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Why do we sigh?

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Unlike yawning, sighing isn't contagious, suggesting it serves a physical function rather than a form of communication - so what is the purpose of a sigh?

Asked by: Alexandra Missoni, Edinburgh


Sighing is a spontaneous deep inhalation and exhalation. It serves to boost blood oxygen levels and fully reinflate the lung tissue. Sighing is not contagious in the same way as yawning, which suggests that its primary function is to do with respiration rather than communication of any state of mind. But it's also associated with certain moods, and laboratory rats have been shown to sigh with relief.


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Luis VillazonQ&A expert

Luis trained as a zoologist, but now works as a science and technology educator. In his spare time he builds 3D-printed robots, in the hope that he will be spared when the revolution inevitably comes.


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