Are You a Mouth Breather?
If you’ve noticed that you don’t feel very refreshed upon waking, or maybe your mouth and lips are as dry as the pages of an old book; if you’ve searched and found yourself on this page – then we welcome you, mouth breather!
Maybe you just consider it a minor annoyance at this point. I mean, just take a swig of water or down a couple cups of coffee, and you’re golden! Right?
Mouth breathing can lead to a host of other bodily issues that will decrease your quality of life.
If, however, you’re already on board and searching for a solution, I’ve got to be real with you… there is no one-size-fits-all cure. Womp womp wooooomp.
But the good news is, I’ve already done all the hard work for you! Huzzah!
In this article, I’ve compiled the 17 best ways to reduce mouth breathing at night so that you can find the optimal method that fits your lifestyle.
Say “Goodnight” to mouth breathing, and “Good Morning” to your nasal breathing future!
1. Use Mouth Tape
First and foremost is mouth taping. With this technique, a person tapes their mouth shut while they sleep to encourage nasal breathing.
Now, don’t freak out! It’s not as claustrophobic as it sounds.
You don’t have to fully cover your mouth like you’re caught up in a hostage crisis, just a little rectangle to keep the lips together will do. Observe:
Mouth taping is a great non-invasive way to encourage nose breathing naturally.
In my article The Best Mouth Tape, I review some of the top choices currently on the market to help you make an informed decision.
2. Use a Nasal Dilator
Go ahead and 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 because your mouth is open, the mouth tape may solve that; but it won’t help if your nasal passages themselves are restricting airflow. If you can’t breathe, you can’t breathe, right?
If this sounds like you, your best bet might be in nasal dilators, of which there are two varieties: internal and external.
Internal dilators go inside of your nose to keep the airway open, while external dilators attach to the outside of your nose and, through adhesion or magnetics, pull your airways open.
Internal nasal dilators appear to be more effective than external dilators at reducing nasal resistance. [R] [R]
If you’re looking to try this method out, be sure to check my guide to the Best Nasal Dilators for Sleep.
3. Test for Sleep Apnea
Sleep Apnea is a serious disorder in which you repeatedly start and stop breathing for lengths of time through the night. Pretty terrifying thought, right? Not only are you breathing inefficiently, but you straight up might just not be breathing.
This can be caused by obstructions (OSA) or neurological dysfunction (CSA).
The best way to test for this is to monitor your blood oxygen levels (SpO2) and/or your breathing rate, along with your pulse rate. You can measure these rates at home with the help of pulse ox meters or sleep monitoring devices.
If you’re concerned that you might have Sleep Apnea and you are uncomfortable handling it on your own, consult with a physician or ENT.
4. Reduce Allergens
Our noses are natural filters but in this day and age, there is just too much pollution in the air for our tiny hairs to handle.
Along with seasonal allergies, caused mainly by pollen, there are other things like mold, dust, smoke, smog, pet dander, and other particulates floating around wreaking havoc on your respiratory system.
Your mouth breathing might not be entirely your fault!
So, to help unclog your natural filter, there are a few steps you can take:
Purchase an Air Purifier
It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Even a small one will filter out the majority of pollutants while you sleep. This will decrease nasal inflammation, and increase the likelihood of nasal breathing over mouth breathing.
Use a Negative Ion Generator
This device sends out negatively charged ions that attach to small particles of dust, mold, and other allergens weighing them down so they fall to the ground rather than hang in the air.
Studies have shown air ionization can increase oxygen concentrations, and improve respiratory function, and an overall sense of well-being. [R]
Order Some Tests
If you’re still unsure exactly what it is in the air that could be bothering you, and you don’t feel like placing a bunch of devices in your home just yet, you can always order allergy test kits to help you on your journey.
There are a variety of at-home tests for the basics of indoor and outdoor allergens (dust, mold, pollen, trees, grass, pets, etc).
If you feel that your allergies are a bit more severe or urgent in nature, you should consult with a physician about your testing options.
If left to multiply haphazardly in our homes, mold will release toxic byproducts that infest our bodies and cause respiratory, autoimmune, and neurological dysfunction. [R]
There are a number of mold tests you can do in your home and to detect them in your body. Evan Brand is a mold master and has multiple resources in this field.
