What Are the Advantages of Nose Breathing Vs. Mouth Breathing?
You very likely breathe without thinking about it. Your body does it automatically, without much, if any conscious effort on your behalf.
But it’s important to pay attention to how you breathe. In general, it’s healthier to breathe through your nose instead of your mouth. That’s because nose breathing is more natural and helps your body effectively use the air you inhale.
Yet, it’s estimated that about 30-50% adults breathe through their mouth, especially earlier in the day. This could potentially lead to health issues like bad breath and dry mouth.
How does nose breathing differ from mouth breathing?
Your nose is designed to help you breathe safely, efficiently, and properly. It can do this due to its ability to:
- Filter out foreign particles. Nasal hairs filters out dust, allergens, and pollen, which helps prevent them from entering your lungs.
- Humidify inhaled air. Your nose warms and moisturizes the air you breathe in. This brings the air you inhale to body temperature, making it easier for your lungs to use.
- Produce nitric oxide. During nasal breathing, your nose releases nitric oxide (NO). NO is a vasodilator, which means it helps to widen blood vessels. This can help improve oxygen circulation in your body.
Your mouth helps you eat, drink, and talk. You can also use your mouth to breathe, but it doesn’t have many of the unique features that your nose has for this purpose.
In some cases, mouth breathing is necessary. You might need to breathe through your mouth if you have nasal congestion, small nostrils or a deviated septum.
The downside of mouth breathing is your mouth loses moisture, which can cause dry mouth. It could also increase your risk of inhaling unfiltered air, allergic reactions to allergens, asthma, bad breath, tooth decay, gum inflammation (gingivitis), snoring, sleep apnoea and teeth or jaw abnormalities.
What are the benefits of breathing through your nose?
Since your nose was specifically designed to help you breathe, nasal breathing has many advantages.
Nose breathing is beneficial primarily because it allows your nasal cavities to:
- reduce exposure to foreign substances
- humidify and warm inhaled air
- increase air flow to arteries, veins, and nerves
- increase oxygen uptake and circulation
- slow down breathing
- improve lung volume
- help your diaphragm work properly
- lower your risk of allergies and hay fever
- reduce your risk of coughing
- aid your immune system
- lower your risk of snoring and sleep apnoea
- support the correct formation of teeth and mouth
Nose breathing exercises to try
Breathing exercises may help improve your nose breathing. These techniques may also help enhance your lung function, increase respiratory muscle strength, and relieve stress and anxiety.
Here are two types of breathing exercises you can try or watch a quick video which will direct you through a set of 5 minute breathing exercises.
1. Alternate nostril breathing
Alternate nostril breathing or nadishodhana is a common breathing exercise used in yoga.
In this technique, you inhale through one nostril and exhale through the other, while using your finger to close the opposite nostril.
The exercise requires focus, so it’s great for increasing mindfulness. It may also help enhance your lung function and decrease stress. Try doing alternate nostril breathing for 5 minutes.
2. Belly breathing
Belly breathing is also known as diaphragmatic breathing or abdominal breathing. It involves taking slow, deep breaths in through your nose.
The goal is to breathe deep enough to fill your belly with air. This increases how much oxygen you take in, and may help slow down your breathing and heart rate.
Belly breathing also increases mindfulness and reduces stress. Here’s how to do it:
- Sit up tall and relax your shoulders. You can also lay down on your bed.
- Close your mouth. Place one hand on your belly and one on your chest.
- Inhale slowly through your nose, letting your belly rise and fill with air. Your chest should stay still.
- Purse your lips and exhale slowly.
- Repeat for 5 to 10 minutes.
The mail runners of Central America and long distance runners of the Tarahumara of Mexico were trained to run with pebbles or water in their mouths, to train them to be nose breathers. Today, we have the science to prove that these ancient techniques actually did deliver better performance.
We are only beginning to understand the health benefits of deep nasal breathing. Since we all breathe 26,000 times a day, learning how to do it right to gain maximum physical, mental and performance benefits out of each breath seems like a good idea.
Do you breathe through your nose?
For a further explanation watch this quick video (2 mins) which shows you just how large an area the nasal cavity is!