Why You Must Close Your Mouth for Better Health
We take our first breath as newborn babies and carry the breath with us for a lifetime. Humans breathe around 20,000 times every day. The curious thing is, many of us are doing it wrong.
In recent years, there has been a growing interest in the breath. Breathwork classes are becoming more and more popular. In sports and amongst the general public, people are turning to breathing instructors to help with everything from chronic health problems to performance enhancement. One feature common to many different breathing methods is the instruction: “Breathe through the nose!”
In 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic led to a more widespread curiosity about the breath, highlighting respiratory illnesses, immune-system function and healthy breathing. James Nestor’s book, Breath, which tells the story of his participation in a breathing experiment, became an instant New York Times bestseller in May 2020. And the mainstream media is increasingly sharing articles and information about breathing methods.
Mouth breathing is unhealthy breathing. It causes fast, upper chest breathing that can contribute to stress, anxiety, brain fog and poor body oxygenation. It’s a significant barrier to good quality sleep. Habitual mouth breathing is very bad news for childhood development, leading to long face syndrome, face shape changes and crooked teeth. Some writers even equate mouth breathing to eating through the nose.
Common questions include:
- What causes mouth breathing?
- Why is mouth breathing bad?
- How does mouth breathing affect snoring?
- What about mouth breathing and teeth deformations?
- Can you learn how to stop mouth breathing while sleeping at night?
- Is it possible to retrain the body to breathe nasally?
- Are there any good mouth breathing treatments?
Let’s take an in-depth look at the problem. And the solutions.
Mouth Breathing vs Nose Breathing
The nose is an essential part of the breathing system. It warms, humidifies and filters air as it enters the body. It protects the airways against irritation and infection. It also prevents dehydration. When we breathe out through an open mouth, the body loses 42 percent more water than during nose breathing1.
Nasal breathing tends to be slower. Slow breathing activates the body’s rest and digest functions, rebalancing the fight, flight or freeze stress response. And it engages the diaphragm, which is the primary breathing muscle.
Proper diaphragm function is essential for the stability of the spine and core2. When we breathe properly, we are less susceptible to back and neck pain and have better balance. Mouth breathing tends to be predominantly in the upper chest and causes the body to compensate by using smaller ‘accessory’ breathing muscles. The diaphragm is also linked with the emotions and with pain perception.
Also in favor of nasal breathing, is the fact that the extra resistance created by the smaller size of the nose increases oxygenation of the blood by between 10 and 20 percent3. This is due to several things, but one of the easiest ways to understand it is that when we breathe out through the nose, air stays in the lungs for longer. More air reaches the tiny air sacs in the lungs where gas exchange takes place. More oxygen is extracted from the air into the blood, pumped around the body in the circulation and released to the cells and muscles. There it is used to break down sugar/glucose and give us energy.
Mouth Breathing vs Nose Breathing, the Science
In one scientific study exploring mouth breathing vs nose breathing, researchers found that when people breathed dry, cold air during exercise they suffered exercise-induced bronchoconstriction. When they breathed warm humid air, their airways remained clear4. This finding has obvious benefits for exercise. It tells us that if you breathe through your mouth when running, for instance, you are much more likely to experience asthma, inflammation in your airways and nasal congestion. The simple answer; breathe through your nose.
In another trial of mouth breathing vs nose breathing, Professor of Exercise Science George Dallam, who is also the former National Teams Coach for USA Triathlon, examined performance, oxygen uptake and breathing efficiency in athletes who had trained using only nasal breathing for six months5.
His experiment found that breathing rate was much faster in mouth breathing vs nose breathing. The amount of carbon dioxide in exhaled air (a measurement used to assess blood carbon dioxide levels) was much lower in mouth breathing vs nose breathing.
Nose breathing resulted in better oxygen uptake. Ventilation (representing breathing effort) reduced by 22 percent in nose breathing.
In children, you may have read about mouth breathing and face shape changes. This is a serious complication of swollen adenoids. We’ll look at it in more detail a little further on.
Nasal Nitric Oxide
Another important difference in mouth breathing vs nose breathing is the gas nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is produced in the paranasal sinuses, four air-filled spaces around the nose6. During nasal breathing, nitric oxide is inhaled into the airway. Nitric oxide has several important functions. It acts to keep the blood vessels in the airways and lungs open.
