Nose Breathing Vs Mouth Breathing: Does It Make a Difference?

5 CITATIONS - 05/08/2024  

Key Takeaways

01.  Nose breathing vs mouth breathing can positively impact your physical and mental health.

02.  Mouth breathing has many disadvantages, including inefficiency, gum diseases, dry mouth, and changes in facial shape.

03.  There are many ways to improve nose breathing during the day and night, depending on your unique situation and preferences. 

04.  The Shift is a great tool to help you hack your breathing. 

Make Your Breathing Count

Breathing. One small word for such a powerful action. Throughout an average day, you’ll take around 20,000-22,000 breaths– almost enough air to fill up an average-sized swimming pool! All this air is necessary to provide oxygen to our bodies to keep us alive, energized, and well. Not to mention a host of other wellness benefits. Even more incredible is the fact that most of those inhalations are subconscious. The question is, are you getting the most out of this life-providing action by nose breathing?


That may be something you’ve never thought about! Nose vs. mouth breathing is typically only discussed during chats about snoring while sleeping or exercising. Yet, how you breathe throughout the day and night can have far-reaching impacts physically and mentally. It’s something so simple and minor yet incredibly profound. 


Here’s what you need to know to help your body get the most out of your inhalations.

The Benefits of Nose Breathing

There are quite a few ticks in the pro’s column regarding nose breathing. James Nestor, a prominent expert in nose vs mouth breathing, can attest to this and attributes nasal inhalation to a wealth of benefits. 


After his doctor asked him to participate in a breathing study, his eyes were opened to the realm of nose breathing vs. mouth breathing. After ten days of breathing only through his mouth, he was already pro-nose breathing, but he wanted to learn more. Did how you breathe make a difference in your health? He spent the next ten years of his life diving into the research of breathing. 

He found that many people were doing it completely wrong.

He concluded that nose breathing gave our bodies many more benefits than oral breathing. He outlined the culmination of his research in his book Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art. As he told CNN, "This is the way your body wants to take in air.” 


What’s so great about nose breathing, and why are experts like James Nester such big proponents? There are a plethora of reasons! 


Some of the main benefits of nose breathing include:

  • Filters the air so that less particulate matter reaches the lungs
  • Slows down airflow, resulting in 10 to 20 percent more oxygen uptake
  • Humidifies and moistens the air, allowing your respiratory system to function properly and not become too dry
  • Helps keep the diaphragm working properly
  • Increases the production of nitric oxide, helping to regulate blood pressure and improve immunity
  • Protects against colds, flu, infections, and more
  • Activates the parasympathetic system, helping you to calm down and relax
  • Helps you to breathe slower, resulting in keeping carbon dioxide levels in balance


Not to mention, breathing through your nose helps your sense of smell!

Nose Breathing vs Mouth Breathing

On the opposite end of the spectrum is mouth breathing. As you probably guessed, inhaling orally has various drawbacks, and it’s not just increasing the risk of snoring! Think of the nose as your body's HVAC, helping to keep your internal systems protected and healthy. If you bypass this system by opening your mouth, though, it can't function the way it’s designed to.


Hence why, in the battle between nose breathing vs. mouth breathing, nasal inhalations are superior.


Specific mouth breathing drawbacks include:

  • Misses the protective features located in the nose that help filter the air
  • Increases the load on the upper back and neck, which can alter posture
  • Fails to humidify and warm the air, as the nasal passages do
  • Results in a net loss of 42% of water from the body
  • Leads to less nitric oxide production
  • Causes dry mouth, which can lead to an increased risk of bad breath and tooth decay
  • Attributes to poor sleep quality and lack of energy
  • Can cause dysphasia, or difficulty swallowing
  • Leads to dysfunction of the jaw joint
  • Can result in decreased cognitive function, or mental processing
  • Increases the risk of sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea


But that’s not all…

Nose Breathing Vs. Mouth Breathing and the Facial Structure

Not only can mouth breathing reduce the internal benefits of nasal inhalation, but studies also suggest that it can also change the shape of your face. Talk about something that should be much more well-known, right? The influence of breathing on face shape is especially impactful in children, as their features are still developing. 


