How to Stop Mouth Breathing While Sleeping

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How to Tell if You’re Breathing Through Your Mouth

Even if you aren’t snoring according to your partner, you may still be breathing through your mouth throughout the night.

Things like a dry mouth, dry throat, snoring, or even just waking up tired all the time can be pretty good indicators that you may be breathing inefficiently.

Use a Snore Recording App

You can use one of these apps to listen to your breathing at night. If you snore, you’ll know you’re mouth breathing. If you don’t snore, you may still be mouth breathing, which is usually noticeably louder than nasal breathing. You can make this comparison if you tape your mouth at night and compare tape vs. no-tape recordings.

Turn off machines creating ambient noises during recording sessions for the most accurate noise profile.

Monitor Your Blood Oxygen Saturation at Home

An excellent way of seeing how well you’re breathing at night is by utilizing a pulse oximeter while you sleep.

Here’s what you’ll see on your pulse oximeter and what it means.

  • Finger Location: Finger readings use transmittance and are more accurate than reflectance readings – which is what you’d find on a watch – don’t bother taking anything else seriously.
  • Pulse Rate: This is just fancy speak for heart rate.
  • Blood Oxygen Saturation Level (SpO2): This is a percentage estimation of how much of your blood is carrying oxygen.
  • Perfusion Index: This is a rating of how strong the pulse rating is – with 0.2% being very weak and 20% being strong. A higher PI reading essentially means that the reading is more trustworthy.
  • Plethysmograph Waveform: This can be used in addition to the PI number to determine how useful the SpO2 readings are. A strong and uniform waveform indicates a good reading.

You’ll ideally want to see your SpO2 remain above 95% all night. However, if you have a lower baseline due to smoking, etc., just check to make sure you’re not dropping by more than 4% from baseline.

Best Pulse Oximeter Devices

  • iHealth Air Fingertip Pulse Oximeter: This is an accurate FDA-Approved fingertip pulse oximeter that has all the bells and whistles you’ll need.
  • Wellue O2ring Pulse Oximeter: This ring style pulse oximeter is more expensive and, due to its style, is going to be a little less accurate. However, they can be more comfortable and less distracting during sleep so the price might be worth it.

How Can You Stop Mouth Breathing?

Check here for how beneficial nasal breathing is over mouth breathing.

If you’d like, here are some studies comparing nasal breathing and mouth breathing:

Breathing route during sleep

  • “We conclude that mouth breathing may be associated with apneas during sleep and that breathing through the mouth occurs commonly in men, particularly in those who are older. This suggests that nasal breathing may be important in the maintenance of ventilatory rhythmicity during sleep.”

Sleep, breathing and the nose

  • “swelling of the nasal mucosa due to congestion of the submucosal capacitance vessels may significantly affect nasal airflow.”
  • “Nasal diseases, including structural anomalies and various forms of rhinitis, tend to increase nasal resistance, which typically impairs breathing via the nasal route in recumbency and during sleep.”
  • “the presence of nasal obstruction will most likely have an impact on the severity of sleep-disordered breathing.”

Effect of nasal or oral breathing route on upper airway resistance during sleep

  • “Healthy subjects with normal nasal resistance breathe almost exclusively through the nose during sleep.”
  • “…during sleep (supine, stage two) upper airway resistance was much higher while breathing orally”
  • “In addition, obstructive (but not central) apnoeas and hypopnoeas were <strong>profoundly more frequent when breathing orally (apnoea-hypopnoea index 43±6) than nasally (1.5±0.5)
  • “Upper airway resistance during sleep and the propensity to obstructive sleep apnoea are significantly lower while breathing nasally rather than orally.”

The nose and OSA: variable nasal obstruction may be more important in pathophysiology than fixed obstruction

  • “…an adaptive response may result in an automatic switch to oral breathing once a particular threshold of nasal airflow resistance is exceeded.”

Chronic nasal congestion at night is a risk factor for snoring in a population-based cohort study

  • “In-laboratory polysomnography was performed on a subset (n = 1032) of the study population to determine the frequency of apnea and hypopnea episodes during sleep.”
  • “Nocturnal nasal congestion is a strong independent risk factor for habitual snoring, including snoring without frank sleep apnea.”

