Is mouth breathing making you sick?

breathe energy sleep May 29, 2021

For many of us breathing is an automatic activity, one that we don’t have to think too much about. "Thank goodness", I can hear you saying, because you have enough on your plate!


However, breathing is fundamental to your ongoing health and work performance. If you are eating well, hydrating your body and allowing enough time to sleep but still struggling to feel fully awake, mouth breathing could be the culprit. Some signs you’re mouth breathing includes dry mouth, bad breath, teeth grinding, night waking, snoring and dark circles under the eyes.


"Mouth breathing occurs if you breathe with your mouth open or with parted lips."


What mouth breathing does:

1. Reduces your energy: even though mouth breathing allows up to 6 times the amount of oxygen into your respiratory system, it doesn’t get to go where it needs to and as a result has to come back out again. For oxygen to be transported in our blood it needs carbon-dioxide, so having carbon-dioxide in our body is just as important as oxygen. With more oxygen than carbon-dioxide you will produce less energy, much less efficiently and get tired more quickly.


2. Activates your fight or flight mode: breathing through your mouth sends a signal to the brain that you are in an emergency, and it needs to prepare to escape, fight or freeze. A good example of this is when you get a fright, you take a big breath with your chest and shoulders. This response is only effective to deal with a real emergency for a short period of time. If your fight or flight mode is on permanently it will wear you out and could lead to ongoing fatigue.


3. By-passes your automatic filtering system: the nose filters out small particles and bacteria and warms and moistens the air to prevent dryness in the lungs and bronchial tubes. Breathing through the mouth is akin to trauma for the windpipe on a regular basis, inviting in bacteria and risking respiratory tract infections. Nose breathing adds resistance to the air stream, increasing the oxygen uptake and maintains the lungs elasticity.


4. Reduces nitric oxide: each time you breathe through your nose, it produces nitric oxide. Mouth breathing reduces production by 50%. Nitric oxide is a neurotransmitter, immunoregulator and vasodilator, particularly in the gut and the lungs. It regulates blood pressure, boosts the immune system, fights bacteria and viruses, and it increases blood flow to cells, in muscular control and balance, and protects against cardiovascular disease, impotence, diabetic retinopathy, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.


5. Increases over breathing: while nose breathing can too, mouth breathing significantly increases the likelihood of over breathing. Over breathing is when breathing occurs too often as well as with too much volume. The body’s reaction to counter this is to either create apnoea episodes or constrict and spasm of the smooth muscle surrounding your breathing tubes (this reaction is typical of symptoms seen in asthma and breathing difficulties). Unfortunately, this can create a flow on affect and affect other systems in your body serviced by tubes contributing directly to or predisposing you to a number of ailments: fatigue, asthma and breathing difficulties, snoring and apnoea, headaches and migraines, anxiety, IBS, reflux and other digestive complaints, chronic pain and many more.


How to stop mouth breathing

Once you have caught yourself mouth breathing, it’s a good idea to take action straightaway. If you are mouth breathing during the day, then there is a very good chance you are mouth breathing at night.


  • Make a conscious effort during the day to check that you are breathing through your nose. This will increase the chances of you breathing through your nose at night while you are sleeping. Perhaps set a reminder in your calendar or smartphone for you to check your breathing throughout the day.


  • Check your posture regularly. Your shoulders and hips need to be in line with one another and your head should not extend forward unnaturally, when seated. Mouth breathing can sometimes be an adaptive response to poor posture. A good posture will support the diaphragm and diaphragmatic breathing.


  • Without knowing your sleep set-up, you may want to try sleeping on your side. Sleeping on your back encourages you to take larger breaths and breathe out through your mouth to get rid of excess air.


If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact me.


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