Breathing through the nose at night

While  sleeping  it  is  important  to  breathe  only  through your  nose.  Mouth  breathing  will reverse  the  benefits  of reduced breathing during the day. If you neglect your breathing   for  seven  or  eight  hours  every  night  then  it will be impossible  to change  your breathing pattern  on a permanent basis. Here are some suggestions  which will help you make a permanent switch to nasal breathing  while sleeping:


✦  The guardian  angel

One  suggestion  which  may be  suitable  for children,  is to have someone  watch over you until you become more used to breathing  through your nose  at night.  The  role  of this person  is to  close your  mouth  gently  when  you begin  to mouth  breathe,  or to wake you if your breathing  becomes too deep. A confirmed  insomniac  might  fill the bill; other- wise, good luck in your search for a guardian angel!


✦  The hat or scarf

For children get a hat with a strap that comes under the chin. Cut most  of the material  from the hat so that there  is just enough  to keep the structure  intact. Cutting  away as much material  as possible prevents  the  child from  becoming  too warm during the night because this would contribute to overbreathing. Get the child to wear the hat to bed and bring the  strap  under  the  chin  to  stop  the  lower  jaw dropping down. A variation on this theme is to wrap a scarf around the child’s head  and  under  the  chin. Tie it to ensure  that  the lower jaw is unable to drop down during  the night. Both of these  suggestions  could be consigned  to the  ‘off the  wall’ category by image-conscious children.  However, with these suggestions  in mind Asthma Care is currently in the process of having a special type of headwear designed to allow night- time nasal breathing  with minimum discomfort.


✦  Paper tape

From my experience, this is the idea that works best. Taping was first suggested  by Buteyko’s patients and has been used successfully by thousands  of people in Russia, Australia, New Zealand and the UK. If you feel that the tape is not for you, then  use any of the above options  (or one of your own) to prevent mouth breathing during the night. I have been using this option on and off for a number  of years now, and I find it very beneficial if, for any reason, I am having any difficulty breathing  through my nose at night.

The  idea  is to tape  over the  mouth  with some  sort  of sticky paper.  Make  sure  your  mouth   is  completely  closed before applying the tape. If your mouth is partially open, then you will be able to breathe through the tape during the night. I have found that the most suitable tape is 1 inch Medilite paper tape.  Apply it  horizontally  to  cover  the  mouth.  If you  are unable to place it in a horizontal  position, then place it vertically. Before placing, remove much of the glue on it by sticking the tape to your hand and peeling it off a number  of times. Do this until there  is just enough  glue to hold the tape in place. Before placing  the  tape  on  your mouth,  make  two tabs  by putting  a small fold at two of the corners. This will ease the task of removing the tape in the morning. The tape should not to be used on a child less than five years of age, and any child using it must be able to remove the tape during  the night  if they feel they need to. The tape should not be used if you are feeling nauseous or if you have been drinking alcohol.

If you are having difficulty breathing  during  the night while using  the  tape, then  do reduced  breathing  exercises. Try not  to remove  the tape  as, if you do, you are likely to begin to mouth  breathe during  your sleep and this will only make your symptoms worse. It is possible  that  some  people  may, very reasonably, experience a feeling of panic at the very thought  of having their mouth  taped. To help overcome this it may be helpful to put the  tape  on half an hour  before  going  to bed. This should  be enough time  to become  used to the tape and to overcome any nervousness.  For the first few nights  wearing the tape will feel a little strange. It may come off during  the night, but at least you will have spent some hours breathing through  your nose. Continue to wear the tape until you have managed  to change to breathing  through your nose at night. How long this takes will vary with the individual.

If your nose  is partially blocked  before  going  to bed, then first clear your nose by completing  the nose unblocking exercise outlined  earlier. While wearing the tape, your nose will never  completely  block.  If  you  are  breathing   deeply during  the  night  while  wearing  the  tape,  your  nose  will partially  block. This  is  the  body’s defence  mechanism to prevent  over breathing.  However, when  the  nose  becomes partially blocked, the level of carbon dioxide in the body will increase  and this will unblock the nose. If you continue  to overbreathe,  your nose  will become  partially blocked again which will increase the level of carbon dioxide thus causing the  nose  to unblock and  so on. Remember,  your nose  will only block completely if you switch to mouth breathing.

Reminder: Do  not  use  the  tape  on  a child  if the  child  is unable  to remove it easily themselves,  or is unhappy  about it. Do not use the tape if you are feeling nauseous, or have been doing any serious drinking.


You will know you are mouth breathing if:

  • You  wake up during  the  night  breathing  through  your mouth, or
  • Your mouth is dry in the morning.


Having  a wet mouth  in the morning does not always indicate nasal breathing  at night. Your mouth may close towards the  end  of your  sleep and  you will not  be aware of your breathing  prior  to  this.  If you have  a tendency  to  mouth breathe  during  the  night,  it is important to check for this dryness every morning. Your partner, or room mate, may also be able to tell you if you have been mouth  breathing.  They will certainly have no hesitation  telling you if you have been snoring!


The last word on this topic:

Some  of  the  solutions   outlined   above  may  seem   a  bit extreme.  However, most  of them  will only be needed  until you get your asthma problem  under  control. At that  stage, when your CP is consistently above 40 as a matter  of course, you should find that your breathing while you sleep will be normal  (and nasal) and  no special measures  will be necessary. The extreme  remedies  are suggested  in order  to help you to reach that stage.


Summary of correct sleeping


✦   Be aware of any symptoms.

✦   Try to sleep on your left side.

✦   Never  eat  late  at  night.  Don’t  be  afraid  to  go  to  bed hungry; it won’t do you any harm.

✦   Breathe only through the nose at night.

✦   Monitor  your night  breathing  by checking your CP first thing in the morning.


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