Nitric Oxide and Immune Defense
Nasal nitric oxide also plays an important role in immune system defense. It has proven anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-pathogen and anti-allergen qualities. It has even been found to prevent the replication of the SARS coronavirus7. Scientists exploring the role of nasal breathing in the body’s natural defense against respiratory illness continually come back to the importance of nasal nitric oxide. When the benefits of mouth breathing vs nose breathing are under discussion, one of the most important distinctions is that mouth breathing bypasses the essential functions of nasal nitric oxide.
What Causes Mouth Breathing?
It’s widely accepted that most adults and children who mouth-breathe do so because their nose is blocked in some way. Generally, mouth breathing is the result of either small airway size or airway obstruction. There are many reasons for this
What causes mouth breathing in children?
- Swollen adenoids and/or tonsils
- Nasal polyps
- A small nose8
- A deviated nasal septum9
- high narrow palate10
- Tongue-tie and/or lip tie in babies
- Constricted upper airways
- Asthma, allergies, rhinitis
- Mouth breathing teeth deformations
- Bottle-feeding or problems breast feeding (this can sometimes be the result of tongue or lip tie)
- An overheated home environment
- Thumb sucking or excessive pacifier use
- Too little physical exercise
- Overly processed diet (too much soft food)
What causes mouth breathing in adults?
- Poor airway development in childhood
- Poor posture (forward head position)
- Nasal obstruction or injury including enlarged nasal turbinates, collapsed nasal valves, a damaged, deviated septum (the ridge of cartilage that separates your nostrils) or a sinus condition
- The feeling of not being able to get enough air
- Chronic, habitual hyperventilation, which perpetuates mouth breathing for several reasons
- Intensive exercise. Beyond a breathing volume of around 35 liters per minute, the tendency is to switch to oral breathing unless you are trained to maintain nose breathing
- Excessive weight/obesity
- Asthma, allergies or rhinitis
- Lack of awareness of the breathing
During sleep, age also plays a part. After the age of 40, you’re 6 times more likely to spend around 50% of the night switching between nose and mouth breathing11
A Vicious Circle
Many of the things that cause mouth breathing also perpetuate mouth breathing. In many cases, the answer to the question, “What causes mouth breathing?” is that it’s a vicious circle of cause and effect.
Chronic hyperventilation (habitually breathing more air than the body needs) reduces levels of carbon dioxide in the blood. We breathe in too much air and breathe out too much carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is not just a waste gas. In the blood, it acts like a hormone or catalyst. It is responsible for the release of vital oxygen to the tissues and organs.
It also provides the main signal to breathe. If carbon dioxide is low, you will constantly feel as though you can’t get quite enough air. This feeling can be described using the term ‘air hunger’. Because you feel breathless, you will open your mouth to try and breathe a greater volume of air. Again, too much carbon dioxide leaves the body, perpetuating the problem. Low carbon dioxide levels also trigger nasal stuffiness, because carbon dioxide acts to keep the blood vessels open. Nasal stuffiness causes mouth breathing.
It’s easy to see how chronic over-breathing can quickly become a habit. Low carbon dioxide levels have also been linked with greater stress and anxiety. Stress is a known trigger for fast, upper chest breathing. Fast upper chest breathing contributes to back and neck pain, which in turn makes deep, calm breathing more difficult.
In children, mouth breathing vs nose breathing actually affects the way the face, skull and airways grow. Left untreated, it can create a lifetime of health problems. Before you know it, you can breathe yourself into a chronically unhealthy state. Just by forgetting to shut your mouth.
Is Mouth Breathing Bad?
If you look at images of professional athletes, you will notice that most of them breathe through the mouth during competition. Professional athletes are fit, active and at the top of their game. But we see them mouth breathing all the time. Why is mouth breathing bad? And if it’s so bad, why do many sports professionals breathe ‘badly’?
First off, it’s important to understand that just because someone is fit does not mean that they are healthy12. Many elite athletes experience problems with peak performance, recovery, overtraining and injury that could be addressed simply by learning to breathe through the nose. Asthma is more prevalent in the athlete population than it is among the general public. Respiratory illness is a common problem and the immune system is compromised by intensive exercise13.
For the rest of us, it’s a common human tendency to emulate others. We see professionals breathing hard through an open mouth while competing, and so the minute we hit the treadmill we start breathing the same way. We exercise, breathing hard, fast and puffing through our open mouths, just like everyone else in the gym. And we believe we are breathing correctly.
