You breathe without conscious thought most of the time. Your autonomic nervous system ensures that your lungs inflate and deflate about 22,000 times a day whether you’re awake or asleep.
You breathe faster when you’re exercising because your muscles need more oxygen. You breathe both more rapidly and more shallowly when you’re feeling stressed or anxious. And you might breathe through your mouth rather than your nose if you have a cold, enlarged tonsils or have just got into the habit of mouth breathing.
Breathing can be changed though. Athletes learn breathing techniques to improve their performance. Anxious people learn how to soothe their body and mind through deep, slow breathing. And mouth-breathers can learn to breathe through their nose by strengthening their mouth function.
Why is nose breathing better than mouth breathing?
Your nose filters the air you breathe and helps you absorb oxygen. Your mouth can’t do that.
Mouth breathing is linked to a number of health problems including:
– Crooked teeth
– Bad breath
– Gum disease
– Dental problems
– Enlarged tonsils
– Poor concentration
– Bad sleep.
Poor sleep, of course, tends to worsen mood and increase stress. It’s hard to function well when you never feel refreshed.
Breathing tips to improve mouth function and ease stress
Here are a couple of exercises to promote relaxation and nasal breathing.
Deep diaphragmatic breathing
Life can be busy and stressful. Many of us are constantly juggling competing pressures at work or home, feeling like there’s never enough time to get everything done.
Stress tends to mean we rapidly and shallowly use only the top part of our lungs. Diaphragmatic breathing is a technique that helps you to breathe right down to the bottom of your lungs, pushing down your diaphragm, a dome-shaped muscle that sits between your chest and your abdomen.
Deep diaphragmatic breathing (also known as belly breathing or abdominal breathing) has been shown to:
– Reduce your blood pressure
– Slow your heart rate
– Promote relaxation
If you’re new to belly breathing, here’s how to do it:
– Lie on your back with one hand on your upper chest and the other on your tummy
– Breathe in slowly through your nose. As the air moves deeply into your lungs, you should find that the hand on your chest stays still but the one on your belly rises as the air pushes your diaphragm down
– Hold your breath for a few seconds
– Slowly breathe out by tightening your stomach muscles to push your diaphragm up. The hand on your belly should sink as your belly goes down and the hand on your chest should remain still
– Pause a moment, then repeat several times.
Keep practising your belly breathing. If you start feeling stressed, pause a moment to slow your breathing. As time goes on, you should hopefully build a habit of deep breathing, which will help to ease your stress levels.
Your tongue is supposed to rest against the roof of your mouth. When it rests on the floor of your mouth instead, it makes proper nasal breathing difficult – you’ll tend to find your jaw open and you breathe through your mouth.
If you habitually breathe through your mouth during the day, that’s probably how you’ll breathe at night too, meaning you’re more likely to snore or develop sleep apnoea.
Tongue elevation exercises train your tongue to habitually rise to the roof of your mouth, encouraging nasal breathing.
How do you do it? By closing your lips to form a seal then placing your tongue against the roof of your mouth, holding it there for a while, and breathing through your nose.
You need to do this so often that it moves from a conscious exercise to an unconscious habit. That enables your unconscious mind to continue ensuring you breathe through your nose even when you’re sleeping.
If you’ve realised that you breathe through your mouth, then we encourage you to:
– Try to identify when you tend to mouth breathe – is it at night or at other times?
– Regularly do some tongue exercises to strengthen your tongue’s position your mouth and make it more likely that you’ll breathe through your nose (Myospots are the easiest way to do this)
– Check your breathing often and, if you find yourself mouth breathing, elevate your tongue to the roof of your mouth so that you breathe through your nose.
How does Myospots help?
Myospots are the easiest way to promote a habit of nose breathing.
Place the spot on the roof of your mouth, close your lips and let your tongue rise to the spot. Each spot provides 45-50 minutes of tongue elevation exercise. Using them 2-3 times daily for 10-12 weeks can help increase the strength of your tongue muscles, correct tongue posture and develop the habit of nasal breathing.
You may also then find that your sleep improves. When your mouth remains open during sleep, the mandible drops backwards causing the tongue and other soft tissues to collapse the airway, which can lead to sleep apnoea and snoring.
Building the habit of nasal breathing during the daytime helps to create an unconscious habit of nighttime nasal breathing where you sleep (nice and deeply!) with your mouth closed.
Myospots are made from natural ingredients and are available in many tasty flavours. Explore the range at https://myospots.com/products/.
All information is general in nature and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Your healthcare provider can consult with you to confirm if this advice is right for you.