Our body takes care of our breathing automatically, so you’d think we’d default to breathing in the way that’s best for us. Unfortunately, that’s not necessarily the case. When we breathe, we do it unconsciously, but the problem is, we could be doing it improperly or inefficiently, and this could become habitual throughout our life, possibly leading to serious health consequences.
Every breath we take can have a positive or negative impact on our bodies depending on how it is performed; and it has been established that normal breathing should be achieved through the nose. However, it may be detoured to the oral cavity in the presence of an airway obstruction.
The nose is equipped with a complex filtering mechanism which purifies the air we breathe before it enters the lungs. During normal breathing, the abdomen gently expands and contracts with each inhalation and exhalation. There is no effort involved, the breath is silent, regular, and most importantly, through the nose.
Abnormal breathing or mouth breathing on the other hand; is often faster than normal, audible, punctuated by sighs, and involves visible movements of the upper chest. This type of breathing is normally only seen when a person is under stress, but for those who habitually breathe through their mouths, the negative side effects of stress and over-breathing become chronic.
Even worse, this seems to be a uniquely human problem. We are the worst breathers in the animal kingdom. Yes that is quite a claim, but if you look at primates, they breathe into their stomachs. They breathe very fluidly, very calmly. If you look at a cheetah running at 100 kilometres an hour, it is breathing through its nose very calmly.
Even our ancestors breathed differently to us. Studies have looked at the skulls of ancient people and compared their facial structures to ours, with surprising results, one being perfectly straight teeth, meaning crooked teeth is a modern problem!
When Mouth Breathing Could Be A Problem?
As the nose is a natural filter it keeps some particles, dust, pollen, and microbes out of the lungs. When we mouth breathe, the throat and tonsils have to do the filtering. One of the most common causes of mouth breathing is nasal congestion. This may be a cause of cold, flu, or allergies. Most often, this is temporary and resolves itself as you recover. In general, constant mouth breathing is due to a blockage or obstruction in the nose or another issue preventing you from getting enough oxygen.
In some cases, it can cause or is associated with facial deformities, growth issues, halitosis, bad breath, dry mouth/throat, gum disease, crooked teeth, tooth decay, chapped lips, snoring, teeth grinding, tiredness, trouble concentrating, irritability, bad posture, smaller airways, receding chin to dark circles under the eyes.
So, what are the benefits to nose breathing?
Superior Oral Health
Nose breathing is the secret sauce to preventing a dry mouth as it warms, moistens and filters the air. It allows the correct position of the tongue (against the upper palate) and lips (together), assisting formation of the face, natural dental arches and straight teeth.
Your Nose Protects You Through Smell
High in your nose are a large number of nerve cells that detect odors. In order to smell, the air we breathe must be pulled all the way up to come in contact with these nerves. Smell plays a key role in taste. We have four primary tastes: bitter, sour, sweet and salty. All of the refinements in taste are related to smell. That’s why people feel that food is tasteless when their ability to smell is decreased.
Smell and taste are necessary for safety. We need our smell to detect smoke, spoiled food, and some toxic poisons or gases. When we have a cold or allergies, it’s hard for the air to get to these receptors, so people notice a decreased ability to smell. Those who nose breathe limit the risk of blocked stuffy sinuses, therefore maintaining a strong sense of taste and small.
Reduced Chance Of Illness
Nasal breathing is superior to mouth breathing when it comes to germ protection, as well as your body’s ability to fight them off. The nose, unlike the mouth, is filled with tiny hairs that filter out foreign particles, dust, and germs. Furthermore, nasal breathing produces nitric oxide (NO), a miracle molecule that fights germs and bacteria while optimising the immune system. Nose breathing can also help in reducing allergy symptoms and hay fever, which we all know are super frustrating!
Protection For Lungs, Airways & Heart
Your nose is designed to help you breathe safely, efficiently, and properly. It can do this due to its ability to filter out foreign particles. It also activates the lower part of the lungs when we are doing deep breathing exercises, serving as an aerobic exercise for your lungs to help them function from around 80% to 100%. This can also help to reduce the likelihood of snoring and apnoea.
Your nose warms and moisturises the air you breathe in, almost acting as a humidifier, bringing the air you inhale to body temperature, making it easier for your lungs to use. During nasal breathing, as your nose releases nitric oxide which is a vasodilator, it relaxes the vessels and keeps them flexible, allowing them to dilate, boost blood flow, and help to control blood pressure. This is one reason people that mouth breathe tend to have higher blood pressure.