Is mouth breathing bad? Yes.
Mouth breathing contributes to problems including:
- Many physical and mental health conditions
- Loss of heat and moisture from the body
- Airway irritation
- Greater susceptibility to airway infection
- Poorer quality of life
- Sleep-disordered breathing
- Exercise-induced asthma
- Earlier mortality
- A greater burden on the heart and lower heart rate variability
- Bad breath and poor dental health
- Over-breathing and more breathlessness
- Behavioral and learning problems in children
- Developmental issues in children, permanent facial deformities
- Poorer speech development and auditory processing
- Poor diaphragm function, poor core support, greater risk of injury
- Poor body and brain oxygenation
- Crooked teeth
- Chronic stress
Scientists have proven repeatedly that mouth breathing adults are at greater risk of sleep-disordered breathing, fatigue, decreased productivity and poorer quality of life14,15,16.
In children, the harmful effects of mouth breathing are serious. During these formative years, the breathing helps to shape the face, teeth and airways. Nasal breathing, with the tongue in its correct resting position, contributes to healthy growth. Oral breathing contributes to irregular growth and poor development. Because it causes poor brain oxygenation, mouth breathing has also been linked with poor cognitive development and behavioral disorders including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)17.
Mouth Breathing and Face Shape Changes
If a child breathes habitually through an open mouth, or snores regularly, it is vital not to let this go untreated. No child should ever snore.
It’s important to be aware that mouth breathing and face shape changes go hand-in-hand. Because the face develops at a young age17, with 60 percent of growth occurring by the age of 4 years and 90 percent by the age of 12, if mouth breathing is left untreated it can lead to a lifetime of respiratory problems. It has been proven that if mouth breathing, sleep disordered breathing and snoring is left untreated, by the time a child reaches the age of 8 years, he or she is 40 percent more likely to have special educational needs18.
One of the reasons why mouth breathing and face shape changes are seen together is to do with resting tongue position. When the tongue is correctly placed in the roof of the mouth, behind the upper front teeth, it aids the proper development of the jaw. The upper jaw and teeth grow in a wide U-shape. The lower jaw is also shaped by correct breathing. Children who mouth-breathe due to swollen adenoids can develop a condition called adenoid facies, or long face syndrome. In long face syndrome the lower part of the face becomes narrow and elongated. This is an irreversible, permanent facial disfigurement, and at the extreme end of the spectrum in terms of mouth breathing and face shape changes.
Why do Children Mouth Breathe?
What causes mouth breathing in children? Some children are born with a narrow airway, deviated septum or high, narrow palate. These children can be identified by pediatric dentists. Dentists should be educated to recognize risk factors for childhood mouth breathing. Over-use of pacifiers and bottle feeding, and untreated tongue and lip tie can all contribute too.
Tongue and lip ties can create a barrier to breast feeding, meaning the use of artificial teats. Breastfeeding requires the use of certain muscles of the tongue and face in a way that is vital for development, and unfortunately cannot be replicated by artificial nipples. There’s a reason why midwives in 16th century France used to cultivate a single long fingernail to slash tongue ties in newborn babies. To read more about scientific research into mouth breathing and face shape changes visit ButeykoClinic.com/crookedteeth.
Long Face Syndrome
Adenoid facies, or long face syndrome is associated with adenoid hypertrophy – swelling and inflammation of the adenoids that inhibits the airway and forces mouth breathing by default. It can be identified by the elongated, open-mouthed appearance of the affected child. Children with long face syndrome have underdeveloped nasal airways because of habitual, chronic mouth breathing19.
Risk of long face syndrome is one of the reasons why it is important to watch for mouth breathing in children. Swollen adenoids and tonsils are extremely common. This swelling can be easily aggravated by mouth breathing, as dry, cold, unfiltered air is inhaled, causing further irritation to the airway. At the same time, persistent mouth breathing contributes significantly to nasal congestion. If a child is unable to breathe nasally because of a constantly runny nose, it is vital to get to the root of the problem as quickly as possible.
How to Treat Swollen Adenoids?
The standard treatment for swollen adenoids and tonsils is surgery. However, it is not always necessary to resort to surgery to avoid long face syndrome. Non-invasive procedures are increasingly available to widen the upper jaw and encourage forward development of the airways. The standard method is called maxillary expansion. To avoid long face syndrome, this should be tried along with a program of nasal breathing and breathing re-education exercises for children.
