The Mouth Breather

We have all heard the comedic-derogatory tone associated with mouth-breathing. While mouth breathing is no actual indicator of intellectual or physical potential, it can be an indicator of our health. How we breathe can determine if our potential actualizes, or not. As comedy points out, there is something less than optimal about mouth breathing. There is a very strong case for nose breathing over mouth breathing.

The Benefits of Nose Breathing

  • The natural humidifier. When we inhale through the nose, air travels through the nostrils and nasal passages where moisture is added.
  • Our natural warmer. As air is humidified to just the right moisture level, air is also warmed to body temperature so that O2/CO2 exchange is made easier in the lungs.
  • Our natural filter. Mucus and tiny hairs in the nasal pages collect particles of pollutants that we breathe in. breathing through the nose greatly minimizes potential irritants from entering the lungs.
  • Our natural pressure The nasal passages create a small amount of air friction which helps to inflate the lungs and create the right muscle activation for optimal respiration. Breathing through the nose helps to facilitate diaphragmic breathing, instead of upper chest breathing.
  • The production of nitric oxide. Nitric Oxide (NO) is a tiny gas particle that among many other things, helps hemoglobin bind (grab and hold) oxygen. In other words, NO helps oxygen get into the body more easily. Nitric oxide is produced in the nasal passages and the pharynx. By breathing through the nose, we deliver more nitic oxide to the lungs, which improves gas exchange. That’s a good thing.
  • Development of the facial structure. It has been shown that nose breathing with the tongue resting on the roof of the mouth helps improve the diameter of the nasal passages as well as optimal widening of the midface. Mouth breathing slows and sometimes stops the development of the mid face and can lead to forward head positioning and long-term breathing problems.

The Ill Effects of Mouth Breathing.
In summary, mouth breathing during any time allows unfiltered air to enter the lungs that may not be the optimal pressure, temperature and moisture, thus compromising gas exchange, the immune system and posture.

How Do You Know If You Mouth Breathe?

Most of us do a combination of mouth and nose breathing. Mouth breathing is likely a problem if:

  1. You wake in the morning or night with a dry mouth
  2. You have chronic post nasal drip, or your nose is chronically stuffed up
  3. You have a forward head posture, possibly even chronic headaches and neck pain
  4. You have difficulty engaging in cardiovascular activity

Ensure Nose Breathing: Tape your lips closed

How we breath during the day and night reflect each other. Most of can nose breath during the day when we think of it. Changing to nose breathing during the parts of the day when we are not thinking about it (i.e. sleep) may require some assistance. One simple and effective way to improve nose breathing is to tape the lips closed.

Consider doing the following:

  • Be aware of keeping the lips closed during all daily activities
  • Tape the lips closed during sleep
  • Tape the lips closed during light activity, and exercise

*Your therapist will help you determine the best approach.

Tape options

  1. Dynamic Tape, or Kinesio tape
  2. 3M micropore tape
  3. Somnifix

*Please do not use duct tape or packing tape (for those you who were wondering).

Pitfalls

  • It feels strange (to put it lightly). Yep. Feel inspired if it feels strange – that probably means that you need this. And, give yourself time to adjust. Most people tolerate the tape for 1-3 hours at first. By the third day or night, most have no problems. By this point, it is starting to feel good even though it looks strange.
  • Socially, it is weird to tape your mouth shut. We know that. Think of it this way – it is temporary. Give yourself 3-6 months of doing this and see if your body does it on your own. Second, remember, if everyone around you knew what you know, more people would be taping their mouths closed.
  • Chapped lips from taping. To avoid this, place the tape in the back of your hand or wrist first to decrease the stickiness of the tape. You might also consider folding over a corner when applying the tape. This will make it easier to remove in the morning.