8 Ways to Quit Mouth Breathing While Sleeping

Image credit: PaquetteOrtho.com

At one time, you must have found yourself breathing through your mouth, and that is normal especially when you are running, doing a strenuous exercise or when lifting a heavy load. The reason is your body cells suffer from oxygen deprivation which leads to rapid breathing, a condition called hyperventilation. While this may be normal under those conditions, mouth-breathing can also happen under fairly benign circumstances?to the point where it may even be considered habitual. This condition is not only common in children but also affects adults. In fact, statistics estimate that 30-50% of adults are mouth breathers. This can be detrimental to your health. For one thing, the air you breathe through your mouth is unfiltered and can carry a host of foreign objects into your respiratory tract. If this condition persists during rest, it will not only affect your sleep quality, but your overall health as well.

Effects of Mouth-breathing

sleeping girl on public transportBreathing through your mouth affects the bacterial population that exists naturally within the area. Saliva helps to manage this to some extent, but?if your mouth runs dry frequently for long periods, then bacteria will accumulate and cause other health issues such as cavities (and the dreaded halitosis, aka ‘bad breath’!).

Additionally, when you breathe through your mouth, you are also more likely to suffer from oxygen deficiency as less oxygen is absorbed into the body cells. Strange right?! You would think breathing through your nose would actually give you more oxygen. This is one of those things that seems counter-intuitive, but there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation. You see, the cells in your nostrils actually produce nitric oxide…a gas that’s able to speed up the uptake of oxygen in your lungs. Therefore when you breathe through your nose, you are leveraging this biological feature to your advantage. Breathing through your mouth, though you get more volume, far more oxygen is simply wasted because the conditions are not created for optimal absorption. This can result in other related conditions such as increased inflammation, increased heart rate, sleep loss and even sleep apnea.

Research has shown that mouth breathing is linked to stunted growth and poor academic performance in school children. Furthermore, mouth breathing also causes abnormal facial development. Other undesirable effects of mouth breathing include crooked dental layouts, gummy smiles, smaller lower dental jaws, weak chins and much more.

Chronic mouth breathing is a condition that should not be taken lightly. Mouth breathers have a hard time falling asleep, experience snoring, and wake up with itchy throats among other serious health conditions. Though you can control mouth breathing during the day, it can be hard at night when you are asleep. If this condition is taking the better part of your life, then here are some of the helpful tips on how to stop mouth-breathing while sleeping.

1. Do a Nose-clearing Exercise

A blocked nose can be a reason for mouth breathing. Nose-clearing is a critical exercise that can help decrease the likelihood of this debilitating condition. Dr. Rosalba Courtney, an Australian breathing therapist, devised a breathing technique called ?Buteyko Breathing.? In this exercise, you close your mouth then inhale forcefully via your nose then exhale again. It is a good exercise that trains you how to breathe through your nose and not your mouth. This exercise is simple and takes 1-2 minutes to complete. You should?do it for as many times as you can. Here’s an example from the Beaming With Health channel on Youtube so you can see it in action..

Besides, exercises such as yoga can help improve your breathing. Regular aerobic conditioning is vital in training your heart and lungs for healthy breathing. It ensures your nervous system is working in its optimal condition while not constricting blood vessels leading to your nose. Breathing exercises help retrain the muscles in the mouth and face. Practicing proper breathing during the day can help condition your body to breathe the right way at night. Try not to open your mouth often unless you are talking or eating.

2. Elevate the Position of Your Head When Sleeping

Sleep experts have found out that sleeping on your back can make your mouth open widely while you are asleep. Otolaryngologists (I still have problems pronouncing that!) report that about 80% of the people from different parts of the world have a deviated septum. If you have a deviated septum, the open side of your nose compresses leading to a buildup of mucus in the narrow side. Lying on your side with head position raised can help alleviate the effects of a deviated septum. This is why pillows are designed to raise the resting position of your head. They help to reduce the strain on your neck and put you in a comfortable position. They also open up your nasal passage and help to eliminate nasal drip, hence, preventing nasal congestion that can force you to breathe via your mouth.

3. Keep stress at bay

Did you know that you can suffer from mouth breathing if you are struggling with stress? Stress in some cases can result in dysfunctional breathing. Therefore, reducing stress is one of the recommended steps in treating mouth breathing. Find out the sources of your daily stress and try to solve them if you can.

4. Eat a Balanced Diet

The benefits of adopting a balanced diet go far beyond body growth and control of diseases. Eating a balanced diet also promotes proper breathing, controls weight and reduces the risk of obesity. By ensuring that your weight is stable, your airway is much more likely to remain open making it easy to breathe (especially since Obesity Hypoventilation Syndrome is no joke!). It is good, therefore, to observe healthy eating at all times.

5. Know the Causes of Your Oral Breathing

lady snoring on trainThe biggest step in managing mouth breathing is to understand the real causes of your problem. Oral breathing may result from several reasons, whether you are an adult or a child. If it is due to large tonsils, then they can be removed. See an ENT in the event that nasal polyps could be precipitating your problems. For those suffering from dental/structural problems, orthodontic treatment is certainly an option. Moreover, those suffering from memory problems are prone to open their mouth wide open while sleeping. If you are one of them, try utilising a mechanical method (like a chin strap or even taping your mouth shut). It’s all about ensuring that you get the best quality sleep possible.

