Mouth breathing is one of the common problems faced by people across the world. To find out more about mouth breathing and its effects on the body, James Nestor, let Stanford University scientists block his nostrils with silicone and surgical tape to analyse the impacts of breathing through the mouth for ten days.
“We knew it wasn’t going to be good, because there’s a very firm scientific foundation showing all the deleterious effects of mouth breathing, from periodontal disease to metabolic disorders,” Nestor said, who is currently writing a book, called “Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art”.
The team found that Nestor’s blood pressure rose 13 points, pushing the writer into stage one hypertension. His heart rate variability measurements showed his body was in a state of stress. The body’s pulse went up, and he stumbled around in a mental fog. The writer was also snoring for hours each night, resulting in obstructive sleep apnea. The results surprised everyone because they came on quickly.
Aside from the hazards of being a research subject, Nestor learned that mouth breathing could ruin a good night’s sleep. When you breathe through the mouth at night, you are at considerable risk for sleep disorders including snoring, sleep apnea and hypopnea, and the partial blockage of air. All of these can lead to daytime fatigue.
What causes nighttime mouth breathing?
There are various reasons which may cause people to breathe through their mouths at night. One of the most common reasons is that the nose is stuffy. If you are suffering from allergies, if you have a deviated septum or if you are taking medications, all these can cause nasal congestion. But if you lie down, then this problem can be aggravated.
Because when you lie down, the blood vessels inside your nose fills up with blood, causing swelling and constriction. When you are not able to breathe through your nose, you’re most likely to open your mouth for air. But this does not help you sleep better. Rather reverse happens. Your airway gets restricted as you open your jaws because the tongue slumps backwards.
If you don’t know that you are sleeping through your mouth, look for the signs of dry mouth or lingering tiredness. Frequently visiting the bathroom during the night is another sign of disturbed sleep.
How can you fix it?
If you are breathing through your mouth, start by taking care of your nose to minimize congestion. You can prevent mouth breathing by taking the following tips:
- Avoid eating close to bedtime because stomach juices can come up into your sinuses, nose, ears and mouth, causing congestion and inflammation.
- Perform nasal saline irrigation, which involves flushing the nose with saltwater in a squeeze bottle or neti pot.
- You can also find relief from nasal strips, which helps in opening up the nose from the outside, or nasal dilators that expand air passages from within.
- If you want to break the habit of mouth breathing, then seek out products that secure the lips to close at night, such as Somnifix or Snorless strips.