Breathing is something we all do with little to no thought involved. We do not have to remind ourselves to breathe; we just do it. For most of our day-to-day lives, breathing requires no conscious effort. Be that as it may, paying attention to how you breathe is still important. This means paying attention to which method of breathing you use more: nose breathing or mouth breathing.

It is better for you to breathe through your nose rather than your mouth. Nose breathing is more natural and allows air inhaled to be used more efficiently. Even with this information easily accessible thanks to the internet, as many as half of all adults breathe through their mouths. This tendency to prefer mouth breathing leads to problems such as bad breath, dry mouth, and sub-optimal air utilization. Furthermore, mouth breathing can lead to sleeping problems. If you are at all concerned about your health, you know quality sleep is essential.

If you notice you favor mouth breathing over nose breathing, it might be time to go see your doctor and get to the root of the problem. By learning about and eliminating the cause of mouth breathing, you can learn to focus on nose breathing and reap those benefits.

How do nose breathing and mouth breathing differ?

As humans, we only have two methods for breathing available to us. The nose and the mouth are how we breathe. Both are connected to the throat, which is connected to our lungs. Even though both pathways lead to the same destination, there are still differences. Like with any fork in the road, the journey will look a little different depending on the path you take. Let’s explore more of what differences there are between nose breathing and mouth breathing.

What is mouth breathing?

The mouth is a very multi-functional tool. We use it to eat, drink, talk, spit, cough, whistle, and so much more. While we can use our mouths to breathe, it is not as optimized for breathing as the nose is. Mouth breathing does have its purpose, but usually due to some obstruction in the nasal pathway. Some reasons mouth breathing would be necessary include:

  • nasal congestion
  • deviated septum

Even if you have a good reason for breathing through your mouth, there are health risks involved. As you breathe through your mouth, your mouth becomes dry. This dry mouth can increase your risk of developing:

  • asthma
  • bad breath
  • tooth decay
  • dental issues such as gingivitis
  • sleeping disorders
  • poor concentration
  • teeth and jaw abnormalities

Mouth breathing has its place but should be used sparingly and only when necessary.

What is nose breathing?

The nose is specifically designed for breathing, so has many advantages over mouth breathing. Nose breathing can do things such as:

  • filter foreign substances
  • humidify inhaled air
  • increase oxygen uptake
  • improve lung capacity
  • slow down breathing
  • strengthen the diaphragm

These benefits are not all the benefits you can acquire through nose breathing but does serve to give you a general idea of nose breathing benefits.

How is nose breathing better than mouth breathing?

The nose is designed to improve the quality of air we inhale. The nose helps us breathe safely and efficiently. Our noses have a few key attributes that make them superior for breathing when compared to the mouth. Let’s take a look at some of these advantages the nose has over the mouth.

Humidifies inhaled air.

When we breathe in through our noses, the nose warms and moisturizes the air. This makes sure the air we take into our lungs is body temperature. This in turn makes the air easier for the lungs to use.

Filters out unwanted particles.

Our nose hairs act as a built-in filter. These hairs trap pollen, dust, allergens, and other unwanted particles and keep them from entering the lungs. Nose hairs can do this because they are coated with a thin layer of sticky mucus. Over time, you will sneeze out or swallow what was trapped in the nose. The nose also has cilia in it, which are microscopic hairs that keep particles away from the lungs.

Produces nitric oxide (NO).

This is the benefit I wanted to highlight. Nose breathing can help promote the production of nitric oxide in our bodies. During nasal breathing, the nose will release nitric oxide. Another benefit of breathing through the nose is that doing so allows us to breathe in slowly and deeply. This allows for more oxygen to be taken in deliberately when compared to the big gulps of the air we intake when we breathe through the mouth. Since we take in more air when we nose breathe, we increase the nitric oxide production potential when we nose breathe.

Nitric oxide is a vasodilator, which means it widens blood vessels when produced. Nose breathing allows more oxygen to be inhaled, and nitric oxide widens blood vessels. Put these together, and you have a recipe for promoting improved oxygen delivery and utilization throughout the body. Furthermore, nose breathing is something you can do today to improve your nitric oxide production without needing to add anything to your daily life like a new food or a new supplement.

How do we stop mouth breathing?