Overall, breathing through the mouth can cause the face to appear longer, narrower, and more convex. Other changes include:

  • Protruding upper jaw
  • Prominent forehead
  • Less prominent jaws
  • Increased mandibular plane angle
  • Retracted chin
  • Poorly defined cheekbones
  • Crooked teeth
  • Decreased posterior facial height


Are you looking in the mirror right now? The good news is that transitioning to nose breathing can help avoid these impacts. If they’re already prominent from mouth breathing, you can speak with a specialist to determine how the changes can be corrected.


How To Improve Nose Breathing

There are quite a few methods you can use to improve your nose breathing. It all depends on what is most comfortable for you and if you struggle with nose vs mouth breathing while awake or asleep. Here are some techniques to try to help you succeed!

Nose Breathing While Awake

Control over your breathing during the daytime can be achieved by slowly integrating techniques into your daily routine. The goal is to train your body to breathe through your nose automatically over time. Here are a few techniques to try.

1. Consciously Breathing

First and foremost to hacking nose breathing is to remain conscious of how you’re breathing! Whether you set routine reminders on your phone, place sticky notes around the house, or pair the action with a daily task like drinking water, whatever you can do to jog your memory and pay attention to how you’re breathing is a win. The more often you think about it and resolve any mouth breathing, the more habitual nose breathing will become. 


If you’re struggling to stay conscious, try hacks like humming or holding something between your lips so that you’re forced to breathe through your nose. 

First and foremost to hacking nose breathing is to remain conscious of how you’re breathing! Whether you set routine reminders on your phone, place sticky notes around the house, or pair the action with a daily task like drinking water, whatever you can do to jog your memory and pay attention to how you’re breathing is a win. The more often you think about it and resolve any mouth breathing, the more habitual nose breathing will become. 


If you’re struggling to stay conscious, try hacks like humming or holding something between your lips so that you’re forced to breathe through your nose. 

2. Deal With Any Congestion

Breathing through a stuffy nose isn’t exactly an easy task. Kicking that blockage to the curb will help open up your nasal passages and allow you to focus on nose breathing throughout the day. This could include using a decongestant, a neti pot, or saline spray. If you’re constantly congested, consider chatting with a qualified medical professional to figure out the cause and devise a long-term plan for relief.

3. Practice Breathing Exercising

Breathing exercises can help with nose breathing in many ways. A few include strengthening the muscles used, increasing lung capacity and efficiency, and establishing better breathing patterns. Myofunctional therapy, or tongue and throat exercises, may also help improve nose breathing.


The exercise or exercises you choose depend on your preference and what helps you best. Here are a few options to help you on your nose-breathing journey.

Diaphragmatic Breathing

How to do it:

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent.
  • Place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen.
  • Inhale deeply through your nose, allowing your diaphragm (not your chest) to inflate with air.
  • Exhale slowly through your nose.
  • Repeat for 5-10 minutes.

Alternate Nostril Breathing (Nadi Shodhana)Diaphragmatic Breathing

Alternate nostril breathing is a calming technique that balances the left and right hemispheres of the brain, enhancing respiratory function.


How to do it:

  • Sit comfortably with your spine straight.
  • Close your right nostril with your right thumb and inhale deeply through your left nostril.
  • Close your left nostril with your right ring finger, then release your right nostril and exhale through it.
  • Inhale through your right nostril, close it, and then exhale through your left nostril.
  • Repeat for 5-10 cycles.

Box Breathing

Box breathing is a simple and effective way to relax and improve your nasal breathing. This technique ensures that your breath moves efficiently through your body.


How to do it:

  • Sit comfortably and ensure your breath moves from your stomach to your chest.
  • Inhale for five seconds, expanding your stomach first, then your diaphragm, and finally your rib cage.
  • Hold the breath for five seconds.
  • Exhale for five seconds, releasing from your rib cage first, then your diaphragm, and lastly, your stomach.
  • Hold for five seconds before repeating the cycle.

Breath of Fire

Breath of Fire is a powerful technique that helps improve concentration and respiratory function. It involves quick, forceful exhalations and passive inhalations.


