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Nasal Breathing Vs. Mouth Breathing - 7 Benefits of Nasal Breathing

blog Jan 04, 2021

MOUTH breathing and NASAL breathing - ⁣⁣
I like people watching, you can learn alot about human tendencies when sitting in a coffee shop, or in this case, the gym.  Before everyone wore masks in the gym, I would do a little experiment.  While I was warming up on the treadmill before a session, I would look around and count how many people were breathing through their nose, or how many people were slack jawed mindlessly breathing through a gapped mouth.  ⁣⁣
Here's a common misconception:  People think that breathing through their mouths will provide more oxygen into their body will give them more energy. But the opposite is happening here.   Although you can inhale quicker through the mouth, what you want is that air to be slowed down and pressurized, which will allow you to work more efficiently. When breathing through the nose, your heart rate is going to stay lower as the intensity of your exercise increases.  ⁣⁣
THAT is optimal performance; the ability to expend less energy by doing more so you can push harder. ⁣⁣
After diving into some of the concepts in Brian MacKenzie book, The Oxygen Advantage, I've become very aware of this, and even have begun wearing nasal straps when I sleep to avoid mouth breathing. ⁣⁣
The problem with mouth breathing is that you're wasting the power of the nose organ. ⁣⁣
If you see the human head cut down the middle from front to the back,  the sinus passages of the nose would be about the size of a golf ball. As air enters in through these passages, it's heated up, filtered, moistened, conditioned, and pressurized. All of those things make this air so much easier to absorb. Just breathing through the nose, you will get 20% more oxygen equivalent breaths than through the mouth. ⁣⁣
Nasal breathing vs mouth breathing also has considerable effects on your BRAIN & COGNITIVE FUNCTIONING, SLEEP CYCLES, ADRENALINE RESPONSE, FACIAL SHAPE & MORE!  Lets dig into it more:

1. Nasal breathing will help your sleep

Optimal sleep is critical for optimal health, and there is plenty of science to show the correlation between poor sleep and improper breathing techniques, whether we're conscious or not.  Often people who suffer from sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, take short and shallow breaths through the mouth instead of breathing through the nose. Author of the book The Oxygen Advantage, Patrick McKeown was diagnosed with chronic asthma, and as the science later found, Patrick found that when people can consistently nasal breathe throughout the night, they were able to help mitigate the severity of their sleep disorders. 

Fun fact, in order to fall asleep we MUST be breathing under 60 breaths per minute.  Now admittedly, when I first discovered this I spent the next 4 nights literally counting breaths and ended up staying up far too late by focussing more on my breath count than becoming aware and solely focussed on the breath itself.  It will take time, but you will soon pick up the habit of breathing slower, and deeper in and out throughout the day, and it will transfer into your night.  In order to sleep we must be calm, cool, and relaxed enough to be able to fall asleep, which leads us into the next point.

2. Nasal breathing calms the brain:

Can't sleep unless your calm! Although we can consume oxygen faster through the mouth, we don't breathe as deeply.  The breaths are often shorter, more shallow in depth.  Instead, when we nasal breath it forces the oxygen into the lower lobes of the lungs.  Once the oxygen is in the lower lobes, the calming nerves of the parasympathetic nervous system activate.  This can even happen while we are experiencing stress, which can be an excellent preventative measure against overwhelming stress responses. even while under stress.

Fun fact:  We breath an estimated 26,000 times PER DAY!  And each time we breathe through the mouth and ignore the nose, we're ignoring a crucial opportunity to give a healthy massage your heart and lungs, help the body process CO2, and an opportunity to relieve the nervous system of stress.


3. Nasal breathing improves performance, both cognitive and physical:

Nasal breathing creates nitric oxide.  Don't know what nitric oxide is?  You should!  Does your man have erectile dysfunction?  WELL THEN YOU SHOULD DEFINITELY KNOW NITRIC OXIDE!  Nitric oxide is a vasodilator.  Vasodilators help to expand blood vessels to improve blood circulation which lowers blood pressure, boosts the immune system, improves exercise performance, increases brain function, and a host of other blood flow health problems. 

Dr. Rick Cohen, a specialist in nutritional medicine and sports performance for more than two decades says;

"Given that NO contributes directly to blood flow, oxygen delivery, glucose uptake, muscle velocity, power output, and muscle growth; a higher NO level may enhance an athlete’s overall performance and endurance — even among athletes who were already fit and healthy.

In fact, a number of studies have shown boosting nitric oxide can reduce the oxygen cost of exercise and improve the function of energy-producing mitochondria, resulting in a lower perceived effort and easier breathing during exercise, in addition to reduced muscle soreness and faster recovery following hard, physical efforts."

It's important to note that NO declines as we age, so it becomes even more important to not get lazy, and shut your mouth when you breath!

4. Nasal breathing helps with detoxification:

By breathing through your nose you get the oxygen into the lower lobes of the lungs which is where 60-80% of the blood-filled alveoli are. You are therefore clearing the waste from your blood more completely. The reason you huff and puff during exercise is that the upper lobes are less efficient at removing the CO2 waste.

