Have you ever heard the term "mouth breather?" Thanks to TV shows like Stranger Things, it's becoming a well-known term, although not for the reasons we’re talking about in this article.
In the Urban Dictionary, there are two definitions for mouthbreather: 1. A person who is really dumb. 2. A person who doesn’t or can’t breathe through their nose.
We’re focusing on the second definition.
61 percent of American adults self-reported as mouth breathers in an online survey of over 1,000 people. The survey went on to report that 64 percent of respondents said their mouth breathing impacts the quality of their sleep. Mouth breathing is nearly as impactful on sleep as stress according to the survey with 69 percent reported.
What was the most common sign of mouth breathing reported? Being awakened by nighttime nasal congestion (75 percent).
Mouth breathing doesn’t just affect your sleep though.
Do you find it difficult to breathe through your nose, especially at night? Maybe you can breathe through your nose most of the time but during certain times of the year, like allergy season or when you’re exercising or trying to fall asleep, you struggle to breathe and start mouth breathing.
If that sounds familiar, we’re sharing three surefire ways to open your nasal passages so you can breathe easy— day and night!
If you’re wondering if it really matters, and if breathing through your nose is really that important— it is.
James Nestor, in his book Breath, writes “The missing pillar in health is breath. It all starts there”. He continues, “90 percent of us is breathing incorrectly and this failure is either causing or aggravating a laundry list of chronic diseases”.
His book and numerous studies over the past few years support nasal breathing over oral breathing. They report the reasons you shouldn’t breathe through your mouth, and highlight all of the reasons you should.
One obvious reason, oxygen is life. You simply don't breathe as well through your mouth as you do through your nose.
There are many benefits of nasal breathing over oral breathing. How you breathe affects how well you feel, and so much more.
Here are several reasons to focus on how you breathe as another way to support your health!
Health Benefits of Nasal Breathing
Nasal breathing is the most efficient way to breathe. It improves oxygenation throughout your body, and when you breathe through your nose it filters the air you breathe. Your nasal hair will help prevent irritants from entering your lungs.
Nose breathing also produces nitric oxide (NO)— which helps widen your blood vessels and improve oxygen circulation in your body.
Breathing through your nose also helps you exercise more efficiently. One study published by the International Journal of Kinesiology and Sports Science found that runners who breathed through their noses while running on a treadmill experienced fewer breaths per minute than those who breathed through their mouths.
This means that those runners didn't have to work as hard to consume the same amount of oxygen as the mouth-breathing runners did, even though the latter experienced less airflow resistance than those who breathed through their noses.
Other benefits of nasal breathing include:
- Humidifies and warms inhaled air to body temperature (which makes it easier for your lungs to use)
- Increases the airflow to your nerves, veins, and arteries
- Improves lung capacity
- Strengthens your diaphragm
What Happens When You Breathe Through Your Mouth?
There are times when you may be forced to breathe through your mouth. For example, if you're congested, it may force you to breathe through your mouth at night. If you have a deviated septum or small nostrils you may need to mouth breathe occasionally.
If possible though, try to avoid mouth breathing. That's because it can cause a number of unpleasant or even serious side effects. Some of these include:
- Reduced moisture in your mouth, which causes dry mouth
- A nighttime cough
- Bad breath
- Tooth decay and gingivitis
- Sleep apnea
- Grinding your teeth— also known as bruxism
- Tooth or jaw abnormalities
Mouth Breathing and Your "Fight or Flight" Response
Another downside of mouth breathing is that it stimulates your sympathetic nervous system— better known as your "fight or flight" response. This is because breathing through your mouth stimulates your upper lung, which triggers sympathetic nerve receptors.
The opposite is true when you breathe through your nose. Nose breathing helps you take deeper, fuller breaths. Deeper, fuller breaths stimulate the lower lung to distribute more oxygen throughout your body. Your lower lung is also where many of the parasympathetic nerve receptors reside.
Your parasympathetic nervous system helps to calm your mind and your body. It's the opposite of your fight or flight response— called your "rest and digest" state.
Mouth Breathing and Your Jaw Health
Not only can breathing through your mouth potentially cause bad breath and poor dental health, but it can also affect your facial growth. Children— who, unlike adults are still growing and developing— are most vulnerable to this.
This is because breathing through your mouth causes alterations in your facial muscles, as well as in your jaws, tongue, and neck. These alterations can cause deformity in the surrounding bones, causing your teeth and jaws to become mismatched.
However, it's not always easy to catch that you're breathing through your mouth instead of your nose at night. Here's how to check.
How Do I Know If I'm Mouth Breathing at Night?
There are a few tell-tale signs that you're breathing through your mouth at night. Keep an eye out for these if you're worried that you're breathing through your mouth instead of your nose:
- You wake up with a hoarse voice, a dry mouth, or bad breath. This may be caused by a nighttime cough.
- You snore, or experience pauses in breathing during the night.
- You wake up feeling foggy-headed, unfocused, or irritable.
- You wake up feeling tired, even if you got a full night's sleep.
Breathing through your mouth can be an indication that you have obstructive sleep apnea— a serious but underdiagnosed sleep disorder with restricted breathing or pauses in breathing during the night.
These pauses reduce your oxygen intake and can cause your brain to panic. During these episodes, your mouth opens to breathe or you gasp for air. Over time, you create a habit of breathing through your mouth instead of your nose.