5. Exercise More Often
I know, I know. It’s what we aaaalllllllll want to hear. But this is more than just a new years resolution, I promise.
Experts recommend at least 30 minutes of exercise, 5 days a week. Now this “exercise” is anything that leaves you “moderately breathless” such as cleaning, gardening, or taking a brisk walk in the open air. [R]
Doesn’t seem too bad now, does it?
When you exercise, your heart and lungs get strengthened, and when done regularly, they become more efficient at their jobs. This leads to decreases in breathing issues such as sleep apnea or other mouth-breathing complications.
6. Try Using a Mouth Guard
Ready, set, HIKE! I know you’ve got that old mouth guard hanging around somewhere… eww no, actually don’t look for it! Keep it nice and safe and hidden. Buy a new one!
But in all seriousness, wearing a mouth guard at night not only protects your teeth from grinding but can also adjust your jaw and tongue position to help discourage mouth breathing, snoring, and apneas. [R]
7. Lose Weight
Now, I realize this might be a sensitive topic for some, but just hear me out.
If you find that you are suffering from the consequences of mouth breathing AND you are overweight or obese… the first place to start is in weight loss.
Excess body weight can alter the anatomy of your upper airways, promote bodily inflammation, and increase respiratory and cardiac workload. This strain on your system can lead to OSA and/or Obesity Hypoventilation Syndrome (OHS). [R]
If weight loss is something that you have struggled with and/or all you’ve heard were the lies of people telling you you need to “eat less and exercise more”, it’s time to dig a little deeper.
Getting to the root cause of your weight gain will be crucial to your success. That cause could be anything from psychological to metabolic in nature, but you have to discover it, tackle it, and claim victory over it.
I’ve personally discovered great success in following an animal-based/whole-food lifestyle which made me so much more aware of my body and what it needs to properly function. Wherever you are in your journey, I believe in you, you can find relief!
8. Try Oropharyngeal Strength Training
Woah! Big words! Ok, this is essentially everything in the back of your throat – tonsils, soft palate, the back third of your tongue, etc. At night, these muscles relax and can obstruct your airway leading to mouth breathing, snoring, and/or OSA.
So, by strengthening those muscles, you can increase their ability to hold their shape even while sleeping. The science behind strength training of the oropharyngeal muscles is quite robust and requires only 5-10 minutes per day. [R] [R] [R]
Go in front of a mirror, open your mouth and stick out your tongue. Can you see the dangly thing back there? How much?
Those of you with a higher Mallampati Score of 3 or 4 may especially want to explore OST further.
9. Get an IMST Device
IMST = Inspiratory Muscle Strength Training. These exercises strengthen the actual muscles responsible for breathing itself. An IMST device is basically a set of dumbbells for your diaphragm. So buff!
IMST has been shown to improve daytime sleepiness, nighttime arousal, overall sleep quality, and sometimes apnea episodes. [R] [R] [R] [R]
IMST and OST are often seen in conjunction with one another, but no matter what your Mallampati score, anyone can seek to benefit from the usage of IMST devices.
10. Learn 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 ourselves into a tizzy over whether this will make us look like the Crimson Chin, that’s not the point here. (Though a few jawline compliments wouldn’t hurt…)
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.
11. Eat a Low Inflammatory Diet
If you’re having inflammatory or allergy-related issues that cause swelling and/or increased mucus production, and air purifiers or allergy tests are appearing to be unhelpful, you may want to consider changing up your diet.
Just like air pollutants, there are toxic compounds in our foods throwing our bodies on high alert. Ditching things like seeds, nuts, beans, wheat, and vegetable/seed oils can go a long way in reducing inflammation and allergy severity.
As you can see, there are a plethora of options to choose from within the bounds of an anti-inflammatory diet so you won’t feel like you’re “missing out” on enjoyable foods.
You can also start by eliminating the majority of the no-nos and then slowly reintroduce them to see if they cause a reaction. If not, great! They can stay! But, if you find your inflammation gets worse….they should stay gone.
12. Try the Buteyko Breathing Technique
Pronounced Bu-tay-ko, this technique focuses on controlling the breath through a series of holds and slow, deep breaths to improve oxygenation and release tension.
