Spontaneous sighing is related to subjective relief of negative emotional states. Whether this also applies to instructed sighing is not known. The present study aimed to investigate sEMG and respiratory variability (1) during recovery from mental stress with and without an instructed sigh; (2) before and after spontaneous sighs throughout the experiment. A spontaneous sigh was preceded by increasing sEMG and increasing random respiratory variability, and followed by decreasing sEMG and increased structured correlated respiratory variability. Following an instructed sigh, a smaller reduction in sEMG and an increase in random respiratory variability during recovery from mental stress were observed. Thus, a spontaneous sigh seemed to induce relief. An instructed sigh appeared to inhibit recovery from mental stress.
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