This approach should result in correction of mouth breathing and reduced inflammation of the tonsils and adenoids within a few months. It also ensures a lifetime of good breathing patterns. If the child continues to have breathing problems, it may be necessary to remove the adenoids and tonsils. However, in order to avoid long face syndrome and other complications, surgery is often not enough. If children are not taught to breathe properly through the nose after surgery, mouth breathing and sleep disordered breathing will generally recur within three years20. To find out more about breathing exercises for children, take a look at the Buteyko children’s breathing program. It is available free of charge at: https://buteykocli1stg.wpengine.com/buteykochildren/.
It is also a good idea to invest in MYOTAPE for children. MYOTAPE is a mouth tape for mouth breathing. It can be used during wakefulness and sleep to restore the habit of nasal breathing.
Mouth Breathing Teeth Deformations
Childhood mouth breathing also commonly results in crooked teeth. Misalignments of the jaw called malocclusions can develop. Sometimes, these can be serious and difficult to correct, even with surgery. Left untreated, these craniofacial alterations can significantly increase the risk of snoring and sleep apnea in these children, well into their adult lives. Early intervention by orthodontists is essential to ensure correct craniofacial development in children who mouth breathe.
Research published in 1997 in the American Journal of Orthodontics examined the impact of nasal obstruction on craniofacial development in young Japanese macaque monkeys21. The study demonstrated mouth breathing teeth deformations. Seven of the monkeys had their noses blocked, forcing them to mouth breathe by default. In the monkeys with blocked noses, the lower jaw rotated down and back, and changes were seen in other bones of the face and jaw. These animals also developed spaced dental arches and anterior open bites. Skeletal open bite is a condition in which there is no contact between the anterior and posterior teeth. It is very challenging to treat.
Recent Scientific Studies
A 2019 study of Italian preschoolers also showed mouth breathing teeth deformations22. Dental problems in the children included tooth decay, tooth displacement, overbite, open bite, cross jet and early loss of the baby teeth. All of these problems are associated with poor dental hygiene and dental misalignment. The researchers found that mouth breathing became worse as dental deformities worsened. There is a negative feedback loop between mouth breathing, poor dental health, bad breath and tooth decay23. Scientists concluded that in order for mouth breathing dental deformations to be corrected, dentists must act as early as possible to prevent craniofacial problems.
Acknowledgement and understanding of mouth breathing dental deformations is still relatively new. In 2017, a study concluded that orthodontists’ recognition of mouth breathing in young people is poor24.
Pediatric dentists must address risk factors and take steps to understand and identify mouth breathing in order to prevent mouth breathing teeth deformations in their young patients.
Effects of Mouth Breathing
As we’ve already seen, the effects of mouth breathing are far-reaching. Is mouth breathing bad? From chronic physical illness to childhood development, from anxiety and panic disorder to sleep disorders, every system in the body is vulnerable to the effects of mouth breathing.
One of the most pernicious effects of mouth breathing is chronic hyperventilation. This is a syndrome in which we habitually breathe in too much air, causing levels of blood carbon dioxide to drop too low.
In the book Behavioral and Psychological Approaches to Breathing Disorders, authors Timmons and Ley share a table from Claude Lum, an expert in hyperventilation syndrome. Lum describes a wide range of symptoms caused by hyperventilation, which are not confined to the respiratory system25. These include:
- Heart and blood vessels: palpitations, tachycardia, angina, chest pain, cold hands and feet
- Nervous system: feeling faint, headache, migraine, numbness or pins and needles, difficulty tolerating light, dizziness and unsteadiness
- Breathing: breathlessness (after physical exertion) tight chest, asthma, air hunger, excessive sighing, yawning or sniffing, an irritable cough
- Digestive: acid reflux, flatulence, belching, abdominal bloating, dry mouth and throat
- Psychological: anxiety, depersonalization, hallucinations, panic, phobias, tension
- Muscular: cramps, muscle pains, stiffness, tremors
- General: weakness, fatigue, poor concentration, impaired memory and performance, sleep disorders, night sweats, brain fog, allergies
The Effects of Mouth Breathing in Children
The effects of mouth breathing on childhood development are serious. We have already looked at long face syndrome, mouth breathing teeth deformations and cognitive and behavioral problems, all of which can occur as effects of mouth breathing.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, ADHD is also associated with a variety of sleep problems. When children are tired, they behave differently from tired adults. Adults slow down and become irritable and sluggish. Children tend to overcompensate and become hyperactive.
