Learning to breathe permanently through the nose is the first step to addressing overbreathing. The nose serves a number of very important functions, including the following:
- It warms and humidifies incoming air.
- It removes a significant amount of germs and bacteria.
- It results in more regular breathing (chaotic breathing disturbs blood gases, which can play a role in experiencing stress).
- Breathing through the mouth results in a dry mouth, which increases acidification of the mouth and results in more dental cavities and gum disease.
- Breathing through the mouth causes dehydration.
- Breathing through the mouth has been proven to significantly increase the number of occurrences of and severity of apnoeas.
- Breathing through the mouth is a significant cause of snoring.
In addition, children who breathe through their mouth develop lifelong craniofacial changes. When the mouth is closed, the resting position of the tongue is at the roof of the mouth. Each time you swallow, the tongue moves upwards and is flattened in the roof of the mouth; the action that forms the shape of the top jaw. A well-developed top jaw is U-shaped, and optimally houses all teeth.
Conversely, when the mouth is open, the tongue rests midway or on the floor of the mouth. The top jaw does not receive the stimulation from the tongue, causing it to become narrow and V-shaped. A narrow, undeveloped V-shaped top jaw increases the risk of the child developing lifelong sleep apnoea. The book entitled Buteyko Meets Dr. Mew brings together the life’s work of renowned orthodontist Dr. Mew and explores this topic in great detail.
While it is very important that the mouth is closed during the day, it is absolutely vital that the mouth is closed during sleep. A closed mouth during sleep helps ensure that the tongue rests at the roof of the mouth. Conversely, when we sleep with our mouth open, the tongue falls back and makes the airway smaller, causing the floppy bits to vibrate loudly with each inhalation, which results in snoring. When the sagging of the oropharynx develops into a total inward collapse of the airways, the sleeper becomes unable to breathe and has an apnoea. It is well documented that nasal obstruction and breathing through the mouth are significant causal factors for snoring and sleep apnoea.
What I recommend people do in order to ensure nasal breathing throughout the night is to use tape to cover your mouth. 3M Micropore is the tap I recommend and you can get it in pharmacies. Tear off about six inches or ten centimetres. Fold over a small piece at one end of the tape to make removing it easier. Dry your lips with your hand. Draw your lips inwards and place the tape horizontally to cover your mouth. Go to sleep with your mouth closed.
The first few times you do this you may feel like you are not getting enough air. This is simply because you have been breathing so heavily through your mouth your whole life. Your body has gotten used to your heavy breathing. But you will need only a very short time before you get used to breathing through your nose. Depending on the severity of your breathing problems Because you may need to wear a plastic strip to dilate your nose during sleep. This is only temporary and will make the transition a little easier.