The Advantages of Proper Nasal Breathing.
How the Nose Filters, Warms and Humidifies Incoming Air
The nose serves as the first line of defense against airborne irritants and pathogens entering the lungs. The nostrils use tiny hairs and mucus to trap dust, pollen, bacteria and other particles, preventing them from entering the airways. This filtration process reduces inflammation or infection risk.
As inhaled air moves through the nasal passages, the turbinates—shelf-like bones covered in blood vessels—help warm and humidify the air before it reaches the throat and lungs. This is crucial, as dry or cold air can irritate the airway linings. The nasal passages add moisture and heat to air, optimizing its temperature and humidity for the sensitive lung tissues. Proper conditioning of incoming air facilitates effective gas exchange in the lungs.
How the Nose Increases Nitric Oxide Production
Breathing through the nose may also boost nitric oxide production. This important molecule signals the lungs to expand blood vessels, improving circulation. More oxygenated blood can then reach body tissues. Recent studies found those who breathe through their nose have higher nitric oxide levels than mouth breathers. This indicates another advantage of nasal breathing.
Mouth Breathing Risks
Bypassing the filtering, warming and humidifying functions of the nose by breathing through the mouth has consequences. Mouth breathing delivers unpurified air directly to the throat and lungs, allowing irritants, allergens and viruses access. It also pulls dry, cold air into airways, potentially aggravating them.
Chronic mouth breathing develops in those with nasal obstructions like enlarged adenoids or deviated septum. Others simply get in the habit of breathing through their mouth. Regardless of the cause, research links mouth breathing to:
- Reduced immune function from inhaling unfiltered air
- Increased risk for illness, allergies and asthma
- Sleep disorders like snoring or sleep apnea
- Halitosis (bad breath) from dry mouth
- Dental problems as the tongue pushes on teeth
- Facial structure changes from improper tongue position
- Reduced stamina and sports performance from inadequate air conditioning
This makes cultivating nasal breathing important for both children and adults to avoid these potential issues.
Techniques to Open Nasal Airflow
Certain methods can help open nasal passages for improved airflow:
- Steam inhalation – Breathing warm, moist air loosens nasal mucus to promote drainage.
- Saline spray or irrigation – Saltwater solutions moisten nasal tissues and rinse out mucus.
- Nasal strips – Adhesive bands lift the sides of the nose to expand nasal valves.
- Nasal dilation – Plastic stents inserted in the nostrils stabilize and open nasal passages.
- Exercise – Increased respiration and blood flow helps clear congestion.
- Hydration – Drinking water keeps nasal membranes moist.
- Humidifiers – Adding moisture to the air prevents dry nasal passages.
- Decongestants – Oral or nasal sprays constrict blood vessels to reduce swelling.
- Antihistamines – Blocking histamine can reduce allergic swelling and inflammation.
- Allergy treatment – Reducing exposure to triggers like dust prevents congestion.
- Structural correction – Fixing a deviated septum or removing polyps opens airflow.
Breathing Exercises for Nasal Breathing
Simple breathing exercises can retrain the body and mind toward proper nasal breathing technique:
- Diaphragmatic breathing – Place one hand on the chest, one on the abdomen. Inhale through the nose, pulling air deep into the belly. Exhale through slightly pursed lips.
- Counting breaths – Inhale smoothly for a count of 4, hold for 7, exhale for 8. Repeat. Use belly breathing.
- Alternate nostril breathing – Close one nostril, inhale through the open nostril. Switch sides to exhale. Repeat.
- Pursed lip breathing – Inhale through the nose and exhale through lightly pursed lips. Adds resistance to exercise the lungs.
- Kapalabhati breathing – Take short, pulsed inhales and forcefully exhale by contracting the abdomen. Can clear nasal passages.
Aim to practice proper nasal breathing exercises 10-15 minutes daily. Yoga, breathwork techniques and meditation can also reinforce healthy nasal breathing habits.
Optimal Sleep Positions for Nasal Breathing
Nasal breathing enhances sleep quality by ensuring adequate oxygenation and proper carbon dioxide levels. This helps signal the brain to continue breathing during sleep. While certain positions can make nasal breathing more difficult, try these tips:
- Sleep on your side to keep airways open. Avoid sleeping on the back.
- Use extra pillows to stay propped on your side if needed.
- Raise the head of your bed by 4-6 inches to leverage gravity.
- Avoid constrictive pajamas or tight bedding that can limit chest expansion.
- Consider a nasal dilator if congested. Open mouth just enough to prevent chin tilting up and back.
- Keep the room humidity between 30-50% to prevent dryness.
Lifestyle Adjustments for Ideal Nasal Breathing
Additional lifestyle modifications promote healthy nasal breathing function:
- Exercise aerobically to increase lung capacity and stimulate nasal nitric oxide production.
- Drink plenty of fluids to keep nasal tissues moisturized.
- Use a humidifier, especially in dry climates or seasons.
- Reduce alcohol consumption which can inflame nasal passages.
- Quit smoking and avoid secondhand smoke exposures to protect nasal health.
- Adopt good posture by sitting and standing tall to keep airways open.
- Prioritize stress management through yoga, meditation, or therapeutic breathing exercises.
Cultivating these daily habits trains the body toward proper nasal breathing technique for lasting rewards.
Consulting Health Experts About Nasal Issues
For chronic congestion, obstruction, or mouth breathing, seek medical guidance to identify solutions. ENT doctors can check for structural abnormalities in nasal anatomy. Allergists can test for environmental triggers causing swelling. Sleep specialists may diagnose disorders like sleep apnea aggravated by mouth breathing. Respiratory therapists teach breath training techniques. With a coordinated care plan, impediments to nasal breathing can be effectively addressed.
The Optimal Airway for Respiration
The nose serves as the ideal entry point for breathing, conditioning incoming air and providing immune defenses before it travels to the lungs. Make nasal breathing the priority by understanding its advantages, practicing breath training, optimizing sleep positions, and consulting experts when needed. Keep the airflow through the nose for whole body benefits.
Q&A About Nasal Breathing
Q: Why is breathing through your nose better than your mouth?
A: The nose filters, warms and humidifies air before it reaches lungs. This protects from illness.
Q: What health problems can mouth breathing cause?
A: It may lead to poor immunity, dental issues, sleep disorders, facial structure changes, and lower stamina.
Q: How can I clear a stuffy nose to breathe better?
A: Try steam, saltwater rinses, exercise, hydration, decongestants, antihistamines, or structural corrections.
Q: What lifestyle habits promote nasal breathing?
A: Good posture, exercise, hydration, humidifiers, reducing smoking/alcohol, and stress management.
Q: When should I see a doctor for nasal breathing issues?
A: If congestion is chronic or structural problems are suspected, see an ENT doctor or allergist.