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
Breathing 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
The 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!