Because of this, sleep deprivation as a result of sleep disordered breathing, can be wrongly diagnosed as ADHD. Children can be aggressive, over-emotional or moody when tired. One study of 2,463 children aged between 6 and 15 years found that children with sleep disorders were more likely to be impulsive, hyperactive and inattentive 26,27,28.
The effects of mouth breathing can be extreme. Indeed, on study noted that this seemingly “benign” habit can have “immediate and/or latent cascading effects on multiple physiological and behavioral functions.”29 Long-term, mouth breathing is linked with poor airway function, poor sleep, reduced cognitive functioning and a worse quality of life.
Mouth Breathing at Night
Mouth breathing at night is really common. In fact, it’s something we almost come to expect. We already learned that once we reach the age of 40, we are 6 times more likely to spend at least half of the night switching between nose and mouth breathing11. The image of a snoring middle-aged man is stereotypical. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
The gender-specific snorer is not a sexist jibe. Men are more prone to snoring and sleep apnea than pre-menopausal women. Only during pregnancy and after the menopause do women of a normal weight develop more of a tendency toward these sleep disorders. One thing to bear in mind is that if breathing during the day is dysfunctional, breathing at night will also be poor.
How does mouth breathing affect snoring? The larger volume of air creates significant turbulence in the nose and throat, and this can cause loud mouth snoring. Mouth breathing at night is known to significantly increase the severity of sleep apnea30 and to decrease CPAP compliance as air leaks out of the mouth. In fact, mouth breathing is the main cause of CPAP non-compliance31.
Why is Mouth Breathing at Night a Problem?
One of the main reasons that mouth breathing at night is so problematic is that it narrows the airway. The position of an open jaw also increases the risk of the tongue falling into the airway. Mouth breathing causes changes in levels of carbon dioxide in the blood. In people who have a high sensitivity to changes in carbon dioxide, this can lead to central apneas as well as obstructive apneas32. A central apnea happens when the brain doesn’t send strong enough signals to breathe.
Mouth breathing at night may also affect the arousal threshold – how frequently we wake from sleep. A poor arousal threshold with many arousals leads to very poor sleep quality. Of the various different anatomical and non-anatomical factors that contribute to sleep apnea, low arousal threshold represents the biggest predictor of all-cause mortality in sleep apnea patients33.
Even without oral airflow, when the mouth is open, scientists have shown that the upper airway is more likely to collapse. Conversely, nose breathing with correct tongue resting posture during sleep improves airway diameter, engages the diaphragm34 and increases lung volume. This causes the airway wall to stiffen and helps the upper airways to stay open35.
Mouth breathing at night is also related to sleep apnea in children. A child may mouth breathe during sleep because of swollen adenoids and tonsils. A high narrow palate, deviated septum and narrow airway may also cause mouth breathing at night in even very small babies. One paper examined seven infants who had died of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and found that all of them displayed signs of compromised airways and sleep-disordered breathing36.
Boosting your Immune System During Sleep
Another interesting point regarding mouth breathing at night is that it may be implicated in poorer immune system response. A scientific paper from 2020 specifically mentions mouth breathing at night as a contributing factor in viral load37. The article was examining evidence that nitric oxide could help reduce the severity of Covid-19.
The research team behind the paper mention anecdotal evidence that taping the mouth during sleep helps to reduce the incidence and severity of the common cold. This is likely to be, at least in part, due to the filtering and humidifying effect of the nose. However, it is believed that the higher levels of nitric oxide in the airways during nose breathing may actually reduce viral load during sleep. Nitric oxide may also help the immune system to put up a stronger defense. Mouth breathing at night, whether all night or intermittent, may compromise the positive functions of nasal nitric oxide and allow for “unobstructed viral replication”. Scientists even go as far as to say that mouth breathing at night may “worsen the symptoms of COVID-19.”38
How Does Mouth Breathing Affect Snoring?
