Breathing should be easy, right? It turns out that there may be a more optimal way to breathe and it’s through the nose rather than the mouth! Breathing through your nose controls the temperature and humidity of the air coming into your body and enhances filtration of any toxins or debris. Using your nose to breathe also improves relaxation and reduces the “fight or flight” reaction that may be activated by mouth breathing. In a society where we are prompted to be in fight or flight on a daily basis from stressors like traffic, screen time and poor sleep, anything we can do to tell our nervous system to calm down will help reduce inflammation. Mouth breathing, especially when sleeping, is associated with waking up with a dry mouth, sore throat, bad breath, and snoring through the night. There is also quite a bit of research showing snoring and mouth breathing is correlated with systemic inflammatory conditions and reduced lung capacity.
Tips you can do at home to start nose breathing more consistently:
- Practice! Consciously focus on using your nose to breathe in and out. It sounds silly but we bet you breathe from your mouth more often than you even realize.
- Keep your nose clean! This can help remove any barriers to getting the full amount of air. Nasal irrigation, aka Neti Potting, has incredibly benefits on the nasal environment when done no more than once a day.
- Try nose breathing during moderate cardio exercise. See if you can only breathe through your nose during a medium-paced walk or bike ride. There are Olympic athletes who train for better outcomes using nasal breathing during exercise.
- Find ways to minimize stress to avoid heavy mouth breathing.
What about mouth taping?
Some people who breathe with their mouth while sleeping have used mouth-tape as an intervention to try to switch them to breathing with their nose and experience those benefits. Most of the research is anecdotal but there do not seem to be dangerous side effects as long as you use light adhesive tape that your could easily pop off during any time of discomfort. Medical tape works well. Anyone with sleep apnea or other chronic breathing condition should always consult with a physician before trying practices that could impede breathing.