10 Ways to Increase Your Blood Oxygen (SpO2) Levels

The term “blood oxygen levels” refers to the amount of oxygen circulating in your blood. Although normal blood oxygen levels vary from one person to another (check with your doctor about your healthy range), typical healthy oxygen saturation ranges from 95% to 100%.

Oxygen is vital for every organ and system in your body, and blood oxygen levels below 90%, it might indicate there might be something challenging your body and you should speak with a healthcare provider.

With the overnight Blood Oxygen Sensing (SpO2) feature in Oura Ring Gen3, Oura members can obtain crucial insights into their heart and lung health.

To monitor blood oxygen levels, the Oura Ring shines red and infrared light into your finger as you sleep. The  reflected light that bounces back indicates how much oxygen is in your blood. In the morning, check the Sleep tab in your Oura App, where you can see your Average Blood Oxygen reading and Breathing Regularity graph.

Potential Causes of Low Blood Oxygen Levels 

Low blood oxygen saturation can have many different causes, ranging from health conditions to environmental factors. Here are nine of the most common.

1. Poor Lung Health

Respiratory diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD — also known as emphysema), asthma, and pneumonia, can impair the lungs’ ability to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide, leading to lower blood oxygen levels.

2. Anemia

Red blood cells contain hemoglobin, which carries oxygen throughout the body. People with anemia don’t have enough hemoglobin, which limits their body’s capacity to keep enough oxygen in the blood.

3. Circulatory Problems

Conditions that affect the heart and blood vessels can impact the transportation of oxygen-rich blood to body tissues.

4. Sleep Apnea

The pauses in breathing or shallow breaths during sleep that people with sleep apnea experience can disrupt the oxygen supply, leading to decreased blood oxygen levels during the night.

5. Chronic Hypoxemia

Chronic hypoxemia refers to the long-term condition of low blood oxygen levels. It can be caused by various underlying health conditions, including lung diseases, heart diseases, and sleep disorders. Chronic hypoxemia may require medical interventions such as oxygen therapy to improve oxygenation.

6. Smoking

Smoking damages your lungs and affects your respiratory system’s ability to efficiently oxygenate the blood, leading to lower blood oxygen levels.

7. Environmental Pollution

Exposure to air pollutants such as carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and particulate matter can impair lung function and decrease oxygen uptake. Prolonged exposure to polluted air can contribute to lower blood oxygen levels over time.

8. Medications

Certain medications, such as opioids and sedatives, can depress the respiratory system and cause shallow breathing, resulting in decreased oxygen intake and lower blood oxygen levels.

9. Altitude

At high altitudes, the atmospheric pressure is lower, so there’s less oxygen available in the air, and your body has to work harder to keep your blood oxygen at optimal levels. After a while, your body acclimatizes, but until it does, your saturation may be lower than usual.

Symptoms of Low Blood Oxygen Levels

Consult your doctor if you’re experiencing two or more of these common symptoms associated with low oxygen saturation:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Restlessness: Oura’s Nighttime Movement feature can show you if you’ve been restless during the night
  • High blood pressure
  • Lack of coordination
  • Chest pain
  • Elevated heartbeat: By monitoring your heartbeat throughout the day and night with your Oura Heart Rate Graph, you can detect any deviations from your average resting heart rate.

Additionally, chronic low blood oxygen levels can cause other health problems over time, such as kidney failure, brain damage, and even life-threatening heart arrhythmias.

10 Ways To Improve Your Blood Oxygen Levels

The best way to increase oxygen levels in the blood will depend on what the cause is, which is why it’s essential to talk to your doctor if you think your blood oxygen is too low. However, the following 10 tips can help improve your blood oxygen levels and overall health.

1. Get Enough Sleep

Getting enough good-quality sleep is essential for your body’s rest and recovery, including optimizing blood oxygen, as it can help to improve your lung function, thus increasing your blood oxygen levels.

Start by consulting your daily Sleep Score in the Oura App and tracking your sleep trends in the Trends tab. This will provide a picture of your average sleep quality and duration and information about how you can improve them. Oura will also provide guidance around your ideal bedtime and chronotype so you can optimize your sleep schedule according to your body’s unique rhythms.

2. Stay Hydrated

Drinking enough water helps maintain blood volume and viscosity, ensuring that it flows properly and delivers oxygen to your cells and tissues.

3. Eat Iron-Rich Foods

Incorporate foods into your diet that are rich in iron, which is essential for creating hemoglobin, and vitamin C, which helps the intestines absorb the iron your body needs to make hemoglobin. Examples include leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, berries, citrus fruits, lean meats, and legumes.

4. Exercise Regularly

Exercise helps to strengthen your heart and lungs. This can improve your circulation and help to deliver more oxygen to your tissues. Use your Readiness Score and daily Activity Goal to find the ideal balance between exercise and rest.

5. Improve Your Indoor Air Quality

Ensure you have good indoor air quality by regularly ventilating living spaces, using air purifiers, and minimizing exposure to indoor air pollutants like smoke, dust, and chemicals. Breathing clean air improves oxygenation and overall respiratory health.

6. Get Some Fresh Air

Additionally, opening your windows while at home or going outside for a walk can increase the amount of oxygen available to your body, which increases your overall blood oxygen level.

7. Try Some Breathing Exercises

Practicing breathing techniques, such as diaphragmatic breathing or belly breathing, can help expand lung capacity and increase oxygen intake. Studies have shown that pursed-lip breathing is particularly effective in alleviating symptoms of COPD.

Head to the Explore Tab in your Oura App to access guided breathwork exercises and receive a biofeedback report after every session that shows changes in your heart rate variability (HRV), resting heart rate, and skin temperature.

8. Don’t Smoke 

Smoking damages your lungs, makes it difficult to breathe, and leads to low blood oxygen levels. For smokers, quitting can lead to improved blood oxygen levels.

9. Manage Your Medical Conditions

If you have a health condition that affects your blood oxygen levels, such as asthma, it’s important to manage your condition. This may involve taking medication, making lifestyle changes, or both.

Use the Tags feature in your Oura App to track symptoms, lifestyle choices, habits, and behaviors and see how they affect your well-being over time. Turn on Rest Mode on days when you don’t feel so well — this will automatically deactivate your daily Activity Goal.

10. See a Healthcare Provider

If you are concerned about your blood oxygen levels, it is important to seek medical attention. Your doctor can help you determine the cause of your low blood oxygen levels and recommend treatment options — for instance, if you have sleep apnea, they may prescribe a CPAP machine to help you breathe more easily at night.

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