Your body was built to take air in through your NOSE, not your mouth. The mouth is a secondary option for air intake during emergencies or during extreme exertion like sprinting. So what’s the big deal if I don't breath through my nose? People who are dominant “mouth-breathers” create facial deformities, postural changes and dental problems for themselves. They are prone to sleep problems, snoring, sinusitis, mood disorders, ADD, ADHD, hormone imbalances and even cardiac and vascular problems. Surprised? I was too. But the medical literature is pretty robust in its research of this area.
Our bodies are amazing, and I found a few secrets that will astound you. You think your bones grow and then stop during your teen years and stay set for life. Mostly yes, but your facial bones including the bones of your sinuses can change, modify and adjust your ENTIRE LIFE. The chiseled features of an attractive male face, the jaw line, cheek bones, etc, are the result of nasal breathing. Mouth breathing leads to recessed jaw, long facial features, a dropping face and other facial features that would commonly be considered unattractive.
Mouth breathing also adversely affects dental hygiene as it contributes to dry mouth, altered bacteria, bad breath and yes, an increase in cavities. The oral cavity was meant to speak and chew but not intended to be a highway for the majority of our air intake. Dr. Burhenne DDS makes the bold claim that mouth breathing causes more cavities that sugary diets and poor dental hygiene.
These boney changes that occur as a result of mouth breathing contribute to snoring!! OK ladies, look at your man when he is snoring. Is his mouth open or closed? You can bet your ear plugs that it is mostly OPEN or worse when open. Breathing through the mouth at night moves a large volume of air that can collapse the airway leading to obstruction, thus snoring and possibly apnea. Many men and women have treated and resolved their snoring issue by simply taping the mouth shut at bedtime. You read that correctly. Tape the lips together so that you are forced to breathe through your nose and snoring will improve or go away completely. Even people using CPAP or dental appliances at night should tape their mouth shut. Let’s explore why.
Nitric oxide is produced in your sinus cavities every day all day and then flows into your nasal passages to be inhaled. When you take a nasal breath this fabulous molecule flows into your lungs, gets absorbed into the blood and works to dilate blood vessels. It also dilates the airways. Here are a few other little impacts that nitric oxide provides:
Benefits of nitric oxide in your body:
- Enhances memory and learning
- Regulates blood pressure
- Reduce heart disease risk
- Regulates inflammatory response
- Improves sleep quality
- Increases endurance & strength
- Promotes weight loss
- Improves immune/gut function
- Relieves pain
- Ease anxiety & depression
- Relieves pain
- Improves immune/gut function
That's a LOT of benefits!!! Nasal breathing reduces vascular resistance in the lungs and enhances blood oxygenation. Mouth breathing does NOT.
Are you ready to absorb one more odd factoid? Humming, simple closed mouth humming causes a vibration of the sinus cavities leading to an opening of the sinus ostia and thus a 15-fold flooding of nitric oxide right into the nasal passage. Humming for 10 seconds followed by a nice nasal inhale will dump a ton of nitric oxide into your lungs for absorption. Feel congested? Take 3 or 4 nasal inhales after humming for 10 seconds. Wait 3 minutes and the sinus will regenerate a whole new load of nitric oxide and you can repeat the process. Feeling clearer?
OK, final turn and heading for home. Let’s get to the pinnacle of weird science with the accent on SCIENCE. Studies have shown that when people tape their mouth shut at bedtime, this forces them to breathe through their nose and this drives greater nitric oxide all night, preserves the airway without collapse and resolves snoring. Crazy, right? Some people with apnea have indeed resolved their apnea with a simple piece of medical tape. Good time to make an important clarification here – NOT DUCT TAPE. Use simple 3M varieties of medical grade tape (Micropore, Durapore, or other) easily found in any pharmacy. Sound scary? No problem. Start in the light of day with a little practice. Tape your mouth shut as you watch TV or sit at your computer and practice nasal breathing. Actually, quite simple. Feeling more comfortable? Great now apply that tape at bedtime and enjoy a better night’s sleep. If you struggle at first, no worries, just keep practicing and become a better nasal breather over time. I have been recommending this to patients for years and have never seen a bad outcome. No one in my experience has ever awakened "choking" on tape so relax and simply trial it for yourself.
If you simply can’t tolerate nasal breathing then maybe it is because you have a true obstruction and should seek consultation with an ENT specialist. But there is no harm in trying nasal breathing (and mouth taping) and most people get better at it over time with practice.
Want to read more? Look at the book by James Nestor, “Breath”. Also, stay tuned for upcoming articles on breathing exercises you can do that will retrain and modify your habits to encourage greater “coherence”. Check out our Coherence: HRV and Coherent Breathing article.