Most people think breathing through the nose and mouth are pretty much the same, just two paths for the air to flow into the lungs. The truth is, the difference between nose breathing and mouth breathing is profound and life changing. Nose breathing is healthy and mouth breathing is detrimental. That may sound dramatic, but as an orthodontist, I see the ill effects of mouth breathing every day.
I’m fascinated by the research in the book Breath by James Nestor, which I will be writing about in more blogs. His research backs up what I see in my patients. Mouth breathing leads to snoring, which leads to sleep apnea, which leads to all kinds of health issues, as well as more mouth breathing. Long term mouth breathing literally changes the shape of your face, making it long and droopy.
Mouth breathing also leads to dental and orthodontic issues, airway issues, high blood
pressure, and many other health issues. There is nothing good about mouth breathing. Zero.
Conversely, nose breathing brings health and healing. The nose is not just a passageway for airflow. It’s an amazing organ that does far more for our well-being than you may have imagined. Nestor says:
The nose is crucial because it clears air, heats it, and moistens it for easier absorption. Most of us know this. But what so many people never consider is the nose’s unexpected role in problems like erectile dysfunction.
Or how it can trigger a cavalcade of hormones and chemicals that lower blood pressure and ease digestion. How it responds to the stages of a woman’s menstrual cycle. How it regulates our heart rate, opens the vessels in our toes, and stores memories. How the density of your nasal hairs helps determine whether you’ll suffer from asthma.
Few of us ever consider how the nostrils of every living person pulse to their own rhythm, opening and closing like a flower in response to our moods, mental states, and perhaps even the sun and the moon.
Nose breathing actually tones those flabby tissues at the back of the throat, making the airways wider and breathing easier. You sleep better at night when you breathe through your nose.
Did you know that if you sleep with your mouth open, you will lose 40% more water than if you were nose breathing? You may think with all this water escaping through the breath, that would create less of a need to get up to pee in the night. But it doesn’t work that way.
In deep sleep, the pituitary gland releases vasopressin, which tells the cells to store more water, so you can sleep undisturbed by your bladder. If you’re mouth breathing, you’re not getting to that deep sleep, so the vasopressin isn’t released as it should. Instead, the kidneys will release water, causing the urge to wake up and head to the bathroom…or not wake up for that. Yes, mouth breathing can have a direct link to bedwetting.
But let’s get back to the mouth, as that’s my home base, and talk about snoring. We tend to accept snoring as normal, unless it’s too loud and bothersome or leads to sleep apnea. What everyone needs to recognize is that no amount of snoring is healthy or normal. Snoring is simply the audible sign of mouth breathing. When you breathe through your nose, you do not snore. When you do not snore, you (and anyone around you) sleep deeper and longer. When you get the sleep you need, you are mentally and physically rested and ready for the day.
And, I might add, if you make sure your child is nose breathing – from the day they are born – they are likely to have fewer cavities and less need for orthodontic treatment. Yes, it’s that important!
If you or your child has gotten into the habit of mouth breathing, and you find breathing through your nose too difficult, make an appointment and let’s discuss. The sooner you’re able to breathe through your nose 24/7, the sooner you’ll experience a healthier life.