With these benefits awaiting us, the question becomes: why do we continue to breathe through our mouth? Is it all about training our children? Is there no hope for those of us who learned how to breathe primarily through our mouth? Please stay tuned. There is hope for us. However, we must first turn specifically to the impact of mouth breathing on quality of sleep.
Mouth breathing: The disruption of Sleep
There are two parts to the sleep-enhancement equation regarding breathing. It is not only that beathing through our nose is beneficial, but also that breathing through our mouth is detrimental—especially during the night. Nestor (2020, pp. 29-30) offer the following disturbing description of what occurs when we breath out of our mount while sleeping. He relates it to his own self-experiment in breathing just from the mouth:
Mouthbreathing causes the body to lose 40 percent more water. I felt this all night, every night, waking up constantly parched and dry. You’d think this moisture loss would decrease the need to urinate, but, oddly, the opposite was true.
During the deepest, most restful stages of sleep, the pituitary gland, a pea-size ball at the base of the brain secretes hormones that control the release of adrenaline, endorphins, growth hormone, and other substances, including vasopressin, which communicates with cells to store more water. This is how animals can sleep through the night without feeling thirsty or needing to relieve themselves.
But if the body has inadequate time in deep sleep, as it does-when it experiences chronic sleep apnea, vasopressin won’t be secreted normally. The kidneys will release water which triggers the need-to urinate and signals to our brains that we should consume more liquid. We get thirsty, and we need to pee more. A lack of vasopressin explains not only my own irritable bladder but the constant, seemingly unquenchable thirst I have every night.
With both sides of equation now in place, we can turn to the fundamental question: how do we increase breathing through our nose—especially at night.
Assisting Nasal Breathing
There are several ways in which to promote breathing through our nostrils rather than our mouth. Some are meant primarily for use during the day, while others are for use during the night.
Daytime: The most obvious way that we can promote nasal breathing throughout the day is by cleaning our nose so that it is easier to breathe through it (rather than through our mouth). As we all know, the most frequent manner of nose cleaning is gently blowing one’s nose into a tissue.