What Mouth Breathers Need to Know: Risks, Causes & Solutions
© Jacob Townsend
Mouth breathing might sound like a harmless quirk – after all, how harmful can breathing be?
In fact, it may be a lot more harmful than you initially think, and can be the underlying cause of some of the unpleasantness you feel on the daily.
As our bodies were designed to inhale through the nose, messing with that system is not the natural way we should be operating. While most of us don’t breathe properly as it is, those among us who breathe through their mouths for continued periods, especially at night, are at risk of some bothersome complications.
Here’s what you need to know about mouth breathing and how to prevent it.
What causes mouth breathing?
One of the most common causes of mouth breathing is a temporary nasal obstruction, stemming from a cold or allergy. When this is the case, once the obstruction is cleared, the patient usually reverts back to breathing through the nose on their own.
However, there can be other things blocking your nasal airway, including enlarged tonsils or adenoids, nasal polyps, or a deviated septum. The shape of your nose can also be a contributing factor to your difficulty breathing through it.
Another major contributing factor to mouth breathing is anxiety and stress in general. When stressed or anxious, we tend to take shallow and rapid breaths through the mouth, which don’t actually supply us with enough oxygen.
What can mouth breathing cause?
Children who breathe through their mouths can develop crooked teeth and even facial deformities. On the other hand, the most common consequences in adults are bad breath, a dry mouth, gum disease, and gum swelling.
Breathing through your mouth while sleeping can also significantly impact the quality of your sleep. You may not even be aware of it, but you might be waking up during the night, and never actually getting enough shut-eye. This can contribute to fatigue, restlessness, an overall bad mood, dark circles under your eyes, and a lack of motivation and productivity.
How to tell if you breathe through your mouth?
Once you start concentrating on the way you breathe, it might be harder to tell what you are doing consciously, and what happens when your body takes over from your mind.
As this is the case, the best thing you can do is ask someone to monitor your breathing patterns while you sleep. You don’t have to have someone stay up all night while you sleep – they can observe you during an afternoon nap.
You can also consult a doctor, who will check your nose and throat. But if there are no obstructions present, and you still feel that you inhale through the mouth, you may have developed it as a habit you now need to reverse.
How to turn things around?
Becoming a nose breather again is a life-changing feat: once you get back into the proper rhythm and mechanism of breathing, your entire body will benefit from the improved oxygen flow.
When looking to treat mouth breathing, the first thing you need to determine is whether there is an obstruction present. If the answer is yes, you will need to treat that first – either cure your cold, find a proper course of treatment for your allergy, or even undergo surgery for your deviated septum.
However, when there is no obstruction present, you will have to resort to your own devices. Here are a couple of useful suggestions:
- You can start by using a saline mist to clear your nose. Be careful not to overuse it, as it can damage your nasal cavity. It will help keep your nose clearer and make breathing easier.
- You can also try to adjust your sleeping position: keep your head elevated, and try to sleep on your back. Avoid sleeping on your stomach, as this is the worst sleeping position you can choose.
- Get yourself an air filter (especially in the bedroom), that will remove all the allergens and pollutants living in your house and help you breathe more easily.
- Make an effort to rewire your brain to breathe properly. You can do this by consciously checking on your breath and adjusting it. Breathe from your diaphragm, not your chest, and always through your nose. Get in the habit of paying attention to your breathing and reminding yourself what you need to be doing.
- It also helps to take up yoga or meditation (or both). They are both amazing methods for battling stress and anxiety, and will help teach you how to breathe properly.
Fixing your mouth breathing might take a bit of time, but don’t give up. It’s just about establishing the right habits and lifestyle changes, and you will soon be back to breathing through your nose.