6. Remove all Allergens From Your Sleeping Area

Allergens around your sleeping area and on beddings can cause nasal congestion. Cleaning out all these allergens (dust, pollen, pet hair and mites) is another effective way of managing mouth breathing. Wash all your bed sheets with hot water, all rugs, and remove all the dusty items. Keep your entire bedroom clean.

7. Use a Chin Strap or Nasal Spray

Sleep and breathing expert Dr. Steven Park came up with a suggestion that over-the-counter devices such as chin straps and nasal sprays can help manage mouth-breathing when sleeping. Nasal sprays promote smooth airflow through nasal passages, hence, eliminating oral breathing. They ensure that your nose remains the primary airway and not your mouth. Chin straps force you to breathe via your nose by keeping your mouth closed as you sleep. These devices can help you control mouth breathing especially when other methods don?t work.

8. Control the Temperature in Your Bedroom

Mouth breathing also results from overheating. Sleep experts report that those who wear too much clothing when sleeping are prone to mouth breathing. Too much clothing can cause over-heating forcing you to breathe through your mouth at night. Naturally, this compromises your oxygen intake which in turn affects your sleep quality. Learn to reduce the clothing you wear at night to control body temperatures. We’re not saying go naked (of course) but do use your discretion!


Breathing is a biological process that is vital for anyone to remain alive. The nose is designed in a way that it filters the air that gets into our bodies. Breathing through our mouths can cause severe implications on our health. The above are some of the suggestions on how to correct oral breathing. Though it can be quite challenging to get out of this habit, practicing regularly can help get rid the problem. Some of us may not be aware that we are doing it. Do enlist the help of your partner as well if possible, and be sure to see your physician should your condition be severe. Let me know how it works out by dropping a comment in the area below!

Sleep well until next time!

–Josh.

8 Comments

  1. Jeannie Brickley

    Hi Josh.

    I thought your article on 8 ways to quit mouth breathing while sleeping was very informative. The pictures were very matched to the content and I liked that you put in a video to watch for the breathing.

    I happen to have this problem. One reason is because I often can’t breathe well through my nose. I do have a deviated septum. I do use saline drops some nights and it helps a little. I think the chin strap idea is a good idea. I will have to look in to that.

    I am a side sleeper. If I fall asleep on my back, I have this (not fun) abnormality. I wake up in my brain; but my body doesn’t wake up so I can’t move except maybe my head back and forth. Most of the time, I am not able to breathe right either (which may be why I am waking up). I try to call for help, but my words won’t form so it sounds more like groan from the walking dead. If someone is there, and they just tell me to wake up, that doesn’t work. I can here them; but can’t get fully awake. If they touch me or shake me; then I wake up usually gasping for breath. So you can see why I try not to fall asleep on my back. Lol.

    Thanks for an informative and interesting post.

    Jeannie

    Reply
    1. Joshua (Post author)

      Hey Jeannie, thanks for sharing. If you’re looking into chin straps, I’d recommend My Snoring Solution. It’s one of the better ones out there.

      In terms of your other ailment though…your symptoms sound consistent with someone who is waking up while in REM sleep. The body undergoes paralysis while in REM (so you don’t act out your dreams) and when you wake up before it finishes, you will likely feel as though you are unable to move or speak properly.

      I’d recommend getting a sleep study done just to get a better understanding of what’s happening with your sleep. Please let me know the findings if possible. Take care of yourself!

      Reply
  2. Chris Towers

    My father used to have this condition when I was younger.

    it was very irritating and finally after being told to go to the doctor by my Mother, he was en-lighted to the fact that this was what was causing him to snore too.

    Not only this but he was waking the next day with a very dry mouth!

    He was given exercises to do like you have mentioned here and even though it did not cure it completely, it did help!

    Looking at your information here, the diet is important. This is something that was not considered at the time, but looking at what you are doing here, there are alternative ways to combat this issue!

    Thanks for the information!

    Chris

    Reply
    1. Joshua (Post author)

      Hi Chris, thanks for sharing. Mouth-breathing can really have a serious impact on one’s day to day life. I find it amazing that our biological processes are meant to work in such specific ways which ultimately benefit our well-being. I do believe in future we’ll be seeing some more effective therapies coming to bear on this condition. Do take care of yourself.

      Reply
  3. Freddy

    Hey

    very informative site, i should figure out if i sleep with my mouth open 😀 cause i never feel really well slept, and feel tired throughout the day aswell.

    I do think i will recommend this to my parents aswell, they snore so badly to even wake themselfs up, wich is i think a very impressive feat 😀

    Reply
    1. Joshua (Post author)

      Wow Freddy, if they’re snoring that badly they could be at risk for other terrible medical conditions! Please have them checked out if you can.

      Reply
  4. Laurel

    This is really helpful information! My boyfriend suffers from mouth breathing and hasn’t been sure how to stop. Do you know what to do about jaw clenching while sleeping? I have done this for years and it causes a lot of tension in my face and neck.

    Reply
    1. Joshua (Post author)

      Hey Laurel, what you’re experiencing sounds a lot like bruxism! That means you may be grinding your teeth at night, which would account for jaw pain in the morning. There are some useful solutions for that, but interesting enough I would not recommend a bruxism appliance since thee have been proven to cause more harm than good. Mild sleep apnea however appears to have a possible correlation with bruxism so it’s possible that getting a mandibular advancement device (like the ZQuiet) might help. If that doesn’t improve your symptoms, get a sleep study done right away to verify if you’re breathing okay at night. If you are, then your next step is to talk to your dentist regarding other treatment options. Do let me know how it goes!

      Reply

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