Many people snore or sleep with an open mouth without knowing it. Many more arrive at their doctor’s office or at an overnight sleep study at the instigation of a partner. When we sleep, it is difficult to know how we breathe. But if you frequently wake up with a dry mouth, a sore throat, or still feeling tired, it’s likely you suffer from sleep disordered breathing, snoring or sleep apnea.
How does mouth breathing affect snoring? We have already looked at the fact that a greater volume of air causes more turbulence. Turbulence and the greater airway collapsibility combine to cause snoring.
Many people who snore have excess weight around the face, or weak jaw muscles. This means that the jaw will hinge open during sleep, causing mouth breathing. How does mouth breathing affect snoring? Mouth breathing narrows the airway. This compresses the throat as the tongue falls back into the airway. The open space behind the tongue and soft palate becomes smaller. With a narrower airway and a greater flow of air, the inhaled air becomes turbulent. Imagine water swirling round pebbles in a fast-running stream. Inhaled air causes the tissues in the back of the throat to vibrate.
How does mouth breathing affect snoring long term? The airway begins to dehydrate, leading to airway irritation. When you breathe through an open mouth, the airway is also more vulnerable to pathogens, allergens and other harmful particles. This can cause the airway to become inflamed and can make snoring even worse. At the same time, mouth breathing causes the nose to become congested, exacerbating the problem.
How To Stop Mouth Breathing While Sleeping at Night
The most effective way to stop snoring is to make sure that your mouth remains closed throughout the night. This may not be as straightforward as it sounds. After all, when you are asleep, it is not possible to consciously close the mouth when it falls open. But don’t worry. If you want to know how to stop mouth breathing while sleeping at night, there are 5 things you can do.
- First off, make sure your sleeping environment is not causing a stuffy nose. Your bedroom should be cool and airy. A hot, airless room can cause the nose to block, even if you don’t suffer with allergies. If you do have allergies you may like to invest in an ionizer.
- Practice the exercise to unblock your nose (you’ll find this at the end of the article) and work to improve your BOLT score and restore nasal breathing during the day. The more you can practice functional breathing when you are awake, the better your breathing will be during sleep. Dysfunctional breathing during wakefulness is a strong predictor of sleep-disordered breathing39. This is something you can gradually begin to fix by practicing Buteyko breathing exercises. One sure-fire way to discover how to stop mouth breathing while sleeping at night is to address and improve your daytime breathing habits.
- Learn to play the didgeridoo. No, seriously. Research has shown that regular didgeridoo practice strengthens the muscles in the upper airway in a way that is beneficial for sleep apnea patients40,41. If you don’t have access to a traditional Aboriginal instrument, or would prefer to find a quieter solution, you can gain similar benefits from myofunctional therapy. Myofunctional therapy involves exercises to strengthen the muscles including the dilator muscles of the upper airway and the muscles of the tongue42.
- Some people use a chin strap to answer the question, how to stop mouth breathing while sleeping at night. However, Buteyko Clinic does not recommend chin straps to help with snoring. Chin straps can pull the jaw backwards, effectively reducing airway size. This can compound the risk of snoring and sleep apnea because a compromised airway size increases the risk that the airway will collapse.
- In 20 years as a breathing coach and researcher, Patrick McKeown has found the single most effective way to restore and maintain nasal breathing during sleep is to tape the mouth closed using MYOTAPE. You can also use MYOTAPE during exercise and children can wear it for up to two hours during the day to retrain the habit of nose breathing. If you struggle to breathe through the nose due to a deviated septum or other nasal obstruction, you may find it helpful to combine MYOTAPE with NasalDilator.
Mouth Breathing Treatments
Mouth breathing is a pathological condition. However, it is not something that is ‘treated’ in the same way as a physical or mental illness. Because mouth breathing is a habit that may develop for many reasons, mouth breathing treatments must focus on identifying the cause and re-training the breathing.
The first step in finding mouth breathing treatments is awareness. Begin to notice how you are breathing. Is your mouth dry when you wake in the morning? Do you have problems with smelly breath? Pay attention to how your children are breathing too. Particularly when they are playing, concentrating on a screen or doing homework. If your child breathes through an open mouth, it’s time to explore mouth breathing treatments.
Most people can breathe through the nose. In one 2020 study of 633 people, 315 of whom were children aged 3-11 yeas, researchers discovered that 80 percent of participants who normally breathed through an open mouth were able to breathe through the nose for at least three minutes when their mouth was taped43. This data corresponds with earlier research proving that mouth breathing often persists, even when any obstruction to nasal breathing has been removed.
