Do you snore, or are you told you do!? Do you often wake in the morning with a dry mouth or saliva on your pillow? Do you sleep through the night but feel unrefreshed the next morning? Do you have a stuffy nose or struggle to breathe easily through your nose?
You might be a mouth breather and it might be having a negative impact on your health without you realising it.
We can live for months without food, weeks without water but only a few minutes without precious oxygen. But while we might be breathing and surviving, mouth breathing might just be the cause of why we’re not thriving.
Chronic mouth breathing can lead to cold hands and feet, pale skin, dental issues, allergies, sleep apnoea, high blood pressure, infections, and even physical changes in face shape.
Noses are for breathing, mouths are for eating!
When you breathe in through the nose, your nasal passages filter out the dust, germs, pollen and other pollutants. The air is moistened and warmed before it reaches the lungs, which can become irritated if the air is too cold or dry.
Moreover, during nasal breathing, your nose releases nitric oxide into the air; this is a vasodilator and can help widen blood vessels, improving circulation and overall blood pressure.
Mouth breathing can give us a dry mouth and make us feel like we're always thirsty. We'll often snore loudly at night and it could even be a contributing factor to sleep apnoea or allergies.
There is increasing evidence that breathing through your nose is one of the most beneficial things you can do for the overall health of your body and for your longevity. In a study of people with mild obstructive sleep apnea, wearing a porous patch over the mouth led to significantly less snoring and fewer instances of lapsed breathing.
So how do we reverse years of doing it wrong? Mouth taping might just be the answer.
All you need is a couple of centimetres of 3M micropore tape that is readily available in chemists and you can also buy direct from Amazon here. Or try these specific mouth taping strips. Before you lie down in bed at night, place the tape across the centre of your lips. It won’t stop you breathing or opening your mouth but it will remind you to keep your lips closed as you fall asleep. Lie down and breathe calmly in through the nose and out through the nose, counting to 6 on the inhale and 6 on the exhale if it helps.
If the tape comes off during the night, it’s absolutely fine. You can either have another little strip ready prepared on your bedside table or simply try again the next evening. You may find that the tape stays on longer and longer each night. Observe the next morning how tired you are, how dry your mouth is and if your partner told you that you snored!
You can even tape your mouth in the day, why not try it whilst driving?
But if mouth taping isn’t for you or you want additional techniques, then you can simply practise mindful nose breathing throughout the day, when you’re in the car, watching TV or waiting for the kettle to boil.
Try this breathing technique to strengthen nasal breathing and calm the nervous system
Pranayama or alternate nostril breathing is a yogic breathing practice that can be very helpful, not just to train yourself in nostril breathing but in general as a relaxing and mindful technique to calm the body and mind.
To practise alternate nostril breathing:
- Sit in a comfortable position and exhale completely
- Use your right thumb to close the right nostri
- Inhale through the left nostril and then close the left nostril with your fingers
- Open the right nostril and exhale through this side
- Inhale through the right nostril and then close this nostril
- Open the left nostril and exhale through the left side
This is one cycle, which you can continue for up to 5 minutes. Always complete the practice by finishing with an exhale on the left side. Practising alternate nostril breathing is safe for most people.
Talk with your GP before starting the practice if you have a medical condition such as asthma, COPD, or any other lung or heart concern. If you feel short of breath, lightheaded, dizzy or nauseous whilst doing the breathing technique, you should stop the practice immediately.
Find out more!
You can also download free resources, access research papers and seek out UK practitioners trained in the Buteyko method at the Buteyko Breathing Association.
And here is a 10 minute video which outlines the benefits of nose breathing, by James Nestor on the Rangan Chatterjee podcast.