Switching from nose breathing to mouth breathing during sleep is something everyone does. The problem is, if mouth breathing continues through the night it will affect your sleep and how you feel when you wake up. Mouth breathing can lead to a number of health problems including snoring, dry mouth, sleep apnea, sinus congestion and can change the shape of a child’s face.
NASAL BREATHING OVER MOUTH BREATHING OFFERS SIGNIFICANT HEALTH BENEFITS:
Breathing through your nose is more efficient because your lungs and blood vessels can process significantly more oxygen and circulate it through the body more effectively. This increased oxygen uptake has positive effects for almost every organ, including the brain, heart and skin, as well as helping regulate body temperature.
The moist mucous membranes of the nose act as a natural filter that cleans and moistens the air you breathe, which reduces irritation of the respiratory passages.
Maintaining breathing through your nasal airway can have a significant impact on respiratory function, which is the body's ability to take oxygen into the lungs and remove waste material from the bloodstream. This also boosts respiratory muscle strength, encourages abdominal breathing and improves overall quality of your breathing and heart rate.
The passages in the nose have a thin layer of mucus that traps particles before they reach the lungs, helping to prevent infections from developing. Breathing through the nose prevents these bacteria from ending up in the lungs, where they can cause respiratory infections.
Most people find that breathing through the nose helps them sleep better and more soundly. Doing so promotes relaxation and helps to calm the mind, which makes it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night.
This is because nasal breathing stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for calming the body and promoting restful sleep.
WHY MOUTH BREATHING IS BAD?
There are many reasons why mouth breathing is bad for your health and wellbeing:
What’s the Root Cause of Snoring? - When a person sleeps with their mouth closed their tongue rests on the roof of the mouth with the base of the tongue clear of the airway and throat. When the mouth opens the tongue drops down and the base of the tongue moves back towards the throat and partially blocks the airway, causing snoring.
One of the first signs of sleep apnea is when a person notices a pause in breathing of their partner, followed by a gasp as their breathing starts again.
As with snoring, this may also be caused by the tongue moving back towards the throat, blocking the airway, when nose breathing switches to mouth breathing. It may also indicate the onset of obstructive sleep apnea, (OSA) which should be discussed with a medical professional or sleep specialist.
MOUTH LEAK: THE ENEMY OF CPAP
If you suffer from obstructive sleep apnea and sleep with a CPAP mask you probably know that mouth leaks during therapy can cause a dry mouth and throat, sinus headaches and fluctuations in air pressure, which make CPAP harder to tolerate.
Maintaining a closed mouth stabilises the air pressure, which may help in lowering the pressure setting while still maintaining a satisfactory AHI. (apnea-hypopnea index)
Breathing through your mouth can lead to excessive dryness in the mouth and throat, which can cause problems such as bad breath, a sore throat, dental decay and gum disease.
It can cause a sleeping person to wake up to drink water disrupting the normal sleep cycle pattern.
Many medications also cause dry mouth resulting from reduced or absent saliva flow. Keeping the mouth closed all night can greatly reduce the incidence of dry mouth and sleep disturbance.
SINUS INFECTIONS AND HEADACHES.
The sinus cavities are prone to infection if not constantly ventilated by nasal breathing. When your breathing switches from your nose to your mouth, air stops moving through the nasal and sinus passages causing mucus to build up and cause sinus pressure. Eventually your sinuses will stagnate and become infected. The pressure inside your sinuses and skull, may trigger or worsen headaches and a cause a stuffy nose in the morning.
INCREASED RISK OF GUM DISEASE AND CAVITIES.
Mouth breathing dries out saliva, which can affect the pH balance inside your mouth. Once the pH balance drops, teeth start to lose their minerals, making them less resistant to decay, discoloration and gum inflammation. Saliva coats the teeth and helps keep acid at bay. Acid breaks down the teeth coating leaving it more prone to decay.
ABNORMAL FACIAL CHANGES.
Did you know that habitually breathing through your mouth can actually change the shape of your face? This is because mouth breathing affects facial development, including the narrowing of the jaw, the projection of the lower jaw and the development of an under developed upper palate.
ALLERGIES AND ASTHMA
Mouth breathing can make allergies and asthma worse because the inhaled air is not filtered, as it is when nasal breathing, which increases the incidence of nasal irritation and asthma events.
POOR PHYSICAL PERFORMANCE AND RECOVERY.
Healthy breathing and recovery occurs with a proper balance between breathing in oxygen and breathing out carbon dioxide, which is a by-product of our respiration.
When over-breathing, we upset this balance despite inhaling more oxygen. We absorb less oxygen because we are expelling too much CO2. This C02 deficiency in the body - as a result of over-breathing - means that our red blood cells deliver less oxygen. Less oxygen increases breathlessness and decreases muscle performance during physical exertion.
In addition, strenuous activity builds up lactic acid that causes tissue hypoxia (cramp), which is regulated by nitric oxide. Nasal nitric oxide is produced in the nasal and sinus passages only during nasal breathing. Mouth breathing does not produce nitric oxide.
During deep sleep, natural human growth hormone (HGH) is released into the blood supply, which is essential for muscle repair and development. But sleep disruptions caused by mouth breathing reduce the time spent in deep, restorative sleep.
HOW CAN YOU CONTROL MOUTH BREATHING?
If you’re a mouth breather, here are a few things you can do to encourage proper nasal breathing:
Get checked for allergies or sinus infections - it can cause the nose to become congested and make it difficult to breathe through your nose. Consult with a physician for diagnosis and treatment.
Practice nasal irrigation - a technique that involves rinsing the passages of the nose with a saline solution. This can help to clear out any congestion or mucus that might be blocking the passages.
Use a humidifier – moistens the air, which can help to reduce congestion in the nasal passage and make it easier to breathe through your nose.
Avoid smoking and alcohol – it can irritate the nasal passages and make it difficult to breathe properly.
Get checked for sleep issues- If you continue to struggle with breathing through your nose at night, make an appointment with your doctor for a medical assessment.
Retrain your body to breathe through your nose instead of your mouth during the day.
There are several exercises that you can practice to encourage nose breathing, including pursed lip breathing, belly breathing, alternate nostril breathing, and yoga techniques.
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Learn how mouth breathing, especially during the first 20 minutes of light sleep, can delay the onset of deeper sleep that is vital to restoring the body and mind. Conversely, nasal breathing helps to calm the mind ready for going to sleep and will not disrupt your sleep during the night. Avoiding anything that interrupts your sleep will ensure you spend more time sleeping and less time trying to get back to sleep.