How to Stop Mouth Breathing at Night

You are a fire fighter, and you’re working on putting out a raging forest fire. Breathing in smoke is not good for your lungs; prevent it by doing mouth breathing instead of nose breathing at night to avoid getting sick.

The “how to breathe through nose at night” is a technique that people have used for centuries. It can be very helpful in stopping mouth breathing and it’s also effective at preventing snoring.

For the last month or two, this has been my nighttime routine:

Remove your contacts. Floss and brush your teeth. Make a prayer. Get a book and read it. Tape the inside of your mouth shut. 

*Scratch the record*

“Are you going to tape your lips shut?” Brett, are you serious? You’re a strangeo.”

Yes, that’s strange, but there’s a reason behind it. 

Reading Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art in preparation for the podcast’s discussion with its author, James Nestor, gave me the idea. Nestor presents information on how breathing out of your mouth is dangerous for you, particularly when you’re sleeping, in his book and in our chat. He then offers a simple solution for persistent nighttime mouth breathing: tape your kisser shut. 

Here’s why it works, and why, despite the initial strangeness, you should give it a go.

The Drawbacks of Mouth Breathing at Night

When Nestor looked into breathing studies, he discovered that the nose had been preferred above the mouth as the principal channel for inhalation for thousands of years and in many cultures throughout the globe. The oxygen content of air inhaled via the former is higher, and it is moistened and filtered in the nasal passages. Breathing via the mouth, on the other hand, has none of these advantages and, when done excessively late at night, might lead to the following issues:

Snoring. When you breathe through your mouth, the soft tissue at the back of your throat vibrates more than when you breathe through your nose, and this vibration may cause snoring. Furthermore, breathing via an open mouth causes your tongue to sink back into your throat, constricting your airway. When your airway is narrowed, the air you breathe in is more likely to cause snoring reverberations in your throat tissue.

Snoring isn’t only annoying to your partner; it may also indicate a more significant sleep problem, such as… 

Apnea (sleep deprivation). Sleep apnea is a condition in which you stop breathing while sleeping. You have more times when your breathing stops or gets extremely shallow than normal, and these breathing pauses make your sleep less peaceful and restorative, resulting to a variety of health issues such as weariness, high blood pressure, stress, depression, and headaches. 

Sleep apnea is caused in large part by mouth breathing during night. Snoring occurs when you breathe through your mouth while sleeping because the airway in your throat constricts. Sleep apnea occurs when the soft tissue at the back of your throat contracts entirely, obstructing your airway. 

Nestor discovered this for himself after a 10-day experiment in which he had his nose completely sealed by a doctor and could only breathe via his mouth. He went from being an occasional snorer to snoring for four hours every night, eventually acquiring obstructive sleep apnea. Tests revealed that his body was under more stress throughout the day, and his blood pressure had risen 13 points, placing him in stage one hypertension. During the day, he was particularly tired.

 

Bad breath is a problem. If your breath smells like a dirty diaper when you wake up, it’s most likely because you slept with your mouth open all night. Nature’s mouthwash is saliva. It contains antibiotic chemicals that eliminate germs that cause odor. When you sleep with your mouth open, the saliva that kills foul breath evaporates, leaving you with stinking morning breath when you wake up. 

Periodontal disease is a kind of gum disease that affects the teeth and Keeping your gums healthy is mostly a question of sticking to a regular brushing and flossing regimen (which isn’t always easy; here’s how I eventually got into the habit of flossing). Stopping overnight mouth breathing, on the other hand, may help with gum health. Saliva aids in the killing of the germs that cause gingivitis in our mouths. When you breathe with your mouth open at night, that saliva dries up, allowing those small germs to multiply and fester, inflaming your gums.

Why Do We Breathe Through Our Mouths at Night?

Why do we do it if mouth breathing is so hazardous for us at night? There are various reasons for this widespread preference for oral inhalation:

Congestion in the nose. When their nostrils are plugged up due to allergies or a cold, many people breathe via their lips. But here’s the kicker: breathing through your mouth may actually worsen nasal congestion, leading to even more mouth breathing. It’s a never-ending loop!

In Breath, Nestor writes, “When the nasal canal becomes clogged, airflow diminishes and germs multiply.” “These bacteria multiply, causing infections, colds, and increased congestion.” Congestion breeds congestion, leaving us with little choice except to breathe through our mouths.”

Nestor’s sniffer became more blocked up as the germs in his sinuses multiplied after he had his nose sealed for ten days straight, converting him into a strict mouth breather. When the experiment’s doctor removed the plugs at the end, he looked into Nestor’s nostrils with an endoscope and found a soupy tangle of congestion. 