Breathing shouldn’t be exhausting all by itself. Our breaths should come quietly, from the diaphragm, and through the nose. There should also be a natural pause after exhalation. If you feel your breath is always hurried and shallow, this will help.
Focusing on this kind of breath work can open our airways which relieves not only mouth breathing issues such as snoring and apnea, but also has a calming effect on those with anxiety or panic attacks. [R] [R]
13. Clean Your Nose With a Netti Pot
A Netti Pot is like a little watering can for your sinuses. You pour water through one nostril, and as it passes through your nasal cavity, it clears out the gunk and snot which flows out of the other nostril.
There can be a slight sense of discomfort as the water carries through, but as long as you don’t purposefully inhale it, you don’t have to worry about drowning yourself or it going into your lungs.
If you’re not as keen on the prospect of this aggressive flush, you can alternatively find a sinus steamer. With this device, you can breathe in steam which, like taking a hot shower, can decrease inflammation and encourage your sinuses to drain on their own.
14. Don’t Eat Before Bed
It’ll give you nightmares! At least it does for me… but anyways, I digress…
If you are a late-night snacker, your mouth breathing could be caused by acid reflux. This is when acid from your stomach escapes into your esophagus.
When you eat right before bed, your body will still be trying to digest that food while you sleep. Since you are laying horizontally, it will be easier for that acid to escape into your esophagus and airways causing inflammation.
There are, of course, some foods that incite this type of reaction more than others, so if you are someone who needs to eat and then sleep quickly after, all is not lost. Look into unprocessed and high-protein foods so you can still get a good night’s sleep.
15. Use a Chin Strap
Along the same lines as the mouth tape, this is more of a mechanical device that deters mouth breathing by keeping the mouth closed.
It works by wrapping all the way around your head and over your chin to keep your lower jaw from sagging open at night. This can help with snoring, mouth breathing, and mouth dryness.
16. Try Sleeping More Elevated
I’m sure you’ve noticed when you lie down how the blood pressure in your skull rises and your nose gets a little stuffy. Makes it a bit difficult to breathe through now don’t it?
Or maybe you use a pillow, so your head is technically elevated, but now and then you just end up pinching your chin to your neck because the pillow isn’t properly positioned.
The ideal situation will elevate your head, neck, and shoulders to a more suitable degree keeping them in alignment. This will decrease that cranial pressure, alleviate congestion, and assure that you aren’t cutting off your airway.
Check out my article for The Zero Gravity Sleep Position where I’ve compiled a lot of research into the optimal sleep position for humans.
17. Consult With an ENT
ENT! They’re dynamite! This is what I would consider a last resort, though for some it might just be easier to just start here. Seeing an Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist can help you get to the bottom of what might be causing your nightly mouth breathing.
They can test for allergies, apneas, and other physiological conditions which might require surgery. These would only be able to be detected by visiting an ENT; so if your sleep apnea or snoring feels life-threatening, definitely check in with your doctor.
An ENT can also determine if you are eligible for certain surgeries which help open your airways and stiffen the soft muscles involved. An extremely common surgical intervention involves the correction of a deviated septum or the removal of the tonsils.
A deviated septum occurs when the thin separator between your nostrils is bent or displaced to one side. This restricts airflow through one nostril which decreases the efficiency of nasal breathing.
Nasal dilators may be able to help in some cases, but others require surgery to correct. Your ENT will be able to determine if the deviation is severe enough to require this.
Other Possible Surgeries
A tonsillectomy will remove the tonsils, enlargening the space at the back of your throat.
Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) is a type of plastic surgery that removes excess soft tissue and/or repositions them to open airways. As your throat heals, the tissues stiffen which further decreases the possibility of vibrations obstructing your breathing.
You can also undergo Thermal Ablation of the inner wall of your nose to decrease tissues and open the nasal passages. [R] [R]
Well folks, at least one of these should solve your problem! I’m sorry I couldn’t tell you exactly which one, but I think you’ll be able to tell what works and what doesn’t. Could be just one or could be a combination. Choose your adventure.
Just remember: breathe low, slow, and through your nose!
This guide will keep evolving over time to include more links to additional information on each topic and my personal recommendations as I test out the products that are out there. Be sure to stay tuned for when these updates drop!