Remember, mouth breathing does have some benefits. Mouth breathing can be necessary when the nose is congested or injured. We also need to breathe through our mouths more when we are sick. Mouth breathing can also come in handy during strenuous work when our muscles need rapid bursts of oxygen. Nose breathing is more difficult during exercise, so mouth breathing is used to increase ventilation volume for increased oxygen levels.

However, mouth breathing is still inferior overall to nose breathing and there are multiple ways to decrease your mouth breathing. To promote more nasal breathing, figuring out why you mouth breathe is the necessary first step. For some, a visit to a sleep or breathing specialist might be needed. However, you can go through the following list of suspects and try to eliminate these common issues to improve your nose breathing.

Clear your nostrils.

This one is going to be helpful to the vast majority of readers. Obstructed airways are a major cause of mouth breathing. Cleaning out your nasal passages can help make nose breathing easier. Nasal irrigation via a neti pot is great for cleaning out the nasal passageways. A neti pot will flush out any trapped particles, thin out some mucus, and relieve congestion. All of these will make nose breathing easier. Neti pots are also useful for relieving symptoms of sinus infections, colds, and other illnesses associated with congestion.

Some other remedies for obstructed nostrils are eucalyptus oil and vapor rub. Both will help open up your airways and loosen up mucus. Rubbing vapor rub on your chest and/or adding eucalyptus oil to steaming water and breathing it in will both improve nasal breathing capacity.

Practice nose breathing.

If mouth breathing is more of a habit than a necessity, you just need to practice nose breathing to break that habit. You do this by being more mindful of your breathing patterns throughout the day.

Pay attention to how you are breathing. If you notice you are mouth breathing, redirect your breathing on the spot. Some nasal breathing exercises can also help improve nose breathing, and we will talk more about that soon.

Change how you sleep.

Some sleeping positions are better than others. Because of this, changing your sleeping position can improve both how you sleep and how you breathe. For many, the big culprit is sleeping on your back.

Sleeping on your back can cause mouth breathing because it causes upper airway resistance. This forces you to take heavier breaths. When you stop sleeping on your back, you can also reduce sleep apnea.

If you need to change your sleeping position, look into elevating your head above the rest of your body, or sleeping on your side with a pillow between your legs to maintain a neutral spine. If you have the money to spare, an adjustable mattress would be a great investment as well. All of these sleep changes can make nose breathing easier.

How do we improve nose breathing?

If you have implemented the tactics above to decrease mouth breathing, you can still improve nose breathing using a variety of nose breathing exercises. Breathing exercises can improve not only your nose breathing but also your lung function and respiratory strength. Furthermore breathing exercises can reduce stress and anxiety. This requires practice and will take some time to feel natural, but if you stick to it you can vastly improve your nose breathing.

Let’s check out a couple of common breathing exercises you can start practicing even while you read this article.

Timed breathing.

This one is fantastic for slowing down your breathing and focuses on the proper technique of inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth. Here is how it works:

  1. Inhale for 7 seconds through your nose at a steady pace.
  2. Hold your breath for 3 seconds.
  3. Exhale through your mouth for 4 seconds.

You can add time or decrease times spent inhaling, holding your breath, or exhaling as needed based on your current capacity. This exercise not only improves nose breathing but also works to improve your lung capacity as a whole. This exercise is my personal favorite because you can progress or scale the exercise as needed to start at a level suited for your capabilities and track improvements over time.

Belly breathing.

Abdominal breathing and diaphragmatic breathing are other terms for belly breathing. This involves taking slow and deep breaths through your nose. This exercise, like most breathing exercises, can be performed anywhere at any time. You can do this one lying down or seated, so get comfortable and give it a go. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Close your mouth. Put one hand on your belly and one on your chest.
  2. Breathe in slowly through your nose, letting the belly expand. Your chest should not move at all.
  3. Exhale slowly through the mouth and repeat.

The Takeaway

What you need to know is that nose breathing is better for you than mouth breathing. Nose breathing is healthier, safer, and more efficient for your body. Breathing through your nose can filter out unwanted particles, can boost your nitric oxide production, boost oxygen uptake, and humidity the air you breathe. Practice the techniques above and implement this little-known nitric oxide boosting hack today!

Nose Breathing:  A Nitric Oxide Boosting Hack