The Many Advantages of Breathing Through Your Nose
Taking in air through the nose offers crucial health benefits compared to mouth breathing. Understanding why nose breathing is ideal along with techniques to promote it can lead to improvements in respiratory function, sleep, wellbeing and more.
Breathing Basics: How the Nose Filters, Warms and Humidifies Air
The nose plays a vital part in preparing inhaled air before it travels to the lungs. The nostrils filter out dust, allergens and other particles in the air. The turbinates, small shelves of bone covered with blood vessels along the nasal passages, help warm and humidify air as it flows through. Humidification moistens the air to prevent irritation of respiratory tissues. Warming incoming air to body temperature protects the lungs from temperature extremes. Overall, the nose provides the first line of defense against germs and foreign particles entering the airways.
Contrast With Mouth Breathing
When breathing through the mouth, air passes directly into the throat and lungs without being filtered, warmed and humidified. This can lead to dry mouth, bad breath and increased susceptibility to illness and allergic reactions. Dust, chemicals or bacteria have essentially a direct path into the body when bypassing the nasal passages. People may habitually breathe through their mouth or do so because of obstructed nasal airways. Identifying the cause of mouth breathing and taking steps to promote nasal breathing can provide important protections for respiratory health.
Potential Risks of Chronic Mouth Breathing
If mouth breathing becomes the normal habit, several problems can result:
- Reduced oxygenation – Without humidification, airways dry out and breathing effectiveness decreases.
- Sleep disorders – Snoring and sleep apnea episodes may increase from reduced airway diameter.
- Dental issues – The tongue resting on bottom teeth can cause orthodontic problems.
- Jaw misalignment – Keeping the mouth open strains facial muscles and affects jaw positioning.
- Increased allergies – Unfiltered air aggravates nasal tissues and reduces immune protections.
- Facial structure changes – Improper tongue positioning from chronic mouth breathing can affect facial development.
These potential issues demonstrate why cultivating nasal breathing whenever possible is ideal, especially for children and their developing airways and facial structure.
Tips for Clearing Congestion to Allow Nasal Breathing
Certain techniques can help open nasal passages to make breathing through the nose easier:
- Steam inhalation – Breathing warm, moist air loosens mucus to clear nasal congestion.
- Saline spray – Saltwater solutions help thin mucus and moisten nasal tissues.
- Nasal strips – Adhesive bands open nasal passages by lifting the sides of the nose.
- Nasal dilators – Plastic stents in each nostril help open and expand nasal valves.
- Decongestants – Oral or nasal sprays constrict blood vessels in the nose to reduce swelling.
- Antihistamines – Blocking histamine can reduce inflammation and allergic reactions.
- Aerobic exercise – Increased respiration and blood flow helps mobilize and clear mucus.
Practice Breathing Exercises Through the Nose
Purposeful breathing techniques can retrain habitual mouth breathing patterns:
- Belly breathing – Place one hand on the abdomen to feel it expand with inhalation.
- Count breathing – Slowly inhale for a count of 4, hold for 7, exhale for 8. Repeat.
- Pursed lip breathing – Breathe in through the nose and out through pursed lips to build abdominal pressure.
- Alternate nostril breathing – Close one nostril and inhale, then switch sides to exhale through the first nostril.
Performing these simple exercises for 5-10 minutes daily can strengthen nose breathing habits over time. Yoga and breathwork practices also incorporate beneficial nasal breathing techniques.
How Sleep Apnea Relates to Nasal Breathing
Since nasal breathing warms and humidifies air, it can help reduce snoring and sleep apnea effects. Breathing through the mouth worsens dryness and collapse of the upper airway during sleep. This intensifies oxygen desaturations, fragmented sleep, and other dangers of sleep disorders. Using CPAP therapy with a full face mask that covers both nose and mouth can treat apnea while ensuring nasal air intake.
Adjusting Daily Habits to Favor Nasal Breathing
Lifestyle adjustments can further encourage nose breathing:
- Maintain upright posture to keep airways open.
- Exercise moderately to increase lung capacity.
- Hydrate regularly to keep nasal tissues moist.
- Use air filters and ventilation systems to reduce allergens.
- Avoid alcohol and antihistamines that increase nasal congestion.
- Keep living spaces clean to minimize dust and irritants.
With practice, these changes become healthy lifelong habits for ideal nasal breathing.
Consulting Health Professionals About Nasal Breathing
For chronic nasal obstruction or mouth breathing, see a doctor to identify potential causes and solutions. An ENT specialist can check for structural abnormalities in nasal passages. Allergists can test for environmental sensitivities contributing to congestion. Sleep doctors can assess for sleep disordered breathing. Myofunctional therapists retrain faulty oral habits. Orthodontists and dentists address dental issues and proper tongue positioning. With collaborative care, problems can be pinpointed and effective treatments coordinated.
The Optimal Route for Respiration
Breathing through the nose provides natural air filtration, humidification, and airway resistance that benefits the lungs and overall health. By understanding the advantages of nasal breathing and striving to make it habitual, the respiratory system can function at its peak. Addressing any obstacles with professional help allows for ideal air intake on the passage to the lungs. Keep the breath flowing through the nose for improved wellbeing.
Q & A on Nasal Breathing
Q: Why is nasal breathing better than mouth breathing?
A: The nose filters, warms, and humidifies incoming air before it reaches the lungs. This protects the airways and provides better oxygenation.
Q: What causes someone to breathe through their mouth?
A: Nasal congestion, obstructed airways, sleep apnea, habitual preference, jaw misalignment, and enlarged adenoids/tonsils can all cause mouth breathing.
Q: How can I clear a stuffy nose to breathe better?
A: Try saline spray, nasal strips, steam inhalation, exercise, antihistamines, or decongestants. See an ENT doctor if congestion persists.
Q: What are some long term effects of mouth breathing?
A: Chronic mouth breathing can lead to sleep disorders, poor oxygenation, dental problems, improper facial development, and increased allergies.
Q: What lifestyle changes promote nasal breathing?
A: Maintain good posture, exercise moderately, stay hydrated, use air filters, and keep living spaces clean. Avoid alcohol and antihistamines that cause nasal congestion.