Breathing is kind of a natural body function, right? So you probably don’t think much about it. But do you know that you can actually breathe incorrectly?
Breathing correctly is very important to your health and well-being. It’s also essential for the proper functioning of your heart, lungs, brain, muscles and many other organs in your body. Breathing “correctly” is breathing through your nose, but is breathing through your mouth a big problem?
The Benefits of Nasal Breathing
Nasal breathing is the most effective way to breathe because it allows oxygen into your bloodstream faster than any other method. This means that when you’re exercising or working out, nasal breathing will help you get more oxygen into your system. In addition, nasal breathing helps prevent sinus infections by keeping bacteria from entering your sinuses. If you breathe through your mouth instead of your nose, you’ll miss out on all these benefits.
When you breathe through your mouth, air enters your lungs first, then travels down your windpipe (trachea) into your bronchi. From there, it goes into your alveoli, where gas exchange takes place.
The nose also produces nitric acid, which cleanses your blood vessels and keeps them clear of plaque buildup. When you breathe through your mouth rather than your nose, you may be exposing yourself to harmful particles such as tobacco smoke, pollution, dust and pollen. These particles are inhaled into your lungs and can cause inflammation, asthma attacks and even cancer.
If you want to improve your overall health, it’s best to breathe through your nose.
The Cost of Mouth Breathing
When you breathe through your mouth rather than your nose, your body has to work harder to get enough oxygen into your blood. This extra effort causes your heart rate to increase, which makes you feel tired and short of breath. You may even notice that you have trouble concentrating while you’re doing something like reading or watching TV.
Breathing through your mouth can also make you anxious; this is especially true if you tend to be nervous or stressed. When you inhale through your mouth, you take in carbon dioxide, which increases anxiety. And when you exhale, you release carbon dioxide, which relaxes you. So, if you’re feeling tense, try taking deep breaths through your nose to calm yourself.
Mouth breathing can also contribute to dry mouth, which can lead to bad breath. Dry mouth occurs when you don’t produce saliva as often as you should. Saliva keeps your mouth moist, so if you don’t produce enough saliva, your mouth dries up and becomes sticky. The result: bad breath and the risk of tooth decay and gum disease.
The Causes of Mouth Breathing
Why do some people breathe through their mouth instead of their nose? There are several reasons why someone might choose to breathe through his or her mouth. Some people simply prefer to breathe through their mouths. Others may not realize they’re doing it until they start experiencing problems with their upper nasal airway, teeth, gums or throat.
Still others may be born with a condition called adenoid hypertrophy, which causes swollen tonsils and adenoids. Adenoids grow at an early age and block airflow through the back of the throat. As a result, children who suffer from adenoid hypertrophia may find themselves breathing through their mouths.
Other factors that could affect whether you breathe through your nose or mouth include:
Your family history. If your parents breathed through their mouths, chances are you will too.
Your environment. If you live in a polluted area, you may be exposed to more pollutants than those living in cleaner areas.
Your occupation. If you spend long hours sitting at a desk, you may develop habits that keep you from breathing properly.
Your lifestyle. If you smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol or eat junk food, you may be contributing to poor oral hygiene, which can cause nasal breathing.
Nasal polyps. Nasal polyps are small growths on the lining of the nose. They can become inflamed and cause snoring and result in nasal obstruction.
Sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is characterized by pauses in breathing during sleep. It happens when your tongue falls down into your throat, blocking your airway.
Mouth Breathing In Children
Children who breathe through their mouths are at greater risk for developing the sleep disorder sleep apnea, which can lead to serious problems including high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes. Because children’s bodies aren’t fully developed yet, they need lots of restful sleep to grow properly. Sleep apnea interrupts normal breathing patterns during sleep, making it difficult for kids to fall asleep and stay asleep.
If you suspect that your child might suffer from sleep apnea, talk with his doctor about getting him checked out. He may benefit from wearing a CPAP machine, which provides continuous positive airway pressure. This keeps air flowing into your child’s throat during sleep.
If you think your child might be suffering from sleep apnea, here are some signs to look for:
- Frequent pauses between breaths
- Loud snorts or grunts
- Straining to breathe
- Waking up frequently during the night
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Interrupted facial growth
- Poor school performance
- Weight gain
- Shortness of breath
- Tongue sores
How to Learn to Breathe Through Your Nose
Learning how to breathe through your nose isn’t hard. It just takes practice.
Yes! It’s possible to re-learn how to breathe correctly. If you’ve been using your mouth to breathe for years, it will probably take time to change your habits. But there are ways to help you learn how to breathe more efficiently. Here are three tips to help you start breathing better:
Sit upright. Sitting upright helps keep your spine straight and allows your diaphragm to move freely.
Take slow, deep breaths through your nose. Slow, deep breathing helps you fill your lungs completely before expelling any air.
Relax. Try not to hold your breath. Instead, let your stomach expand slowly as you breathe in. Then, as you exhale, allow your belly button to drop toward your back.
Practice nasal breathing exercises. Try these simple breathing techniques to help you get started on learning how to breathe through your nostrils.
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