Let’s take a long, deep, slow breath together. Inhale fully into your belly. Pause. Now exhale gradually and completely.
In my last blog post about breathing, I spoke about the power of breath and how the way we breathe can make a huge difference in how well our bodies function. I wrote about various considerations related to breathing:
~ the pace of breath, such as long slow deep vs. short shallow rapid ~ the type of breath, as in belly vs. chest ~ the two primary breathing pathways, nose vs. mouth.
Today I’m focusing specifically on a few ways in which the nose is magical. I’ll touch on some of the important differences between breathing through your nose and breathing through your mouth. As well, I’ll mention some steps we each can take to help ourselves to breathe in a more restorative way.
Nose vs. Mouth Breathing: Why does it matter?
Well to begin with, did you know that our bodies are designed to breathe air primarily through nasal passages, and the mouth is meant to serve as a back-up breathing route?
It’s not uncommon, however, for people like me to slip into the habit of breathing through the mouth more than the nose. There are various reasons for that, including whether one has had teeth pulled, which can alter the shape and size of the mouth in a way that makes breathing more difficult.
The good news for all of us is that regardless of how we breathe, we have an opportunity at any age to improve our breath and it’s influence on our health. Until recently, I knew little about the importance of proper breathing. Now I feel like sharing what I’m learning with everyone who will listen, because it can make a real difference in their health and wellbeing.
According to author Malia Wollan, in her 2019 NYT magazine article about “How to Be A Nose Breather,” there are few things a person can do to impact their health more powerfully than switching from mouth to nasal breathing. That’s right, one of the most powerful steps you can take for your health is to become a nose breather!
Nasal Breathing Benefits
The benefits of nasal breathing are many, beginning with the basic services of the nose, including to clear, warm and moisten the air we breathe.
Those actions trigger the release of hormones and chemicals that reduce stress and anxiety, ease digestion, and improve lung, cardiovascular, and nervous system function. The result tends to be better sleep, stamina, and overall health. In other words deep, mindful breathing, especially through the nose, helps all of one’s body systems work better together for optimal function.
By contrast, habitual mouth-breathing is linked by scientists to a variety of medical issues, as in these and others: shallow breathing patterns, sleep problems, learning disorders and tooth decay. In growing children, mouth breathing also encourages poor jaw development which makes breathing more difficult.
So what’s the recourse for an habitual mouth-breather like myself, maybe also like you or a loved one?
How to Become a Nose Breather
There are various steps you and I can take, starting with these three:
1) First become aware of your breathing patterns throughout the day and night.
During daytime, you can set an alarm on your cell phone or watch to remind you to notice whether you’re using your nostrils. In order to gain a sense of your nighttime breathing habits, when you wake up in the morning ask yourself a few questions. Is your mouth dry? Nose congested? Did you snore while sleeping? A “yes? answer to any of those suggests that it’s likely you breath through your mouth while you sleep.
If you tend to breathe more through your mouth than your nose, figure out why. Do you have a structural obstruction? If so, it’d be wise to get that checked out and addressed with the help of a specialist, such as an Ear Nose & Throat Doctor, a Biologic Dentist, or a local Sleep Center.
If there is no obstruction, just an accidental habit, know that you CAN change that habit if you so choose.
2) Try keeping your lips closed, unless you are talking, eating, or doing strenuous exercise.
The extra effort required for breathing through your nose results in at least 50% more air flow resistance, which is good for your lungs, heart, and the biochemistry of your brain. That extra resistance trains your lungs to take in 20% more oxygen than when you breathe through your mouth!
3) Consider taping your mouth closed at night while you sleep, so that your nose can fulfill its various roles and provide its many benefits to your body all night long.
You can use a postage-stamp size piece of skin-friendly tape to hold center of your upper and lower lips closed together. That approach allows air to escape if you happen to sneeze. Some people use a butterfly bandaid for taping together their lips together just under the center of their nostrils; others prefer to tape together the full length of their mouth.
Taping your mouth may feel weird at first, but it’s easily doable and well worth the minor effort. Just tap your sense of humor as you tuck in and tape up to sleep! I urge you to give those steps a try because, as you now know, your nose has a magical ability to fortify your health and wellbeing.
If you’d like more information about how to become a nose breather or otherwise support your health in ways that are particular to your unique needs, contact me for a free consult. I’m committed to helping women find their best health so they have the energy and wellbeing to live as fully as they’d like.
“Breathing For Life”, Chapter 10 of The 3-Season Diet, John Douillard
15-Minute Matrix Podcast Maps Breath with Allison Post, and Mouth Taping with Dr. Mark Burhenne, Functional Nutrition Alliance, 15minutematrix.com
“Breathing for Health” Masterclass, Jane Hogan
Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art, James Nestor; mrjamesnestor.com/breath
Dr. Michael Ruscio, Radio Podcast Interview with Dr. Erick Peper, October ’20, https://drruscio.com/podcast/
“How to Be a Nose Breather,” Malia Wollan, The New York Times Magazine, April 23, 2019