So, how can you interrupt the loop of mouth-breathing-induced nasal congestion and reclaim your ability to breathe through your nose? To open things up, Dr. Jayakar V. Nayak, the doctor who closed Nestor’s nostrils, suggests using a saline nasal spray and a low-dose steroid spray (like Rhinocort). Both are available over-the-counter at pharmacies. 

You may start breathing through your nose again while sleeping after it is decongested.

Septum deviated. A deviated septum is another reason why individuals breathe through their mouth while sleeping. When the thin wall between your nasal passages shifts off-center, one nasal tube becomes narrower than the other and airflow is reduced. This is known as a deviated septum. People with this illness are more prone to experience congestion. Decongestants may aid in the removal of toxins. Severely deviated septums frequently need nasal repair. 

Habit. If you don’t have a deviated septum or aren’t congested, but nevertheless breathe through your mouth when sleeping, it’s most likely due to a learned proclivity. Perhaps you picked up the habit after a spell of terrible congestion as a child that forced you to sleep with your mouth wide for weeks or months. 

 

I’m aware that I’m a member of this group. I used to suffer sinus infections every autumn and winter as a child, and I’d have a clogged up nose for five months out of the year, forcing me to breathe through my mouth at night. I’m thirty years later, and when I sleep, I still breathe mostly via my lips.

While I haven’t had sleep apnea, I do snore on occasion, wake up with a dry mouth and poor breath every morning, and receive tsk-tsks from my dental hygienist about my gum inflammation.

So, if you sleep with your lips open, how can you stop the behavior while you’re asleep and unresponsive to the outside world?

How a Small Piece of Tape Can Help You Stop Mouth Breathing at Night

Easy. It prevents you from speaking.

The tape is designed to educate your lips to remain closed, allowing you to breathe mostly via your nose. You won’t need the tape after you’ve gotten into the habit of breathing through your nose.

It isn’t a novel concept to train one’s mouth to close at night. In his book Breath, Nestor mentions Native American tribes whose mothers would softly close their newborns’ lips while they slept to teach them to breathe via their nostrils. To accomplish the same appearance, a 19th century doctor called George Catalin suggested wrapping a bandage over your mouth at night like the ghost of Jacob Marley.

Special “sleep tape” has been created in recent years that you may adhere to your lips in a variety of ways. Nestor, on the other hand, was advised by breathing specialists to choose a procedure that is both easy and inexpensive.

Simply go to your local pharmacy and get some hypoallergenic micropore tape. It will only cost you a $1 to get a roll. Tear a little square — all you need is a small strip about the size of a postage stamp — and lay it in the middle of your closed lips before going to sleep. If you need to breathe through your mouth or cough at night, putting it here holds your mouth together and leaves some space on the sides of your mouth open. 

I began tape my lips shut at night about a month ago, and the effects have been pleasantly surprising. To be true, the first night was a little odd. I recall waking up in the middle of the night, befuddled, trying to figure out why I couldn’t open my lips. I cleaned my mouth pretty hard in my half-awake condition, thinking I had ejected some type of goop that had dried up and sealed my lips together, so I took the tape off in the process. I made it all the way until daylight the following night with the tape still on.

Kate says I’m not snoring anymore, and my mouth is less dry and smells better. I’ve also found that my regular allergy-induced nasal congestion is diminishing. I’ve had a few evenings were I’ve been stuffy before bed, and when I first placed the tape over my lips, I felt like I was suffocating for a few minutes (having that space open on the sides of the tape gave me some air). However, after wearing the tape for a bit, my nasal passages began to clear up, and I was able to breathe only via my nose. 

 

Overall, I’m pleased with how this strange experiment has turned out. Is breathing via my nose while sleeping a life-changing experience for me? Not much, but I believe it’s worth doing since it’s so simple and has a great bit of potential. The only drawback is that it prevents me from talking to Kate on the pillow; after I tape up and lie down, I can only make muttering, grunting sounds.

If you’re not going to attempt to stop your mouth breathing habit at night, at the very least try to concentrate on breathing through your nose during the day, when you have more control. Nestor emphasized in my audio interview that switching from mouth to nose breathing is the single most important thing individuals can do to enhance their breathing and, by extension, their general health. 

For more information about breathing, listen to my chat with Nestor: 

 

 

 

Watch This Video-

The “exercises to stop mouth breathing” is a way for people with sleep apnea to avoid waking up in the middle of the night. The exercises are simple and can be done at home.

Frequently Asked Questions

What causes mouth breathing at night?

A: Mouth breathing is a sleep-disrupting symptom. Its often caused by snoring, and sometimes can be related to obstructive sleep apnea.

Is mouth breathing at night normal?

A: Mouth breathing is a normal way for our body to clear the airways by using nostrils.

Is it bad to sleep with mouth open?

A: It is better to sleep with your mouth closed to prevent the risk of choking, or an infection.

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