This article is evidence-based, verified by Dr. Ahmed Zayed
Based on statistics, 1/3 of people don’t breathe properly to sustain normal health. Their bodies don’t get a sufficient amount of oxygen to their cells, organs, and tissues. Breathing properly through the nose supplies the lungs with enough oxygen.
People are supposed to inhale through the nose, but many breathe through the mouth. This is a process commonly referred to as mouth breathing.
Based on a survey, out of around 1000 people interviewed, 61% admitted they were mouth breathing when asleep. They also started waking up with a stuffy nose, dry mouth, or snoring too often. This is to be expected for mouth breathers.
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- 1 Why Is Mouth Breathing a Problem?
- 2 What Causes Mouth Breathing?
- 3 Mouth Breathing Risk Factors and How to Improve Them
- 4 5 Tips to Avoid Mouth Breathing
- 5 When Should You Ask for Professional Help?
- 6 References
Why Is Mouth Breathing a Problem?
Those who breathe through the mouth when sleeping at night are less likely to get a good night’s rest. Not only does mouth breathing dry out the mouth, but it also dries out the airways, leaving them more exposed to inflammation and allergens.
Based on records, those who sleep well without having to deal with nasal obstruction, get better sleep, while those who often have a nasal obstruction are more likely to get woken up at night.
In other words, breathing incorrectly can seriously impair our quality of sleep, leaving us more prone to mood swings during the day. Furthermore, it can affect our energy levels and concentration, which can seriously impact our daily life.
What Causes Mouth Breathing?
Mouth breathing often happens when the nose or nasal passages are obstructed, often because of nasal congestion. This is one of the most common problems during cold or allergy season. Since people can’t breathe through the nose, they use their mouths to supply their body with the much-needed supply of oxygen.
But, in other cases, mouth breathing is the result of a certain medical condition. Here are the most common risk factors that can cause this problem:
- Certain abnormalities acquired from birth (Pierre Robin syndrome, cleft palate, choanal atresia)
- Chronic colds
- Allergies including sinus infections
- Deviated nasal septum
- Enlarged adenoids and tonsils
Mouth Breathing Risk Factors and How to Improve Them
Chronic mouth breathing can cause complications for certain individuals. Even though these complications may not appear in everyone, they are still possible to experience. These complications include:
- Pain or problems with the jaw joints
- Worsening asthma
- Difficulties when swallowing or talking
- More prone to dental complications like gum disease
- Enlarged adenoids or tonsils
5 Tips to Avoid Mouth Breathing
Luckily, there are natural ways to avoid this problem. All it takes are just some minor adjustments to help clear out the nasal congestion and help the body learn to rely on the nose instead of the mouth. Here are some of the most effective tips we recommend you try.
Use a Saline Mist or Spray
Saline nasal mists or sprays are the first and most popular way of clearing nasal congestions. They are designed to clear the nose and don’t interact with medications. So, at signs of allergy or the flu, these sprays can come in handy.
Monitor Your Sleep
Every time you go to sleep, you should monitor your sleep, whether it is via proxy or a mobile app. You can wear a device to track all of your sleeping phases (light, REM, deep), like the Fitbit Versa 2, for example. Of course, there are similar other such devices for purchase, and you can pick the one that suits you most.
These wearable devices may be linked to smartphones and provide quick notifications of your current situation. To get adequate readings, you only wear the device and see the results via the app. They detect any abnormalities or changes in activity and could sound an alarm when a change has been detected.
It will record all the events for you to review your sleeping pattern so you will know where and when you should implement changes. You can also share the results and readings with your doctor to ask for their opinion. This is the kind of observation that can help locate the source of your problem.
- Use amazon Alexa built in to get quick news and information, check the weather, set timers and alarms, control your smart home devices and more all through the sound of your voice (third party app may be required; amazon Alexa not available in all countries)
- Based on your heart rate, time asleep and restlessness, sleep score helps you better understand your sleep quality each night. Also track your time in light, deep and REM sleep stages and get personal insights
- With a larger display and an always on option, your information’s always a quick glance away (always on display requires more frequent charging)
Sleep on your Back
When we sleep on the stomach, we sometimes close our airways a little bit, making it more difficult for the body to breathe through the nose. While sleeping on the back can have a completely opposite effect. It opens up the airways and helps with nasal breathing.
Keep the House Pristine Clean
Allergies are a common problem. But, as long as you keep the house free of any allergens that can affect you, it is possible to face fewer problems during sleep. While this is a temporary solution that applies at home only, it is still an effective way to get a good night’s rest.
Consider using taping your mouth to encourage nose breathing.
Concentrate on Breathing Properly
There are specific breathing techniques you can practice with your doctor to start a habit of breathing through your nose. If you want to practice that yourself, you can try to meditate often or do yoga. Both of these activities can help you focus on your breathing. They relieve stress and engage the parasympathetic nervous system to help the body breathe slowly and carefully.
When Should You Ask for Professional Help?
Mouth breathing from time to time due to the flu or cold is not a major problem. This issue will go away on its own after the individual has achieved optimal health. There is rarely any need to ask for help or see a doctor.
But, chronic mouth breathing is a different story. If you experience dry mouth or constant bad breath after waking up, you can make an appointment. In this case, you will need to ask for a physician or a specialist to evaluate your health and teach you how to train your nose to breathe properly.
Dr. Ahmed Zayed, MD holds a baccalaureate of Medicine and Surgery. An avid contributor to the Huffington Post and Chicago Tribune, Dr. Zayed believes in providing accurate and accessible information to general readers. With years of writing and editing content in the medical niche, Dr. Zayed likes to think of himself as a man with a mission, keeping the internet free of false medical information.