Eupneic: everything you need to know about normal breathing

Eupneic: everything you need to know about normal breathing

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The eupneic state corresponds to the state of normal and regular breathing. What are the characteristics of eupneic breathing? The characteristics of non-eupneic (abnormal) breathing? The answers from Dr. Gérald Kierzek, emergency physician and medical director of TipsForWomens.

Definition: what is a eupneic state? What is eupnea?

We speak of a eupneic patient when his breathing is normal and regular and he does not have breathing difficulties. “This is the typical breathing state observed when someone is at rest, without any respiratory disturbance. When a person breathes eupneically, they breathe calmly and evenly, without excessive effort or discomfort.explains Dr. Kierzek.

Concretely, eupneic breathing (or eupnea) is characterized by a regular frequency and depth, with a rhythm adapted to the body's oxygen needs. It is simply automatic breathing, controlled unconsciously by the respiratory center located at the base of the brain.

At rest, an adult breathes in and out about 15 times per minute.

Eupneic state: how does normal breathing occur?


Inspiration is possible thanks to the diaphragm, the main respiratory muscle located between the rib cage and the abdomen. When we inhale, the diaphragm contracts. During this contraction, it shortens, flattens and lowers. This causes negative pressure in the chest which allows air to be inhaled through the nose and other airways.


During exhalation, the diaphragm relaxes. This allows the fibers of the lungs to tense and contract. When exhaling, the volume of the lungs decreases because the air that was inside is expelled. The diaphragm rises mechanically. These mechanisms are observed during resting breathing. During physical effort, the muscles located between the ribs (intercostal muscles) are used.

Gas exchange during respiration

With each inspiration, oxygen (O2) is transported to the pulmonary alveoli made up of numerous blood vessels called “capillaries”. It is thanks to these small blood vessels that gas exchange can take place: the blood absorbs oxygen and expels carbon dioxide (CO2). Blood carries oxygen to body cells which use it to burn glucose from ingested food. The metabolism of glucose (which provides energy) results in the production of CO2 and water.

Non-eupneic state: what is poor breathing?

Non-eupneic or abnormal breathing can take different forms.



Bradypnea results in an abnormally low respiratory rate. “It can occur in the event of drug poisoning, head trauma or depression of the respiratory system”.

Shallow breathing

We speak of superficial breathing when it is located in the upper thorax. “It is breathing during which the breathing movements are shallow, which can be seen in conditions such as anxiety, chest pain or rib injuries.explains Dr. Kierzek.


Wheezing is the production of a high-pitched whistling sound while breathing.

It is the result of a narrowing or blockage in the airways. It is one of the symptoms of asthma and bronchiolitis.

Respiratory distress

Acute respiratory distress syndrome is a type of respiratory failure that can cause a buildup of fluid in the lungs and an excessive reduction in blood oxygen levels. “It is breathing that requires considerable effort, often accompanied by intercostal indrawing (withdrawal of soft tissue between the ribs), which can be seen in obstructive lung conditions such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD))”signals the doctor.

Irregular breathing

Irregular breathing is breathing that is not regular in its rhythm and depth. “This can be observed in certain neurological disorders or alterations of the central respiratory system”.

Non-eupneic patient: when to consult?

Abnormal types of breathing may be signs of underlying breathing problems and often require appropriate medical evaluation. Breathing may be non-eupneic in cases of respiratory tract disease. A respiratory disease affects the air passages, including the nasal passages, bronchi and lungs.

In respiratory diseases, we distinguish between acute respiratory infections and chronic respiratory diseases such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and lung cancer.