Learn About Your Respiratory Rate

May 9th, 2023

What Is Respiratory Rate?

Your respiratory rate is the number of breaths you take per minute. When you breathe in, your lungs fill with air and move oxygen into your bloodstream. When you breathe out, your lungs expel carbon dioxide from your body.

What Is a Normal Respiratory Rate?

Your body will vary your respiratory rate to make sure you’re getting the oxygen you need. This means it often changes based on the type of activity you’re doing and how strenuous it is.

When you’re awake but not really moving around, your respiratory rate will probably be 12-20 breaths per minute, which is generally considered normal for an adult. Children breathe slightly faster at 18-30 breaths per minute.

When you exercise, your breathing gets faster the harder you exert yourself. This is because your body needs to take in more oxygen and get rid of more carbon dioxide. When you exercise regularly, you increase the strength and efficiency of your muscles, so they are better at taking in oxygen. In addition, your heart and lungs get more efficient at delivering oxygen and removing carbon dioxide. For these reasons, the fitter you are, the lower your respiratory rate is likely to be.

When you’re asleep, you tend to breathe more slowly than you do when you’re awake. During deep sleep, your breathing slows, but you take deeper breaths at more regular intervals. During REM sleep (when you dream), respiratory rate increases, and you take more shallow, less regular breaths.

Respiratory rate can be affected by a wide variety of medical conditions. For example, sleep apnoea is a condition in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts again during sleep. Other diseases, like chronic lung disease, may cause higher respiratory rates than normal because damaged lungs have a harder time bringing oxygen to the body.