Nose Breathing Vs. Mouth Breathing: Which One Should You Prefer?

Introduction

Breathing is vital for life. It is a smooth, ongoing process, and it is often overlooked until and unless there is a health-related situation or a disease involving the respiratory system that hinders the overall working and quality of the breathing system, and raises concerns of a person.

Breathing problems are very common, and almost every person suffers from one of them once in their lifetime.  There are two pathways through which human beings breathe; the mouth and the nose. The majority of us do not bother with whichever type we breathe in, although it is the nasal breathing that more than half of us practice as our bodies are designed to breathe this way.   

What Is Nasal Breathing?

Nasal breathing, or breathing through the nose is the normal pattern of breathing. Our body has been designed in this way that breathing through the nose is considered to be the optimal form of breathing.

When we inhale air through the nose, it gets processed differently. The nose contains tiny hair called “Cilia” which filters the air and prevents the harmful elements present in the air from reaching inside the body. These cilia also work to alter the temperature of the air so that only the warm, humid, and moistened air reaches the nose. It is then pumped by the lungs to the whole body, and finally gets expelled out as expiration outside the body. 

Benefits of Nasal Breathing:

  • Breathing through the nose helps in protecting the body against potential infections and micro-organisms. The cilia assure that none of the harmful agents get inside the body, and kills them.  
  • Nasal breathing helps in maintaining the temperature of the body by only allowing an air of an optimal temperature to reach inside. It also keeps the inner temperature within balanced limits. 
  • Breathing through the nose also increases focus and helps in keeping the nervous system healthy and in perfect working condition. 

What Is Mouth Breathing?

Breathing through the mouth is considered to be a “back-up” plan of the body, and only occurs in people who either have an obstruction that prevents them from breathing through the nose or are suffering from some chronic illness that prevents them from doing so.

Breathing from the mouth is not considered to be an ideal condition, mainly because of the side-effects associated with them, and also because the mouth fails to perform an efficient job of carrying the germ-free air towards the lungs.

The mouth is not a specialized organ for carrying out the process of respiration. It does not have any cilia, and so, it does not filter the air at all. The resultant air that reaches the lungs is full of germs, dirt, and harmful microorganisms. 

Disadvantages of Mouth Breathing: 

  • When breathing takes place through the mouth, the bacteria and germs seem to enjoy an “open invitation” inside a human’s body, which causes him to be exposed to many potential, opportunistic infections. 
  • Breathing through the mouth also tends to slow down the natural respiration process which in turn reduces oxygenation, and can even cause dizziness and unconsciousness. 
  • It also exposes a person to potential disorders and conditions that he did not previously have, like snoring, sleep apnea, and jaw-related issues. 

Which Type Of Breathing Is The Best?

As it might be already obvious, breathing through the nose, or “Nasal Breathing” is the optimal type of breathing. It is not only beneficial for us because our body was programmed to breathe this way, but because this type of breathing activates many channels and mechanisms throughout the entire respiratory system which ensure a healthy functioning respiratory system. While on the other hand, breathing through the mouth has many hazardous effects on the body, and can even make things worse for a person. That is why it is better to opt for this type of breathing only when required under certain illnesses.

How To Stop Breathing From The Mouth?

Breathing through the mouth is never a good option. There are many ways to avoid breathing through the mouth, few of them include: 

  • Since most of the people who breathe through the mouth have developed this habit during sleeping, it is better to consciously avoid breathing this way when one is awake and try to breathe through the nose only.
  • At night, moisturize your lips with a moisturizing cream. Cut a small piece of tape and stick it over your lips, not to seal your mouth shut completely, but only to cover the center part, from where the breath is usually inhaled in. This is a temporary means of avoiding mouth breathing.
  • Practice nasal breathing by focusing on each inhale and exhale. This is a slow procedure, but would greatly help in eliminating mouth breathing.  

References 

  1. Morton AR, King K, Papalia S, Goodman C, Turley KR, Wilmore JH. Comparison of maximal oxygen consumption with oral and nasal breathing. Aust J Sci Med Sport. 1995;27(3):51-55.
  2. Recinto C, Efthemeou T, Boffelli PT, Navalta JW. Effects of Nasal or Oral Breathing on Anaerobic Power Output and Metabolic Responses. Int J Exerc Sci. 2017;10(4):506-514. Published 2017 Jul 1.
  3. Zheng W, Zhang X, Dong J, He J. Facial morphological characteristics of mouth breathers vs. nasal breathers: A systematic review and meta-analysis of lateral cephalometric data. Exp Ther Med. 2020;19(6):3738-3750. doi:10.3892/etm.2020.8611

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