Fact or Myth: Is Nose Breathing Better than Mouth Breathing?

This is FACT.

We were born to breathe through our noses, but unfortunately many people develop poor breathing habits and primarily breathe through their mouths. Breathing through your nose helps improve oxygen uptake to your brain and body, and optimizes physical and mental well-being.

Why Mouth Breathing Isn’t Conducive to Health 

In the picture a beach at sunset with the words on the sand "Just breathe".

Breathing through your mouth, along with overbreathing (when you breathe quickly and too much), can alter the structure of your face by causing your features to narrow and droop downward. Studies show that jaws that are set back and narrow can increase your risk for obstructive sleep apnea.

When we feel stressed, we tend to take deeper and quicker breathes through the mouth in an attempt to still anxiety. In doing so, we breathe through the upper chest, rather than through the diaphragm, and our oxygen intake suffers. Take a few deep breaths through your mouth right now. Do you feel dizzy or lightheaded? That’s because mouth breathing releases too much carbon dioxide, which causes your blood vessels to constrict and impairs delivery of oxygen throughout your body.

The Correct Way to Breathe

The correct way to breathe is at a relaxed pace, through your nose, and using your diaphragm rather than your chest. Experts put normal breathing volume between 4 and 7 liters of air per minute, which translates roughly to 12 to 14 breaths per minute. In contrast, studies have shown that people with asthma take in 10 to 15 liters of air per minute, and people with heart disease take in 15 to 18 liters of air per minute.

Why the Nose Knows

The nose regulates 30 different processes in the body. The nerves in your nasal cavity are linked to your hypothalamus and send your brain information that helps orchestrate these body functions. For example, nitric oxide (NO) is a gas that helps to maintain homeostasis in your body. When you breathe through your nose, it emits NO, transporting it to your lungs where it helps to open up airways and increase oxygenation in the blood.

If you’re a mouth breather, then the first step is awareness. Whenever you catch yourself breathing through your mouth, slow down, and start breathing through your nose. With some practice you can form a nose-breathing habit. If your nasal passages are clogged due to medical conditions or illness, consult your doctor for appropriate treatments.