7 Reasons Why Mouth Breathing Reduces Longevity
Our friends over at the Men Talking Mindfulness podcast recently interviewed James Nestor, the New York Times best-selling author of the book Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art. In the podcast interview, Jon Macaskill and Will Schneider uncovered 7 reasons why mouth breathing reduces longevity.
Hear more from Jon Macaskill and Will Schneider in our Mindfulness & Movement Experience!
Mouth breathing is exactly what it sounds like: breathing through the mouth. The better alternative – of course – is to breathe through the nose. However, the bulk of modern day humans spend a significant amount of time breathing through the mouth. The context of this interview has to do with breathing behavior while sleeping, but can also be applied to daytime breathing as well.
The author Nestor describes a set of 10 day experiments. For the first 10 days he and a partner tape their nostrils shut and breathe only through the mouth. The following 10 days are the opposite, with the mouth taped and breaths were only taken nasally. Their experience – plus 10 years of wide-ranging research – support the following 7 reasons why mouth breathing reduces longevity.
#1: Mouth breathing results in less pressure in the airway, leading to less efficient oxygen/CO2 exchange.
#2: Mouth breathing increases snoring and sleep apnea.
#3: Mouth breathing lowers heart rate variability (HRV).
#4: Mouth breathing reduces sleep quality.
#5: Mouth breathing reduces the release of vasopressin, a hormone which eventually impacts kidney function and the body’s water balance.
#6: Mouth breathing increases the likelihood of periodontal disease (i.e. tooth decay) as it significantly shifts the mouth’s pH.
#7: Mouth breathing bypasses a key function of nasal tissue, namely to regulate blood flow and brain function.
How to avoid mouth breathing while sleeping
Try this simple experiment for several nights – it will work for most people. Just before bed each night, take a single piece of medical tape (or similar adhesive strength tape) and stick one end on your upper lip and the other on your lower lip. The tape should be vertical, and loose enough for you to pass air through the lips. While it may feel awkward the first night, stick with it for a few nights and note down how you feel the next morning and afternoon.