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Lillian Wilson

10 Reasons Why Nose Breathing Is Superior To Mouth Breathing And How To Restore It

Discover the benefits of nasal breathing and six simple steps to restore nasal breathing and make it a habit again.

woman breathing through nose, street

Breathing is one of the most basic and fundamental processes of our body. However, many of us tend to overlook the importance of the way we breathe. Surprisingly, incorrect breathing is a more common problem than smoking or drinking. One of the most harmful breathing habits is mouth breathing, which affects nearly half of the population. Unfortunately, this issue is often ignored and receives little attention. It’s time to shed light on the benefits of nasal breathing and the detrimental effects of mouth breathing. So let’s discover the reasons why nasal breathing is superior to mouth breathing, and learn practical techniques that can help you restore healthy breathing patterns to boost your overall health and well-being.

Ten reasons why nose breathing is superior to mouth breathing

1Nose breathing provides more oxygen, mouth breathing gives less

We often think that if we get air with a bigger airway like a mouth, there is a chance of getting more oxygen to the cells and tissues. But this is a misconception. In fact, when breathing through the nose, there is more resistance created which results in 10-20% greater oxygen uptake. Enough O2 promotes better functioning of all body organs from muscles to the brain and heart.

2Nose breathing gives 100 times more nitric oxide than mouth breathing

The crucial role of nitric oxide (NO) in the breathing process has not been recognised till 1991. Scientists discovered that during nasal breathing nose sinuses emit NO. As nitric oxide balances blood flow to the lungs, it allows oxygen to move more easily throughout the body.

Additionally, it improves blood flow by relaxing blood vessels in the lungs. Compared with lower airways such as the mouth, the nose produces 100 times more NO. When we breathe through our mouths, we miss out on all the benefits provided by nitric oxide.

NO concentration in nose is higher than in mouth x100 times Source: PubMed

3Nose breathing boosts immunity while mouth breathing makes us more vulnerable to viruses

The nose contains tiny hairs which function as a filter and prevent pollutants such as dust, pollen, and allergens from entering the lungs. These particles become trapped in a layer of mucus that coats the hairs and are eventually expelled through sneezing or swallowed.

When breathing through the mouth, our lungs become an external organ which is not protected from allergens and bacteria by nose hair and nitric oxide. This makes us more likely to get respiratory infections or other diseases like allergies, seasonal flu, and pneumonia.

The knowledge gleaned from prior studies has proven to be valuable during the COVID-19 pandemic. Researchers in Canada initiated clinical trials for a nitric oxide nasal spray to combat the virus in June 2020. The product was described as ‘hand sanitiser for the nose.’ This means that our noses have the potential to protect us from coronavirus and other infections without external aid – we simply need to make the most of this natural defence mechanism.

4Nose breathing promotes brain function and concentration, mouth breathing impairs attention span

Deep nasal breathing provides immense benefits for the brain. It enhances brain function by regulating behaviour and increasing mental focus, cognitive control, and productivity. Furthermore, diaphragmatic breathing helps the brain regulate emotions, mood, motivation, and stress responses.

Nose breathing counteracts age-related cognitive decline which is linked to the development of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease and dementia. When it comes to mouth breathing, studies have shown that oral breathing increases the risk of brain functional problems due to lower oxygen saturation.

People who breathe through their mouths are more susceptible to developing attention deficit disorder. What is more, snoring in children has an 80% chance of permanently reducing mental capacity by 20% if not treated before age eight.

5Nose breathing enhances heart health, mouth breathing increases disease risk

The way we breathe affects our heart health. Research has found that breathing through the left nostril can decrease cardiovascular parameters which is a risk indicator for coronary artery disease. In contrast, habitual snoring from mouth breathing for two or more nights per week is linked to a 25% higher risk of stroke. Studies have also shown that sleep disorder breathing, which includes mouth breathing, is associated with serious diseases like sudden death, stroke, coronary artery disease, and heart failure.

Habitual snoring is associated with a higher risk of stroke +25% Source: PubMed

6Nose breathing promotes restful nights, while mouth breathing causes sleep issues

Everyone has seen an advertisement of mattress, at least once. But have you noticed the way people are pictured when sleeping on them? They seem relaxed and their mouths are shut. Healthy sleep is never associated with snoring and oral breathing.

Breathing through the nose is beneficial for sleep quality, while mouth breathing can be detrimental. Mouth breathing often leads to snoring and dry throat, increasing the likelihood of sleep disorders like sleep apnoea. On the other hand, slow breathing through the nose has been proven to increase vagal tone, promoting better sleep quality.

7Nose breathing eases stress, mouth breathing exacerbates it

74% of people in the UK reported feeling stressed, overwhelmed or unable to cope with their emotions. And if you also belong to this camp, you should remember that proper breathing is a superior way to relieve stress, overwhelm and anxiety.

Nasal breathing stimulates the vagus nerve which promotes relaxation, it is also capable of lowering blood pressure by 19 mmHg and slows down the rapid heartbeat. All of these nasal breathing features ease stress.