Begin by practicing the exercise to unblock your nose. If you can breathe through your nose for one minute, you can do so for life. Mouth tape for mouth breathing has attracted criticism in the press but read on to find out why it is an essential part of breathing re-education. Used correctly it is safe and incredibly beneficial for health.
Breathing Re-education to Treat Mouth Breathing
Long-term treatments for mouth breathing center on breathing re-education. Myofunctional therapy can also be used to retrain correct tongue posture and strengthen the airways.
Breathing re-education can be effective because:
- By working to reduce the body’s sensitivity to changes in blood carbon dioxide levels, you will eliminate or reduce one of the causes of sleep apnea and bring your breathing down to a normal volume. This improves functional breathing during the day
- Breathing re-education also involves the restoration of full-time nose breathing. This includes daytime and nighttime breathing. As a mouth breathing treatment, learning to breathe in a healthy way, taping the mouth at night and reducing the body’s sensitivity to carbon dioxide is an effective, long-term solution.
Even if there is an anatomical reason for your mouth breathing, meaning that you require nasal surgery, it is still essential to re-educate the breathing. People who have no follow-up care involving the restoration of nose breathing will continue to mouth breathe (and often experience nasal symptoms) after surgery.
If you can clear your nose using six repetitions of the nose unblocking exercise, begin taping your mouth at night.
Chin Strap for Mouth Breathing
If you do snore, it is important to take it seriously. Not only can it have a negative impact on sleep and cause stress to your partner, it can also be a precursor of sleep apnea.
ButeykoClinic does not recommend using a chin strap for mouth breathing. As we already saw, they can make snoring worse. Chin straps can be uncomfortable and contribute to poor CPAP compliance for people with sleep apnea. They are also unnecessary. There are better ways to keep the mouth shut during sleep.
A chin strap for mouth breathing is an elasticated fabric device that is placed under the chin and wraps around the head. It is designed to keep the mouth shut by supporting the chin during sleep. The intention is to prevent snoring by minimizing the amount of air taken in via the mouth.
The chin strap for mouth breathing comes in various sizes. Some are more adjustable than others. The biggest advantage of these straps is that they are non-invasive. For this reason, they may be preferred to mandibular advancement devices (MADs), which are worn inside the mouth. MADs can cause pain in the jaw and teeth and over-salivation.
A chin strap for mouth breathing will also be difficult to use if you struggle to breathe through your nose. It is as important to address the root cause of mouth breathing as it is to resolve it. The restoration of nose breathing, day and night, will involve regular practice of breathing exercises. A chin strap for mouth breathing will soon become unbearable if your nose is still blocked.
It’s also worth noting that clinical trials found that the use of chin straps had little or no positive effect on sleep-disordered breathing. One study reports that chin straps are ineffective for typical apnea patients44. It is also important to understand that snoring or mouth breathing at night is not an isolated problem. Mouth breathing at night indicates poor breathing patterns during the day. If you want to know how to stop mouth breathing while sleeping at night, begin by re-training your breathing. In this way, you are much more likely to find a long-term solution to snoring.
Mouth Tape for Mouth Breathing
It is possible to make a conscious effort to keep your mouth closed during the day. But at night, it’s not that easy. The solution; mouth tape for mouth breathing. Used alongside breathing exercises, taping the mouth at night (and even during physical exercise) will help re-train your breathing, restoring natural, functional nose breathing.
Mouth tape for mouth breathing helps you sleep better. It may seem like a strange thing to do, taping your mouth shut every night, but good quality sleep is essential for health. During sleep, the body restores and recovers. If you breathe through an open mouth during the night, the body will stay in a stressed state, unable to achieve and maintain deep sleep.
Sleep is vital for balancing the autonomic nervous system – the fight, flight and freeze vs the rest and digest responses.
Mouth taping also helps improve oral health. Nasal breathing is known to support the health of the mouth. When you breathe through an open mouth during sleep, saliva dries up and bacteria proliferate. This can cause tooth decay, gum disease and bad breath. And long-term it contributes to heart disease.
We have already seen how mouth tape for mouth breathing can help prevent snoring. And that it may help boost immune system function and reduce viral load. Mouth breathing at night is also known to contribute to high blood pressure. Mouth taping at night harnesses nasal nitric oxide, which is instrumental in the dilation of blood vessels in the lungs and in the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide. When the lungs can get enough oxygen from the air, the heart doesn’t have to work so hard.