Nasal obstruction as a risk factor for sleep-disordered breathing. The University of Wisconsin Sleep and Respiratory Research Group

  • “Participants who often or almost always experienced nighttime symptoms of rhinitis (5 or more nights a month) were significantly (p < 0.0001) more likely to report habitual snoring (3 to 7 nights a week), chronic excessive daytime sleepiness, or chronic nonrestorative sleep than were those who rarely or never had symptoms.”

Disturbed sleep and prolonged apnea during nasal obstruction in normal men

  • “During nasal obstruction, time spent in the deep sleep stages decreased from 90 +/- 11.2 (SEM) to 71 +/- 12.9 min (p less than 0.05), whereas significantly more time was spent in Stage 1 sleep (p less than 0.03).”
  • “Apneas of 20 to 39 s in duration became 2.5 times more frequent (p less than 0.05) during obstruction.”
  • “Oxygen saturation was studied in the last 4 subjects using an ear oximeter. Desaturation (SaO2 less than 90%) occurred 27 times during control sleep compared with 255 times during obstructed sleep.”

The effects of nasal dilation on snoring and obstructive sleep apnea

  • This was a 10-day study comparing sleep with and without a plastic nasal dilator in 11 patients who suffered from snoring and/or OSAS.
  • “The frequency and severity of obstructed breathing decreased significantly with the nasal dilator. The apnea index with and without the nasal dilator was 6.4 (range, 1.3 to 15) and 18 (range, 1.8 to 60), respectively. The mean decrease of the apnea index was 47%.”
  • “There was a substantial decrease in snoring noise…with the dilator in all patients who presented with snoring.”

Effects of the nasal strip and dilator on nasal breathing–a study with healthy subjects

  • “The Nozovent dilator proved to be significantly more effective in reducing nasal resistance than the Breathe Right nasal strip.”

Nasal Dilators (Breathe Right Strips and NoZovent) for Snoring and OSA: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

  • “Although nasal dilators have demonstrated improved nasal breathing, they have not shown improvement in obstructive sleep apnea outcomes, with the exception of mild improvement in apnea index when internal nasal dilators were used.”
  • Most studies seem to point towards internal dilators being more efficacious than external. The exception to this rule may be the Intake Breathing Kit, which works a bit differently than typical exterior strips do.

Effects of nasal dilator strips on subjective measures of sleep in subjects with chronic nocturnal nasal congestion: a randomized, placebo-controlled trial

  • “The asymmetric butterfly prototype and BRNS clear strip significantly improved some subjective measures of nasal congestion and sleep compared with placebo in subjects with nasal congestion and sleep difficulties.”

Efficiency of external nasal dilators in pediatric nasal septal deviation

  • “External nasal dilator use relieved nasal septal deviation, which narrows the nasal valve. The results of this study suggest that external nasal dilator could be used in patients that are not candidates for septoplasty.”

Right, so breathing through your nose is important, capeesh? Let’s go over how to do that.

Eat a Low Inflammatory Diet

If you’re having inflammatory or allergy issues that cause swelling and/or increased mucus production, you may need to rethink your diet.

Ditching things like seeds, nuts, beans, wheat, and vegetable oils can go a long way in reducing inflammation and allergy severity.

Here are a couple of images to simplify this concept. (This will be expanded upon in future articles!)

Credit goes to Paul Saladino at heartandsoil.co
Credit goes to Paul Saladino at heartandsoil.co

Tape Your Mouth Shut at Night

Even if you don’t think you’re mouth breathing, and especially if you are, you need to get those lips shut! The only good option here is a tape, of which there are a few options.

Micropore tape is the poor man’s choice, followed by Nexcare, followed finally by lip-sized tape. If you have facial hair, you’ll likely be limited to the more expensive lip tape options.

It can take time to get used to and ignore the tape – at first it may cause sleep disturbance, but you should get used to it fairly quickly.

I recommend putting it on 30 minutes or so before you try to fall asleep, so it isn’t as jarring or unfamiliar.

The Best Mouth Tape Products

  • Micropore Tape: This is the cheapest tape you can get. If you’re low on funds this is a great option and, though not ideal from a comfort perspective, it gets the job done.
  • Nexcare Tape: The luxury version of micropore tape, it is more comfortable and easier on the skin. Comes in a gentle and stronger hold version.

  • Simply Breathe Lip Seal Tape: Probably the best option out there currently due to price and comfort. If you order 3 months at a time they’re around $16/month, which is about as good as it gets for this style.
  • Hush Strips Lip Tape: This is just one more option for those of you who may want an Amazon option for something similar to Simply Breathe.