Promotes Proper Posture
It is not possible to maintain diaphragm breathing through the mouth. Nose breathing engages and strengthens your diaphragm, which is an integral muscle of the core and necessary for the stability of your spine.
Prevents Nasal Congestion
At any given time, people do about 75% of their breathing from one nostril and 25% from the other. Although we don't usually notice it, during the nasal cycle one nostril becomes congested and thus contributes less to airflow, while the other becomes decongested. On average, the congestion pattern switches about every 2 hours, according to a small 2016 study, and right-handed people tended to spend more time favouring their left nostril, according to the study.
Breathing through your nose can help filter out dust and allergens, boost your oxygen uptake, and humidify the air you breathe in. Mouth breathing, on the other hand, can dry out your mouth. There are ways to decongest both nostrils at once, which can temporarily lead someone to breathe more equally out of them until the nasal cycle resumes. Medications such as nasal decongestant sprays, as well as exercise, even sex can also open up the nose and may be a natural substitute to decongestant medicine, according to a 2021 study in the Ear, Nose & Throat Journal.
Limits Sleeping Issues
When we mouth breathe, research shows that we get 20% LESS oxygen to our bodies and brain. This is related to the lack of nitric oxide we take in through our mouth. Decreased oxygen uptake by our bodies, makes our brains and bodies think it’s in an emergency situation and activates the sympathetic nervous system, also known as fight or flight. This is why we see people that breathe through their mouths tend to sweat more, especially at night. Our bodies regenerate and replenish hormones at night. If our bodies stay in the fight or flight mode, then this replenishing does not occur.
Many children are also misdiagnosed with ADHD when they are actually just poorly rested kids — mouth breathing kids. When we mouth breathe, our sleep is interrupted, we stay anxious, and we wake not restored. Fidgety children are often kids that are trying to stay awake.
Improves Physical & Cognitive Performance
Many athletes are familiar with the power of nasal breathing techniques. When you’ve been exercising for a certain amount of time, it can cause you to lose your breath, leading to the need for a break or drop in performance abilities. When you breathe through your nose, it allows you to breathe slower, increases the delivery of nutrients and oxygen to working muscles during exercise, thus enhancing exercise/muscle performance and recovery. This technique is also helpful to prevent side pain due to mouth breathing while running or exercising.
Since your lungs fully expand when you breathe through your nose, meaning you are able to extract more oxygen from the air, this extra oxygen is not only distributed throughout your body, but your brain also, allowing you to cognitively function better, impacting on memory for example and helping to lessen the chance of conditions such as depression, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.
Decreases Stress & Anxiety
If you’ve ever experienced severe anxiety, you were likely advised to take some deep breaths. This is good advice, but it deserves a slight modification. When you’re in a stressful situation, it’s better to breathe deeply through your nose rather than your mouth. This is because mouth breathing can result in rapid, shallow breaths that may lead to hyperventilating.
When you breathe through your nose, it allows you to breathe slowly. This technique helps to calm your mind and fight through feelings of anxiety by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes a state of calmness. Breathing techniques help you feel connected to your body—it brings your awareness away from the worries in your head and quiets your mind.
Nasal Decongestion Exercise
The nose can be unblocked for both allergic and non-allergic rhinitis by performing a breath hold as follows:
As we strive to be healthy, we need to breathe through our nose at all times. When we breathe through our mouth, our nose makes more mucus. If we are temporarily mouth breathing because of a cold, we may see this frustrating cycle where mucus makes us mouth breathe, but mouth breathing creates more mucus. Nose breathing exercises can help to relieve the symptoms of headaches, allergies and ongoing stress or anxiety without the aid of medication.
How Can I Nose Breathe While Asleep?
One of the best ways to take advantage of the nose breathing benefits listed above is to nose breathe while you sleep. But how can you force yourself to do that? Thankfully, there are a few ways.
Depending on the cause, a doctor may treat mouth breathing in a variety of ways. Sometimes they may suggest an over the counter or prescription nasal decongestant or antihistamine. Some people benefit from adhesive nasal strips that hold the nose in a more open position during sleep. Occasionally surgical interventions like the removal of inflamed tonsils or adenoids are necessary.
You can also get the training from a Myofunctional therapist to train your lips and tongue to go to the appropriate positions to keep your lips sealed and full nasal breathing.
Somnifix strips are a simple, safe, and incredibly effective way to ensure that you nose breathe all night long and reap the rewards. Their hypoallergenic strips keep your lips sealed in a secure yet comfortable way so that you can get deeper, more restful sleep.
If you have a cold or allergies, Breathe Right nasal strips are a drug free way to help open congested your airways.
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