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.