Mouth breathing cannot boast anti-stress abilities, in fact, oral breathing exacerbates and promotes stress. Mouth breathing stimulates the sympathetic nervous system which is responsible for stress responses and puts you into a fight-or-flight mode.

8Nose breathing enhances appearance, mouth breathing spoils your looks

While nasal breathing has been linked to numerous health benefits, mouth breathing can have adverse effects on our appearance and posture. Mouth breathing can lead to crooked and overcrowded teeth, narrow jaws, and small upper airways. It can also cause bad breath and poor oral health.

Additionally, poor breathing coordination due to mouth breathing can lead to poor posture, resulting in tension in the neck and back and even lower back pain. In contrast, nasal breathing can promote better speech development and prevent vocal cord strain. Overall, nasal breathing appears to be more beneficial for our physical appearance and overall health.

9Nose breathing makes physical performance more effective, mouth breathing boosts fatigue

Low,Angle,,Sports,Fitness,And,Black,Woman,Outdoor,Getting,Ready

Nasal breathing and mouth breathing during physical activity have vastly different effects on athletic performance and physical health. Proper breathing through the nose during exercise can improve endurance, oxygen utilization, and overall cardiovascular fitness. It can also increase aerobic and anaerobic capacity, improve breathing muscle strength, and reduce the risk of muscle pain and injury. In contrast, mouth breathing during exercise can lead to decreased VO2 max, worsened physical performance, and a higher risk of muscle pain, cramping, and weakness.

Nasal breathing also has a positive influence on athletic performance, with participants reporting 34-38% less lactic acid emission, high levels of lactic acid can lead to muscle fatigue and pain making you unable to exercise efficiently. In the same observational study, mouth breathing was reported to elevate heart rate, the results were 139 bpm with nasal breathing and 155 bpm with mouth breathing.

10Nose breathing promotes digestion, and mouth breathing negatively affects gut health

Not only oral breathing causes bad breath but also impairs gut health. This happens because mouth breathing affects the production of saliva. Saliva contains enzymes that help to break down food and begin the digestion process. When we breathe through our mouths, we tend to have a drier mouth, which decreases the production of saliva. This can lead to difficulties in breaking down food, especially carbohydrates. As a result, it can cause bloating, gas, and constipation.

On a contrary, nose breathing improves digestion by increasing oxygenation, reducing stress, reducing bloating, stimulating nitric oxide production, and improving nutrient absorption in the gut. However, a healthy lifestyle and diet are also essential for optimal digestion.

Six tips to restore nasal breathing

Now as you are acquainted with the immense prevalence of nasal breathing over mouth breathing, you might have become interested in the nose breathing restoration plan. Here are the six tips on how to give a rebirth to the innate way of breathing. However, you should consider that you should not opt for one tip and practise it, the results will come only if you stick to all of these pieces of advice.

Tip 1: Decongest your nose

The most fundamental step in restoring nasal breathing is to decongest the nose. Many people, including children, breathe through their mouths because they feel air hunger while breathing through their noses. This air hunger can be caused by various factors such as rhinitis, allergies, mechanical obstructions, or poor breathing patterns.

To restore nasal breathing, the first step is to determine the cause of the air hunger and remove any obstructions or congestion.

Breath-holding exercises can help to decongest the nose by increasing the level of carbon dioxide in the blood and releasing nitric oxide into the nasal cavity. This may also activate the body’s sympathetic response, which helps to open up the nose. Here is one of nose unblocking exercises:

Procedure

1. Take a small breath in through your nose and a small breath out through your nose.

2. Pinch your nose with your fingers and walk around while you hold your breath.

3. Hold your breath on an exhalation and walk around, continue walking and holding your breath until you feel a medium to strong air hunger.

4. Then let go and breathe in through your nose.

5. Rest for a few seconds with normal breathing and repeat it again. Repeat it five times, your nose will have opened up, that’s how we restore nasal breathing.

In most cases, it is relatively easy to restore nasal breathing permanently by addressing the underlying causes of air hunger and congestion. It is important to note that breath-holding exercises should not be done by pregnant women, individuals with cardiovascular issues or serious health problems.

Tip 2: Be conscious of your breathing

Mindful,Young,Woman,Breathing,Out,With,Closed,Eyes,,Calming,Down

When aiming to overcome poor breathing patterns, it is crucial to pay attention to the way you breathe. When working, studying, or doing any other either tedious or leisure activity you should remind yourself to stop and estimate how you breathe.

To break the habit of mouth breathing use post-its and stick them all over the house, on your computer, book. You may also set several alarm clocks or reminders on the phone. Every time you see sticky notes or hear an alarm clock, you will automatically learn to pay attention to the way you breathe and start breathing through your nose.  You should endeavour to utilise nasal breathing instead of your mouth whenever you notice that your mouth is open.

Tip 3: Make breath work a part of your daily routine

The more you use your nose for its innate function the more it becomes an automatic habit. The easiest way to restore a habit of breathing through the nose is to practice breath works. Even though all breathing exercises are easy to perform, we may still be a little bit unwilling to do so. So here is the easiest-ever exercise just for you to start.