5. Nasal breathing moves lymph fluids:

Do you like toxic waste in your body?  Well as you can imagine, neither do we.   And for that, the body created it's very own sewage system that relieves us of much of the junk we carry around called the lymphatic system. When we nasal breathe (especially during exercise!) our rib cage acts as a pump for lymphatic fluid which helps to move to move waste out of the heart and lungs, as well as pull toxic lymph from other parts of your body.

6. Nasal breathing for facial structure:

When you breathe through the mouth, the muscles in the cheeks have to work harder and become taut. When these muscles tauten, an external force is exerted on both the upper and lower jaw. The more frequently you breathe through the mouth, the greater the influence of these forces, which eventually can narrow the shape of the face as well as the dental arches. Having a more narrow face and dental arches could mean there’s less room in the mouth to accommodate the tongue—which drops down to the floor of the mouth, instead of resting against the roof of the mouth. This also makes the tongue more susceptible to sliding back into the airway when you lie down, which can cause a sleep breathing disorder such as sleep apnea.

As for the facial structure, the tongue dropping down into the floor of the mouth hinders mid-face development, which normally is pushed outward by the tongue when correctly positioned. Children who breathe through the mouth are more likely to develop facial structures that are long, narrow, have less prominent jaws, and a retracted chin. This creates an undesirable facial profile that may create self-esteem issues in a child.

7. Nasal breathing for oral health:

Saliva isn't just part of the first stage of digestion, it also plays an important role as a protective barrier inside our mouths keeping our membranes healthy.

Harvards Women's Health Watch says that "Open-mouth breathing can dry out your gums and the tissue lining your mouth, leading to a change in the natural bacteria, which can promote gum disease and tooth decay."

If we allow this harmful bacteria to grow, we risk the destruction of the important oral microbiome.  When our oral microbiome diminishes, it leaves our mouths susceptible to the development of gingivitis, periodontitis, receding gums, cavities, oral decay, and  just some plain nasty ass breath.  

So how do we fix this?  Shut your f^(#*ng mouth!

Do you mouth breath?  I did are some ways that you can begin to training yourself out of it!

  1. Nasal strips at night: So I tried two types of nasal openers (basically nasal plugs with holes in the middle) and those didn't work worth.  There is a good chance it's because I have a rather large nose, but they didn't work for me.  I picked up the Life brand latex free & drug free strips from a drug store and they work great. I've got pretty sensitive skin being a half-ginge, and I don't seem to have any irritation from them. HERE are the ones I picked up from my local drug store.
  2. Mouth taping:  Next step is mouth taping at night.  Does it look ridiculous?  You bet.  Have I tried this method yet?  Nope, because 1. I have a beard and 2. Sarah already laughs at me enough for wearing my red tinted blue-blocking glasses at night, and my ego is still recovering.  However, I have in the past recommended this to athletes who find themselves overly mouth breathing in sub maximal training exercises, as I would prefer my athletes to first perfect the mechanisms of the exercise before focussing on their breathing, so mouth tape it is.  Here is a brand that has been recommended to me before: SomniFix.  If it's out of stock, try some sensitive skin tape from your local drug store.
  3. Allergy Test:  Fortunately I know that my nose is congested from an obstructed nasal cavity (thanks hockey!), so I don't have an issue with allergies in relation to nasal breathing until spring time.  However, it could be what you eat, or something in your home that is causing this. 
  4. Don't eat close to bedtime:  Author of the book "Breathe" James Nestor says "Number one, avoid eating close to bedtime," he said. That's because stomach juices can come up into your nose, sinuses, ears and mouth, causing congestion and inflammation.
  5. Nasal Flushing:  Use a neti pot with a mild salt water solution.  Nestor says "That's a mild decongestant, because the salt water draws out clear water from the membrane,".  It should be noted that we don't recommend over-the-counter decongestant sprays, as they should only be used for short term use in emergency situations.  Don't rely on them!




Breathe through your nose 99% of the time. As Pulmonary Medicine Specialist Jason Turownski MD says;

"The only time you really need to temporarily resist natural nose breathing and engage in mouth-breathing is when you’re doing strenuous exercise and need more air to your lungs more quickly, or when your nasal passage is blocked due to congestion, allergies or a cold. But remember, this does however cancel most the benefits that breathing through your nose provides."

So what do you think?  Are you going to be more aware of your breathing from now on?  If you found this blog useful, please share it with someone you know!


A couple of resources:

These books are some AWESOME resources for learning the benefits of your breath!

The Oxygen Advantage - Patrick McKeown

Breathe - James Nestor

Here is a great article by Patrick McKeown that further proves the above points

Other references:

  • Ohki M, Usui N, Kanazawa H, Hara I, Kawano K. Relationship between oral breathing and nasal obstruction in patients with obstructive sleep apnoea. Acta Otolaryngol Suppl. 1996;523:228-30.
  • Lunn M, Craig T. Rhinitis and sleep. Sleep Med Rev. 2011 Oct;15(5):293-9
  • Muliol J, Maurer M, Bousquet J. Sleep and allergic rhinitis. Journal Investigation Allergol Clinical Immunology. 2008;18(6):415-9.
  • Recinto, C., Efthemeou, T., Boffelli, P., & Navalta, J. (2017, July 1). Effects of Nasal or Oral Breathing on Anaerobic Power Output and Metabolic Responses. Retrieved January 05, 2021, from


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