There is also a direct relationship between slow breathing and healthy blood pressure reflexes. Nose breathing naturally slows the breath and increases the amount of oxygen available to the body – both factors that will help moderate blood pressure.
Mouth Taping for Better Mornings
Mouth taping for mouth breathing will prevent various unpleasant symptoms of mouth breathing at night. You should stop experiencing the dry, painful throat that comes with mouth breathing. And you may find that sinus headaches reduce. You will find that your lips feel less chapped and your nose is less blocked.
Mouth Taping for Beginners
If you have never taped your mouth at night, mouth taping for mouth breathing may seem like a strange, even dangerous thing to do. Don’t worry. Done correctly, it is perfectly safe.
You must use either a specialist mouth tape or paper Micropore tape. Do not use packing tape, duct tape or any other tape not designed for skin. And do not use anything that is difficult to take off.
MYOTAPE is a specialist mouth tape for mouth breathing. It is different from other lip tapes on the market. It does not cover the mouth at all. Instead, it surrounds the lips with a light, elastic tension. The nerves in the face send signals to the brain, reminding you to close your mouth. The tape provides an effective solution for mouth breathing at night. It can also be worn during exercise, and by children for 30 minutes to two hours during the day to help re-train nasal breathing. The tape allows the wearer to open the mouth to talk or to take a sip of water.
Do not use any mouth tape for mouth breathing if you have been drinking alcohol. If you have a stomach upset and are likely to be sick, you must also not tape your mouth. Do not use MYOTAPE with your child unless the child is able to remove the tape herself.
And if your nose is blocked, don’t despair. Learn to decongest your nose, and practice exercises to restore nasal breathing during the day. If you can breathe through your nose for one minute, you can do so for life.
Restoring Nasal Breathing for Life
What can you do to restore nasal breathing? Are there any definitive mouth breathing treatments?
As you have read, it is possible to make the switch from mouth breathing to nose breathing using simple breathing re-education exercises and mouth tape. If you showed up at this page with the question, “Is mouth breathing bad?” you should now understand why it is unhealthy and what you can do about it. You should have some knowledge about what causes mouth breathing. And you should now know more about the effects of mouth breathing.
A quick summary:
- What causes mouth breathing? A narrow airway or airway obstruction
- Is mouth breathing bad? Yes, it is pathologically unhealty
- How does mouth breathing affect snoring? It makes it worse
- How to stop mouth breathing while sleeping at night? Use MYOTAPE
Try the exercise below to decongest your nose and invest in MYOTAPE. If you are unable to breathe nasally, see your doctor. Mouth breathing is not healthy, and it is vital for your health and quality of life that you get the problem sorted.
It is unlikely that you will find it impossible to re-train your breathing if you follow these simple steps. Patrick McKeown has seen many people destined for nasal surgery who no longer needed surgical intervention after learning to breathe properly. Either way, it’s time to start breathing through your nose, night and day. For better health, better sleep and a longer, more enjoyable life.
The Nose Unblocking Exercise
The nose can be cleared using this simple exercise:
- Take a small, silent breath in and let a small, silent breath out through your nose
- Pinch your nose with your fingers to hold your breath
- Walk as many paces as possible with your breath held. Walk until you feel a relatively strong air hunger (don’t overdo it!)
- When you resume breathing, breathe in through your nose. Immediately calm your breathing
- When you resume breathing, your first breath is likely to be larger than usual. Calm your breathing as soon as possible by reducing your second and third breaths
- You should be able to recover from this breath hold within two to three breaths. If not, you have held your breath for too long
- Wait for a minute or so and repeat the exercise
- Repeat this exercise five or six times until the nose is decongested
If you are pregnant, do not practice breath holds. If you suffer with panic disorder, severe anxiety or epilepsy, start gently, working with a light air hunger rather than a strong air hunger. Never push your body faster or harder than feels safe. If you are concerned about your suitability for breath-hold practices, connect with a qualified Buteyko Breathing Instructor.
Learn more about MYOTAPE: MYOTAPE.com
Learn more about NasalDilator: NasalDilator.com
About Myofunctional Therapy: https://aomtinfo.org/myofunctional-therapy/
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