Light breathing exercise, procedure

1. Count to six while breathing in

2. Exhale to the same count from one to six

3. Keep breathing in and out lightly and slowly while counting.

Practise for up two minutes (mind your comfort, if you feel that it is too hard for you to continue for two minutes reduce the time).

Do not underestimate this breathing exercise due to its simplicity. It is a true gemstone. Besides being a useful nasal breathing restoration tool, it helps to lower anxiety, quickly and efficiently slows down the heart rate and lowers high blood pressure. It is definitely worth giving it a shot, only two steps are required. Try to practise it regularly: in the morning, before sleep, on the events when you notice that you breathe through your mouth.

Tip 4: Mind your posture

Posture and breathing are interdependent. Bad posture can cause poor breathing patterns and vice versa.

When we sit in a crooked position with our head forward this gives our diaphragm no space to move. When we do not utilise the diaphragm, the main muscle involved in breathing, the body tends to compensate for this by using the upper chest for breathing putting additional strain on the neck and back muscles. This leads to chest breathing that does not give us enough oxygen, mouth breathing, hyperventilation and other types of dysfunctional breathing.

Thus, you should mind your posture when restoring nasal breathing. Aim to sit up straight, but do not pull your chest too forward.  Good posture will distribute the pressure and give the diaphragm space to move and ensure deep breathing.

Tip 5: Tape your mouth

Round,Roll,Of,White,Masking,Duct,Tape,,Adhesive,Tape,On

Noses are for breathing, mouthes for eating,’ says Patrick Mckeown in his revolutionary book ‘The Oxygen Advantage‘. With persistence and dedication, we can really track the way we breathe during the day. But what can we do with nighttime mouth breathing? It is impossible to control yourself when unconscious.

However, we actually can take over the organ we use for breathing even when sleeping. The way to do so is to tape the mouth. It sounds a bit wild, to tape your mouth as if you’ve been kidnapped and are not allowed to scream. But in reality, it is not as bad as it may seem. You may apply a piece of tape vertically over your mouth. There is no need to fully cover your mouth with a bandage. Sometimes a small square or bandage stuck above the upper lip, is enough to remind the brain to use the nose.

By wearing light paper tape to keep the mouth closed during sleep, you can improve sleep quality, increase energy levels, and restore nasal breathing.

Tip 6:  Seek professional help

Breathing exercises are an effective way to restore nasal breathing, it is a no-brainer. However, dysfunctional breathing may obscure other serious issues. It is important to seek medical help, as poor breathing patterns may indicate an underlying medical condition such as sleep apnoea, allergies or spine issues, chronic stress, and anxiety, and ignoring it can lead to adverse health effects.

A doctor can conduct tests and recommend treatments to address the underlying issue and restore nasal breathing. Please, do not overlook the seriousness of dysfunctional breathing because one day you are just a mouth breather who snores at night and the next day experiences a stroke.

Let’s summarise

It’s easy to take breathing for granted, but the way we breathe can have a significant impact on our overall health. Mouth breathing can lead to a range of health issues, from poor sleep quality to decreased physical performance and elevated stress levels. In contrast, nasal breathing provides numerous benefits, including better oxygen uptake, improved immunity, enhanced brain function and concentration, and better heart health.

To start restoring the benefits of nasal breathing, try implementing some of the tips outlined in this article. By incorporating these tips into our daily routine, we can restore the innate way of breathing and reap the benefits of nasal breathing. So why wait? Start paying attention to the way you breathe and take control of your health today.

Not enough? Here are some more from our colleagues

Decongesting the nose is step number one in restoring nasal breathing. You can try practising more nose-unblocking exercises provided by The Oxygen Advantage. The Oxygen Advantage is a training program developed by Patrick McKeown that improves breathing habits and optimizes oxygen utilization using nasal breathing techniques, breath holds, and exercises. It aims to enhance athletic performance, reduce anxiety, and improve sleep, and overall health. It is popular among athletes and health enthusiasts.

If you’re interested in exploring the power of breath and how it can improve your physical and mental well-being, we highly recommend ‘The Oxygen Advantage‘ by Patrick McKeown. In this book, McKeown explains how breathing exercises can increase respiratory muscle strength, boost immunity, and enhance athletic performance, among other benefits. He also provides practical tips and exercises that can help you improve your breathing habits and achieve optimal health. Whether you’re an athlete looking to improve your performance or someone looking to improve your overall quality of life, ‘The Oxygen Advantage’ is a must-read.

Oxygen Advantage Book Cover Patrick McKeown

Healthypedia FAQ

Yes, mouth breathing can have various adverse effects on our health, including increased risk of respiratory infections, allergies, flu, pneumonia, heart diseases, strokes, and sleep disorders.

Nasal breathing enhances cognitive performance by regulating behaviour, increasing mental focus, cognitive control, and productivity, and helping the brain regulate emotions, mood, motivation, and stress responses.

Yes, nasal breathing can improve digestion by increasing oxygenation, reducing stress, reducing bloating, stimulating nitric oxide production, and improving nutrient absorption in the gut.

Yes, taping your mouth while sleeping can improve sleep quality, increase energy levels, and restore nasal breathing. You can wear light paper tape to keep the mouth closed during sleep and improve overall health.

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