Many people are mouth breathers at night. Most people are fully aware of the fact they are, but what a lot of people don’t realize is that mouth breathing is not the correct way to breathe for your general health. Instead, breathing through your nose is the most efficient way to get oxygen to the lungs, organs, and blood cells.
Studies have shown that around 60% of people are, or have been known to be, mouth breathers while sleeping, waking up with symptoms such as a dry mouth or complaints of loud snoring from family members.
Causes of Mouth Breathing at Night
Usually, mouth breathing occurs when the nose is blocked, which can happen when you have a cold or suffer from allergies while you’re sleeping. If the nasal passages become blocked, your body’s automatic reaction is, of course, to breathe through your mouth.
However, there are other causes of mouth breathing, such as a deviated septum, cleft palate, tonsil infection, or asthma. Asthma is a primary cause because people who suffer tend to breathe through their mouth to catch their breath when experiencing a tight chest or cough caused by the condition.
Another common occurrence found with mouth breathers occurs with thumb suckers, usually seen in children or a habit that has continued into adulthood. And that’s all it is, a bad habit. Your mouth becomes accustomed to being open. Therefore, while sleeping, the muscles in the lips and the mouth remain open.
Problems And Risks Caused by Mouth Breathing
Aside from the fact it can be an extreme annoyance, mouth breathing can cause several issues regarding your sleep hygiene, one of which is being awoken multiple times during the night. Of course, waking up in the middle of the night leaves you with a broken sleep, which can affect your well-being and mood.
Mouth breathing can also leave your airways exposed to infections, which in turn can lead to further health problems and illness.
Some people may not experience any side effects from mouth breathing, especially those for whom it doesn’t happen frequently. Still, for anyone who has this as an ongoing condition, it can pose some more serious risks, such as:
- Jaw pain
- Inflamed tonsils, or tonsil infections
- Gum disease
- Sore throat
- Loss of voice
- Progressive asthma
- Bad breath
- Dental problems
- Sleep disorders
- Difficulty chewing and swallowing
- Crooked teeth
- Cracked lips
Successful Ways to Stop Mouth Breathing at Night
You’ll be relieved to hear that there are steps you can take to successfully stop mouth breathing while sleeping, most of which involve clearing your nasal passages and relieving congestion. Let’s look into those solutions in more depth.
1. Sleeping Position
Your sleeping position can make a massive difference in how you breathe at night. For example, people who sleep in their stomachs are more at risk of blocking their airways. This is why it’s advised for mouth breathers to sleep on their back. Doing so will open your nasal airways and make breathing through your nose easier, resulting in an uninterrupted night’s sleep.
2. Breathing Techniques
Breathing techniques can benefit anyone wanting to improve their general sleep hygiene. However, for mouth breathers, it can be even more instrumental. One way to do this is by learning how to meditate in bed or practice yoga, which focuses on your breathing and helps to relieve stress, keeping the breaths slow and the body and mind calm.
3. Saline Solution
As I mentioned earlier, mouth breathing is a common side effect when you’re suffering from allergies or a cold that causes the nose to become blocked. Saline solution to clear the nasal passages can be a mouth breather’s dream if you’re being kept awake by a blocked nose. So although they’re not recommended for long-term use, they’re convenient to have in your bedside cabinet.
4. Keep Your Space Dust Free
As allergies play a big part in nasal blockages, keeping your sleeping environment dust free should massively reduce the chances of a stuffy nose at night, meaning mouth breathing shouldn’t happen as regularly. So, get that duster out and keep on top of those pesky allergens.
5. Sleep Monitoring
Monitoring your sleep can help you keep an eye on your breathing, snoring, heart rate, and general sleep health. These days several devices can monitor you while you sleep, such as a Fitbit watch, which connects to your phone and gives you a nightly report of all your activity.
6. Manage Stress
When stressed, your breathing can become erratic, forcing you to take deep breaths through your mouth instead of your nose. Try to reduce stress by clearing the mind or using these ten effective ways for a good night’s sleep when stressed.
7. Mouth Taping
This one might not be for everyone, and I know many might find it restricting or uncomfortable. However, some experts say that lightly taping your mouth before you sleep can encourage you to get out of mouth breathing during the night. Chin straps are another solution to help prevent the mouth from gaping open while you sleep.
Daily exercise can improve the quality of your general health and breathing pattern, decreasing the need for taking deep breaths.
In some cases, such as a deviated septum, or allergic rhinitis, surgery can be an option for people who’ve already tried all the above solutions. The first step towards this would be seeing a physician who can tell you the proper steps to take and decide whether surgery needs to be considered to solve your nightly mouth breathing problem.
Although mouth breathing is a common problem that appears in over 60% of people, the causes and treatment vary massively depending on the independent circumstances. Some people may not even be aware of the fact they’re mouth breathers.
If mouth breathing at night is something that is starting to negatively impact your day-to-day life, I hope this guide has given you a bit of reassurance that there are plenty of simple steps you can take to improve the problem.
Although not all of these solutions will work for everyone, it’s worth giving each one some time, as not everything will work straight away. If you feel you’ve already tried every trick in the book, it’s time to speak to a professional about other options, such as surgery or medication to deal with severe allergies.
If your mouth breathing is related to another sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea, then this also needs to be discussed with a sleep professional who can discuss a correct course of treatment.