Dilate Your Nostrils for Better Airflow

Grab your nostrils like you mean it! Now pull them apart slowwwly… does your breathing become easier? I’ll bet it does! If you’re mouth breathing, there’s a good chance you need a little help in the nasal department.

As one of the studies above touched on, nasal breathing resistance seems to result in an automatic switch to mouth breathing.

If you’re mouth breathing, the tape may solve that, but it might not eliminate the issue of excessive nasal airway resistance.

With nasal dilators, you may need to experiment with different designs and sizes to find the right one for you. I’ve listed several options below, every style I can find, and the best of them.

The Best Nasal Dilator Products

  • Intake Breathing Kit: The only exterior use nasal dilator that really works. This product relies on a somewhat rigid magnetic band that attaches to small magnets you stick to the outside of your nose. This is a more expensive option than the following interior devices, but with greater price comes greater comfort.

  • Breathe Right Nasal Strips: If you’d like to try a less expensive exterior nasal dilator, you may want to use these.
  • AIRMAX Nasal Dilator: A wing shaped dilator that in theory minimizes the resistance of airflow into the nasal passages. I’d recommend the trial pack, so you can see which size fits you best.
  • Rinomed Mute Nasal Dilator: Rhinomed’s claim to fame is in its dual adjustable design, where each nostril can be adjusted separately.
  • Rhinomed Turbine Nasal Dilator: The turbine version has ribbing that helps it stay in place during more intense activity. However, it is also a bit longer than the Mute, so if you’ve got a particularly long schnoz this might work better.
  • Rhinomed Pronto Clear/Sleep: This variation is interesting as you can incorporate some essential oils to help further open up your nasal passages.
  • WoodyKnows Nasal Dilators: This dilator style uses a soft, flexible oval shape with support ribs.

Learning How to Naturally Breathe Through Your Nose

If you’re currently mouth breathing at night, one more thing you can work on is training your body to default to nasal breathing.

Developing Proper Tongue Posture

Your tongue should naturally stick to the roof of your mouth whenever you’re not eating, drinking, or vocalizing. If you’re now aware that you don’t do this, congrats! Improvements can be made!

Having an ingrained natural tongue posture may help prevent subconscious mouth breathing habits from ruining your sleep. If you’ve ever heard of “Mewing”, that’s basically what we’ll be discussing here.


Now, let’s not get in a tizzy over whether this will make you look like the Crimson Chin (if you’re familiar with mewing and its facial prowess promises), that’s not the point here. The point is that developing a habit of resting your tongue on the roof of your mouth will eventually carry over into sleep as your muscle memory develops.

So even if your mouth opens, your tongue will be stuck on the roof of your mouth (hopefully), helping to prevent airway collapse and mouth breathing.

How to Mew

  1. Sound out the letter “n”. You’ll notice that the tip of your tongue is resting just behind your teeth.
  2. Keep your tongue in this position and swallow gently. You should notice that your tongue becomes suctioned to the roof of your mouth.
  3. Congrats, that’s it! Keep at it for a month or so, and you’ll be rid of mouth breathing and that annoying mouth tape forever.

Tips When Getting Started

  • In the beginning, you will have to constantly remind yourself to do this. You may find it hard to mew and un-mew quickly, especially in social situations, so while mewing you’ll find yourself answering people with “mmm, mhm” more frequently than you’re used to. Totally normal!
  • I’m not sure why, but many people find they produce a lot of excess saliva in the first 2-3 weeks of this. I did. I thought I broke myself. It was super annoying but yes, it went away.
  • It may be useful to mouth tape at night while you’re learning to mew properly and develop the muscle memory necessary to keep your tongue in position all night long.

Snoring Exercise Apps

It appears as though there is some efficacy in performing certain exercises to alleviate narrowing of the esophagus, thereby preventing snoring and sleep apnea while mouth breathing.

Those of you with a higher Mallampati Score of 3 or 4 may especially explore this option.

This is 100% something you should be trying if you have any kind of sleep-disordered breathing.

A couple of apps provide instructions on this, such a Snore Free and SnoreGym. Snore Free sells a utility pack full of tools to help you exercise if you’re interested.

Oh, hi there 👋 It’s nice to meet you.

Find out when we release a new guide, or find cool new health products you might like!

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