How to do it:

  • Sit up straight with relaxed shoulders.
  • Place your hands on your stomach with your palms facing upward.
  • Close your mouth and take a deep breath through your nose, allowing your stomach to expand.
  • Quickly exhale through your nose with force, letting your stomach move back in.
  • Continue this cycle without stopping, finding a rhythm with your breathing.
  • Once you achieve a rhythm, increase your intensity. Speed up the rhythm and repeat for 30 seconds.

Nose Breathing While Sleeping

Working to improve nose breathing while asleep will be different for everyone. The good news is that whether you have a stuffy nose or habitually breathe through your mouth at night, there are various methods you can try to encourage nose breathing and keep your mouth closed!

1. Practice Nasal Breathing During the Day1. Consciously Breathing

Start with a healthy baseline by training yourself to breathe through your nose while awake– aka, staying conscious of the breath. This helps your body adapt to this new inhalation method and encourages it to continue practicing it during sleep. Consistency is key; the more you practice, the more natural it will feel!

2. Use Nasal Strips or Dilators

Nasal strips or dilators can be a game-changer to help encourage nose breathing while you’re getting some shut-eye. These devices help open your nasal passages, facilitating easier and more effective nose breathing while sleeping. As an added bonus, they’re fairly easy to use and there are plenty of options available to choose from.

3. Address Nasal Congestion

Are you frequently congested? That blockage can be a major barrier to nasal breathing while sleeping. To help improve your nighttime breathing, try using saline sprays, humidifiers, or allergy medications to clear your nasal passages. Check with your doctor first for their suggestions on the best route to open your nose.

4. Practice Breathing Exercises

Incorporate breathing exercises like the ones listed above into your daily routine. These exercises are designed to increase nasal breathing efficiency and reduce the tendency to breathe through your mouth. Practicing these techniques regularly can greatly improve your instinctual habit of breathing through your nose.

5. Make Subtle Changes 

Some experts, like James Nestor, suggest that there are small changes you can make before falling asleep to help promote better breathing. Some of these include:

  • Elevating your head while asleep
  • Staying hydrated
  • Avoid eating before bed
  • Exercising regularly


You can improve your nasal breathing by incorporating these simple tips into your daily routine. 


Keep in mind that physical aspects can also impact your ability to breathe through your nose, such as a deviated septum or enlarged tonsils. If none of the steps above to improve your nose breathing during the day and night help, consider chatting with a qualified medical professional to determine how to resolve the issue.

A Tool To Help You Succeed: The Shift

The Shift is a great resource for helping you succeed in improving nose breathing. This tool was designed to help you mindfully breathe and train yourself to maximize your inhales and exhales.


By inhaling through your nose and exhaling slowly through The Shift, you’ll promote nose breathing and activate the vagus nerve and parasympathetic nervous system, which helps calm the body and mind. 


How it Works:

When using The Shift, you’ll deeply inhale through your nose to fill your stomach with air. Then, you’ll place your lips around the mouthpiece and carefully exhale through the tool. A natural exhalation is crucial, so monitoring yourself and ensuring you're not forcibly blowing into the tool is important.


Here are some key features and benefits of The Shift:

  • Breathing Technique: The Shift facilitates controlled exhalation, which helps to slow down breathing, reduce stress, and improve focus.
  • Portable Design: The device is designed as a necklace or bracelet, making it convenient to carry and use anywhere.
  • Aesthetic and Functional: Its sleek design combines functionality with style, making it a great accessory.
  • Materials: Made from high-quality materials, ensuring durability and safety for regular use.


The Shift is also available in different styles and colors so that you can choose your favorite!

The Shift, so much good in one breath.


Little Changes, Big Impacts

Whether you already subconsciously lean towards nose breathing or are embarking on training yourself out of mouth breathing, understanding the power of the breath is crucial. Something as simple as changing how you breathe can have far-reaching positive impacts on your body and mind. Sometimes, it really is the little things that matter! 


With that in mind, are you nose breathing right now or mouth breathing? Consciously thinking about it is the first step toward positive change. And don’t forget, The Shift can help you stay on track to get the most out of your inhalations. Think of it as a constant reminder to check your breathwork. 


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