think could be damaging.
Brain damage, etc etc. Over time, I would think you would have some problems.


Agreed... and this is not something that I nor the person who wants to know is going to try (I can't speak for him, but when I want to pass out I'd prefer a more traditional method, say, a bottle of tequila!:p)

Just the question as an intellectual exercise...

Rue DeDay
07-11-2001, 07:21 AM
Astroboy, didn't you read reprise's post?

Originally posted by reprise
Toddlers are notorious for holding their breath until they pass out. In the absence of some physical obstruction, you body will resume normal breathing when you lose consciousness...

Adults can do it too, but usually before they pass out they think, "Gee, this is dumb. I'm an adult and can have as many cookies as I want. Even right before dinner. To hell with my appetite!" and start breathing again. And it gives you a headache.


-Rue.

Astroboy14
07-11-2001, 08:12 AM
Originally posted by Rue DeDay
Astroboy, didn't you read reprise's post?



Adults can do it too, but usually before they pass out they think, "Gee, this is dumb. I'm an adult and can have as many cookies as I want. Even right before dinner. To hell with my appetite!" and start breathing again. And it gives you a headache.

[/B][/QUOTE]

Yeah, I did, Rue... but can adults do this? I'm not asking about toddlers... Do you have a cite that claims adults can do this? There is no bet on this one, but pride dictates that proof be offered for either position (IE: Possible/Not Possible...)!

False_God
07-11-2001, 08:34 AM
Funny you should ask.....

A couple of weeks ago I was at a party at my BIL's house, and some of his frat brothers were trying this. They opted for the more traditional "knock-out" method of hyperventilating in a squatting position, holding their breath until they were purple, then surging upwards as fast as they could. Pretty impressive, actually. They would topple backwards gracefully, like a felled spruce.

I know from personal experience in jr. high (and once trying to get rid of hiccups too assidously)that you can do it merely by holding your breath. However, I would recommend doing it with your diaphraghm, as trying to hold it with your throat muscles can be very painful and cause blood vessels to burst.

Scylla
07-11-2001, 10:48 AM
Yes. It can be done.

Hyperventilate for 5-6 minutes to purge your body of carbon dioxide (Co2 is what makes you feel the urge to breathe.)

Take a deep breath, let out one third of it, and wait 3-6 minutes until you pass out.


Realize of course that there is a slight chance you will not wake up again, but science is a cruel mistress.

PiPPii
12-28-2016, 04:24 PM
I've been doing full-breathing (blow all the way out right into your abs, squeeeze, and hold the blowout for as long as you can then let go and you'll automatically breathe in.. keep going and lift your shoulders and raise your chin to get air all the way from your belly to your neck, then hold that for as long as you can, then do the exhale part).. You'll feel it in your head if you do it right.. but only do it like 3x or so and then just let your body breathe normally until you get back to 'normal-feeling' breathing..

So, that said, I just did that in a sauna, seated, and when I fell to the side and hit my head on the cedar bench I guess I woke up.. You get dizzy and body-uselessness just before it..

I don't recommend it and came to this thread like "what the f*ck was that?!?" so just saying that it IS possible....

Daylate
12-28-2016, 07:21 PM
After Trump's election, I would imagine that quite a few Dopers did hold their breath until they passed out. While simultaneously kicking their feet up and down against the floor.:D

JerrySTL
12-28-2016, 07:49 PM
Somewhat the opposite of holding my breath. A couple of years ago I was being tested for asthma. I had to exhale into a tube connected to a machine as hard as I could. I didn't want to have asthma so I put a LOT of effort into that exhale. I was going to get every molecule of air out of my lungs. When I awoke, the lab assistant was holding me up so that I didn't fall out of the chair. She said that a few people do pass out.

BTW: I have asthma even though some of my ways of having fun are doing half marathons and 100-mile bicycle rides. The plus side is that I'm somewhat faster on the bicycle when using the inhaler.

DSeid
12-28-2016, 08:47 PM
Yes, what Scylla said and it is a known possible risk with freediving called a "shallow water blackout (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shallow_water_blackout)."

First recapping the background. The main drive to breathe is increasing levels of CO2 (hypercapnia), not decreasing levels of O2 (hypoxia). But it is the hypoxia that will result in passing out, not the hypercapnia. Under normal circumstances the CO2 drive forces a breath before hypoxia results in passing out.

Some freedivers will hyperventilate before a dive to get CO2 levels way down before the dive (in hopes of prolonging their time) with the result that hypercapnia does not trigger the end of the dive before hypoxia results in a black out.

If you want to see it happening there are youtube videos of episodes available.

Colibri
12-29-2016, 08:12 AM
After Trump's election, I would imagine that quite a few Dopers did hold their breath until they passed out. While simultaneously kicking their feet up and down against the floor.:D

Moderator Note

Let's keep political jabs out of GQ. No warning issued, but don't do this again.

Colibri
General Questions Moderator

Machine Elf
12-29-2016, 08:23 AM
Somewhat the opposite of holding my breath. A couple of years ago I was being tested for asthma. I had to exhale into a tube connected to a machine as hard as I could. I didn't want to have asthma so I put a LOT of effort into that exhale. I was going to get every molecule of air out of my lungs. When I awoke, the lab assistant was holding me up so that I didn't fall out of the chair. She said that a few people do pass out.

Some years ago I saw a video in which Nick Nolte did the exact same thing (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w6jG3nMCBAI). Empty your lungs (very) completely, and you start sending unoxygenated blood to your brain; it happens too fast for CO2 to build up and cause air hunger, so you pass out without much agony.

When my sister was a toddler, she used to cry like this too. At some point she would exhale so long and forcefully that she would pass out - and then resume consciousness a few seconds later, much like a befuddled Nick Nolte.

DSeid
12-29-2016, 10:23 AM
Low oxygen in the blood going to the brain is not likely what is going on with Nolte there and not the main mechanism of childhood breath holding spells. Low enough oxygen does not happen that fast. The main mechanisms there are generally believed to be blood flow in origin and include an overlarge vagal reaction, decreased venous return, and brain blood vessel reaction to low CO2.

You can best think of the vagal (parasympathetic) response as the ying to the sympathetic's ("fight or flight") yang. It, among other things, lowers heart rate and blood pressure. There are a variety of areas that have receptors that when stimulated activate that response, including in an area of the arteries of the neck (the carotid bodies). That's why that massaging of those neck arteries can cause fainting. (Makes sense for the body to interpret an increase in perceived pressure there, going to the brain, as something to trigger a decrease in blood pressure response.) Straining, crying hard, hyperventilation, pain ... all are strong triggers of that response. Heart rate slows, blood pressure drops, and the brain just does not get enough blood flow so the child (be it a preschooler or the man-child that is Nolte) passes out.

Another factor in kids in some cases may be the pressure on the superior vena cava from a very large pronged inspiration which decreases blood flow into the heart at the same time. Less blood in means less blood out ...

The brain blood vessels also react to low CO2 (the result of hyperventilation) by constricting, obviously also decreasing brain blood flow during hyperventilation.