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:
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!)
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
- Sound out the letter “n”. You’ll notice that the tip of your tongue is resting just behind your teeth.
- Keep your tongue in this position and swallow gently. You should notice that your tongue becomes suctioned to the roof of your mouth.
- 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.