If you believe sleep apnea is contributing to chronic mouth breathing at night talk to your doctor and determine whether a home sleep test is needed.
If a sleep disorder like obstructive sleep apnea isn’t the cause, how can you train yourself to breathe through your nose?
Here are three simple things you can do to stop mouth breathing for good.
How to Breathe Through Your Nose— And Breathe Better
Sometimes mouth breathing at night is unavoidable, especially if you're sick or congested (although we’re also sharing ways to minimize congestion when you’re sick). But if you're want to train yourself to breathe through your nose, there are techniques you can employ right away. Your overall health and oral health will thank you!
Tip #1: Use SinuSonic to Decongest
Decongesting clears your nasal passageways of any obstructions or inflammation that may be causing you to breathe through your mouth. One of the safest and fastest ways to do this is with SinuSonic.
SinuSonic is a patent-pending treatment that relieves nasal congestion gently and naturally— without any drugs, medications, or irrigation. Instead, the device combines positive expiratory pressure and gentle acoustic vibrations (at 128 Hz) to help you clear your sinuses. One way it does this is by stimulating cilia to mobilize mucus.
You’re not only reducing your nasal congestion, but improving your breathing overall. Clinical trials have found that SinuSonic and similar devices can help increase lung volume, and improve breathing in those with lung conditions.
One clinical trial included adults with chronic sinusitis that caused moderate to severe nasal congestion. The study found that SinuSonic improved peak nasal inspiratory flow— PNIF, or airflow into the nose— by 15 percent within 5 minutes of using the device. And after two weeks, PNIF scores increased by over 30 percent compared to their initial baselines.
And because SinuSonic is drug and irrigation-free, there's no discomfort or side effects that come with using the device. This is especially helpful at night, when decongestant pills should be avoided because of their stimulating effects.
Nighttime congestion is a major cause of mouth breathing. That’s because blood flow rushes to the head after laying down, and can increase stuffiness and congestion. A drug-free solution for nighttime congestion can help you sleep more soundly, and wake up without unwanted side effects from mouth breathing all night long.
Tip #2: Breathing Exercises
Along with decongesting your airways, you can improve nose breathing by trying a few specific breathing exercises. These exercises can strengthen your respiratory muscles and improve lung function. They can even help relieve stress or anxiety.
We recommend you add these breathing exercises into your daily routine today:
- Alternate nostril breathing. This exercise is commonly used in yoga. Here you will inhale a deep breath through your right nostril and exhale through the left nostril- this is done by using your finger to close the opposite nostril as you breathe. With each breath, alternate, breathing through your left nostril and exhaling through the right.
- Diaphragmatic breathing. This breathing technique is also known as belly breathing or abdominal breathing. It involves slow, deep breathing exclusively through your nose. You'll know you're breathing correctly when you feel an expanding sensation in your stomach as it rises and falls.
The increased oxygen uptake from your slower, deeper breaths is also helpful for managing stress and anxiety.
If you struggle with breathing exercises because your nasal airway is blocked and it's difficult to take a deep nasal breath due to nasal obstruction, SinuSonic can help. A two minute session before any breathing exercise can reduce the nasal blockage, and clear the way for better breathing!
Tip #3: Mouth Taping
You may be thinking "wait, what?!" But stay with us for a moment. While mouth taping might sound like a lot of baloney— or just like a bad idea— it actually can help you learn to breathe through your nose!
More research is needed, but mouth taping can help reduce health problems caused by sleep apnea, and may help prevent oral health problems associated with mouth breathing.
If you're worried about how safe taping your mouth is, you shouldn't just put a big piece of tape over your mouth like you've seen on TV. Instead, just use a small piece of tape and tape vertically, aligned with your septum. This helps train you to breathe through your nose without completely obstructing your mouth.
If you want to learn more about mouth taping— and how to do it safely— check out Mouth Taping for Sleep: Does it Actually Help by The Sleep Doctor, Dr. Michael Breus.
Nose Goes— Nasal Breathing is the Way to Go!
We've all had to breathe through our mouths at one point— but it shouldn't be common practice. There are many benefits of nasal breathing— and with a little training and help from your SinuSonic it's easy to reap those benefits.
So when it comes to your health, nasal breathing is the best. Not just for your lungs, but for your teeth, face, and sleep health too!
Ready to restore nasal breathing?
There’s a correct way to breathe, through your nose! Less than two minutes twice a day with your SinuSonic reduces the congestion and stuffiness preventing you from breathing easily the “right way”.
Learn more about Sinusonic
Dallam, G., et al. “Effect of Nasal versus Oral Breathing on vo2max and Physiological Economy in Recreational Runners Following an Extended Period Spent Using Nasally Restricted Breathing: Semantic Scholar.” Semantic Scholar, International Journal of Kinesiology and Sports Science, 1 Jan. 1970, www.semanticscholar.org/paper/effect-of-nasal-versus-oral-breathing-on-vo2max-and-dallam-mcclaran/d5c63c9c6816b7ae95b5626d66b49b8514cbcc8d?p2df.Alshak, Mark N. “Neuroanatomy, Sympathetic Nervous System.” StatPearls, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 26 July 2021, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/nbk542195/.