Note: We’re taking a break from our series on the 7 disciplines of Inner Excellence.
- According to research, mouth breathing causes a seemingly endless list of ailments (poor sleep, anxiety, tooth decay, attention deficit, etc.).
- Nasal breathing–in everything you do including exercise–can improve your health in countless ways.
- Practice long, gentle breaths throughout the day, always in and out of the nose, with the goal of taking less breaths (5.5 BPM seems to be ideal).
“Individuals who habitually breathe through the mouth are more likely than nasal breathers to have sleep disorders and attention deficit hyperactive disorder.”
– from the journal NeuroResearch
I was speaking with Dr. Gaston Cordova recently (Inner Excellence Director of Applied Science and Human Performance) and he told me there’s something I should be aware of for my clients: the potential problems with mouth breathing and huge benefit of nasal breathing.
A few takeaways from what I’m learning:
1. Most of us breathe way too much, in the wrong way, through the wrong part of the body (mouth instead of nose).
2. Nitric oxide is an important part of supplying oxygen to the muscles-and the majority of nitric oxide production comes from nasal breathing. When you mouth breathe, you lose this piece.
3. When you nasal breathe you’re getting more oxygen and nutrients into your muscles and thus it’s crucial during times of focus and exercise.
Action to take
As Dr. Cordova instructed me, start by listening to the book Breath by James Nestor, then follow it up with The Oxygen Advantage by Patrick McKeown.
Practice observing your breath. Every time you notice your mouth open when not talking, eating or drinking, shut it. Set the goal of getting your normal breathing rate to 5-6 breaths per minute (in and out of the nose).
Take the BOLT test (body oxygen level test):
1: Take a normal breath out of your nose.
2. Hold your nose and stop breathing.
3. Time the number of seconds until you feel the first desire to breathe.
4. Ideal score is 40 seconds or longer.
You can find more information here on how it works (and how and why to do it).
If your doctor approves, try taping your mouth shut at night (Dr. Cordova and I are both now doing). I would NOT recommend cutting two huge strips of this tape and covering your whole mouth as I did my first night. Try this tape instead. Much nicer! And just use a 1″-2″ strip, and go vertical rather than horizontal.
Let me know if you try it and how it goes!
Could Nasal Breathing Improve Athletic Performance? Barman, Jae. washingtonpost.com. Jan. 29, 2019.
This is One Dangerous Thing to Look for When Your Kid is Sleeping. Grassullo, Stephanie. thebump.com. Oct. 2018.
The Science of Breathing: How Slowing it Down Can Make Us Calm and Productive. Porges, Seth. forbes.com. Nov. 28, 2016.
The Oxygen Advantage. McKeown, Patrick. William Morrow Paperbacks.
Nov. 29, 2016.
Breath. Nestor, James. Riverhead Books. May 26, 2020.
ADHD and Sleep: What’s the Connection? Nigg, Joel, Ph.D., McMahan, Lisa. blogs.ohsu.edu.
Increased Oxygen load in the prefrontal cortex from mouth breathing. Sano, Masahiro, et.al. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Neuroreport. Dec. 4, 2013.
Could Some ADHD be a Type of Sleep Disorder? Cha, Ariana Eunjung. washingtonpost.com. Sept. 20, 2017.
Less is More. Burns, Kathleen. PT. DPT. therapeuticassociates.com.
Study Shows Blood Cells Need Nitric Oxide to Deliver Oxygen. medicalnewstoday.com. author and date unknown.
Nitric Oxide and Mouth Breathing. Dickerson, Heidi, DVS, LVIM, FIAPA.