Do you wake up with a dry mouth? Pain or tension in your jaw? A sore throat that doesn’t seem related to allergies or sickness?
During the night, your jaw may fall open causing you to snore and put a lot of strain on your jaw and neck muscles. It’s not dangerous to sleep with your mouth open, but it can cause discomfort. Fortunately, you can train yourself to stop sleeping with your mouth open. Let’s take a look at a few ways to make that happen. Plus, we’ve answered a few questions you may have about why this is happening and why it’s a good idea to get on it sooner rather than later.
Why Does My Mouth Open During Sleep?
It could be something as simple as a positioning error. If you sleep on your back with the wrong type of pillow, it can tip your head backward, causing your mouth to open. Other causes could be a little more in depth.
Sleep Apnea is a condition that causes you to stop breathing temporarily while you’re sleeping. It’s caused by obstructions in the soft palate of the mouth. Other issues could be enlarged tonsils or adenoids causing you breathing to alter during the night and shift to the mouth.
The tongue helps hold those airway muscles in place. If the tongue relaxes too much or isn’t strong enough in the first place, the airway can’t remain fully open during sleep. If your tongue slips from its normal posture against the roof of your mouth, it encourages your mouth to fall open to allow more air.
Is It Bad To Breathe Through My Mouth?
Short answer, no. However, the nose is the organ primarily responsible for breathing. The mouth is a backup in case the nose is obstructed (colds, anyone?), but breathing through the mouth can cause a few different issues.
Although breathing through your mouth doesn’t directly cause cavities, it can dry out your mouth. One of the body’s first lines of defense against cavities is saliva. No saliva, no first line of defense.
Drying the mouth environment can also lead to a sore throat. Breathing through your mouth alters the mouth biome, leading to different combinations of bacteria that can irritate the throat lining. You’re also more likely to snore, putting a strain on those muscles and irritating the back of your throat.
When you breathe through your mouth, it isn’t as warm or moist as it would be if you breathed through your nose. This can make the symptoms of exercised induced Asthma worse in the long term.
When your breathing is so obstructed that you stop breathing altogether, it can really affect your quality of life. Sleep Apnea is a dangerous condition that can cause fatigue, heart trouble, and all sorts of other side effects if it goes undiagnosed and untreated.
What Are The Benefits Of Breathing Through My Nose?
The nose produces something called nitric oxide, which increases the lungs’ capacity and the body’s ability to transport oxygen. It causes blood vessels to dilate and its naturally antibacterial and helps support the immune system.
Your nose also physically filters the air coming into your body. Between these two functions, breathing through your nose is way better than breathing through your mouth. When you breathe through your mouth, you miss out on these two benefits, causing shallow breathing and a greater chance of infection.
How Do I Stop Breathing Through My Mouth At Night?
The good news is there are things you can do to discourage breathing through your mouth during the night. Let’s take a look.
Change Your Position
Side sleeping can help put your jaw back into the right position to stay closed during the night. If you sleep on your back, invest in a pillow that can help keep you on your side, such as a wedge pillow. Placing it at the small of your back can prevent you from turning over. You could also invest in a body pillow to place along your entire back to position you correctly.
If you sleep on your stomach, you can try the opposite. Placing a body pillow underneath your torso and knee can give you the feeling of sleeping on your stomach while keeping your head and neck relaxed in the side position.
You should also make sure that your pillow is the right loft for side sleepers. It should fit into your neck and shoulder, keeping those muscles relaxed and your head and spine aligned. Look for a medium loft like this one.
Taping your mouth shut can be another way to prevent your mouth from falling open. Using a simple tape, close your lips together using the tape to discourage your mouth from falling open. It can be uncomfortable at first, however. Be sure to find a tape that isn’t irritating, such as medical tape or kinesiology tape.
Deal With Allergies
If the problem is a persistent blockage in the nasal passages, keeping them clear could help tremendously. Take a decongestant or have your doctor offer a solution for chronic sinus issues. Remove allergens from your home and consider replacing your pillow or mattress with one that doesn’t have any known allergens. (This pillow and this mattress could be a good start).
If you don’t want to take medicines for your nasal blockages, taping the nose can help widen the airway and reduce the likelihood that your mouth has to open during the night to get enough oxygen. You can buy over the counter nasal strips that are easy to use and should work if you only need a minor solution.
If you’re diagnosed with Sleep Apnea, one way to get your breathing back on track is through a CPAP machine. It fits over your nose and mouth, helping you breathe correctly. You’ll probably have to invest in a CPAP friendly pillow, but plenty will work wonderfully.
During The Day
If you often breathe through your mouth during the day, you may want to be mindful to breathe through your nose. Write yourself notes and place them where you can see them to remind yourself when you aren’t thinking about it.
Getting in the habit of breathing through your nose during the day too can help habits form and retrain your body to the right type of position when it’s relaxed, and you aren’t thinking about it.
Make sure you’re breathing well during the night because you have no idea the havoc incorrect breathing can wreak on your life. When you’re too fatigued to think clearly and relying on caffeine and other stimulants just to get through the day, it may be time to take a look at your sleep habits and make some changes.
Breathing through your nose is ideal because the air is warm and moist, filtered, and filled with nitric oxide. It’s easier on the lungs and less likely to cause bacteria to form in the mouth environment. You won’t have the same discomfort that you do now, and you’ll be able to get so much of your life back once you’re breathing correctly again.
How do you plan to tackle your breathing issues? Let us know in the comments below.