You probably think of things like playing the piano, gourmet cooking or even creating beautiful art when you think about skills.

But do you think of breathing through your nose as a skill? 

Probably not. That’s because many of us simply chalk breathing up as one of those things that our body does naturally. 

While breathing is a fairly automated process for most of us, did you ever consider that you’re doing it incorrectly? 

Wait … you can breathe wrong? Yes, you can. 

The Art of Nasal Breathing

Nasal breathing is indeed a skill, but many people aren’t doing it because they breathe through their mouths instead. 

Well, breathing is breathing, right?

Wrong. Breathing is not simply breathing. Nasal breathing is significantly better for you than mouth breathing for many reasons, including: 

You Get More Oxygen. When you breathe, your lungs take oxygen from the air you inhale. The longer this air is in your lungs, the more oxygen you get. How does that relate to breathing through your nose? Here’s how: Nostrils are smaller than the mouth, so when you exhale through the nose, your breath is expelled more slowly, which allows your lungs more time to extract the oxygen you need.

Also, when you breathe through your nose, your lower lung expands, which means you get more air — and more oxygen.

Finally, when you breathe through your nose, it stimulates the lower lung’s nerves to expand, increasing the amount of air you take in. 

Your Blood Is Balanced. There is a proper exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide when you are getting enough air. A side benefit of this is a more balanced pH for your body. 

Better Sleep. When you breathe through the nose, the air you inhale goes through your nasal passages, stimulating the nerves that control your breathing. However, suppose you breathe through your mouth. In that case, the air doesn’t flow through the nasal mucosa, which can mean you develop irregularities in breathing. This puts you at risk of sleep breathing disorders, including obstructive sleep apnea

OSA is a condition that comes with its own set of issues, including: 

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Insomnia
  • Periods of no breathing during sleep, chronic mouth breathing, loud breathing and shortness of breath
  • Mood swings, including depression and anxiety
  • Nighttime urination, bedwetting past the potty training years
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Changes in libido 
  • High blood pressure
  • An increased risk of heart disease and diabetes
  • Excessive weight gain, obesity and difficulty losing weight 
  • Cardiovascular problems, include high blood pressure, changes in heart rate such as atrial fibrillation, and risk of stroke

Stress Relief. When you breathe through your nose, you can reduce your stress and blood pressure. Breathing through your nose can also help you recover faster when you are working out. 

Better Body Functions. Breathing through your nose can help stimulate the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that regulates and controls your body’s functions, such as your appetite, blood pressure and your heartbeat. 

Improved Overall Health. When you breathe through your nose, the air you breathe is filtered and temperature regulated when it enters the body. It is also filtered for germs like illness-causing bacteria and viruses. An added benefit is that when you breathe through your nose, your body creates nitrous oxide, which helps regulate blood pressure and boost your immune system.

The Importance of Nasal Breathing

As you can see, nasal breathing has significant health benefits over mouth breathing. 

Chronic mouth breathing can also impact facial growth and development, speech, eating, and whether you need orthodontic treatment. 

But what if you find yourself chronically breathing through your mouth? How do you make the switch to breathe correctly (nasally)? Here’s how:

Be conscious about how you breathe. You need to train yourself to breathe through your nose and with your mouth closed. You can do this by focusing on closing your mouth and consciously breathing through your nose. Some people write themselves a note and stick it on a place they frequently look at, such as their computer monitor, to remind themselves to breathe through their nose. 

Think about the reasons you’re breathing through your nose. For example, is your nose blocked because you have a sinus infection or congestion due to a cold or allergies? If this is the case, we recommend practicing nose-clearing exercises to help you find relief from your congestion. One way you can do this is by sitting down and pinching your nostrils after exhaling. Next, release your nostrils and breathe through your nose every time you need to breathe. Doing this repeatedly can help clear your clogged nose and adjust your breathing from your mouth to your nose. 

Some individuals also benefit from saline nasal spray to help clear their sinus or nasal congestion.

Switch up your sleep. People who chronically breathe through their mouth often deal with nasal congestion and breathe through their mouth at night during sleep. Sleeping in an elevated position allows you to avoid breathing through your mouth while sleeping. 

And while you’re thinking about sleep, we also recommend that you sleep on your back to ensure nasal breathing.

Work out. We recommend that you increase your physical activity, too. One reason is that exercise is beneficial for your entire body and contributes to a healthier immune system. For example, some research has shown that aerobic exercise can help to relieve nasal congestion. Additionally, excess weight can cause excess fat and tissue on the throat can contribute to chronic mouth breathing, and working out can help reduce that excess tissue on the neck. 

Use mouth guards. Mouth guards for snoring are beneficial for individuals who are chronic mouth breathers. These devices are designed to help keep your mouth closed while you sleep, which helps to curtail mouth breathing and force you to breathe through your nose. 

If you have questions about breathing or have concerns about you or a loved ones breathing or sleeping Bend Headache Center can help.