We enter the world with a breath and the process continues automatically for the rest of our lives. Although breathing is an involuntary function, the manner in which we breathe has an enormous effect on our health. Breathing is an innate bodily function which most of us take completely for granted; it only gets our attention when it is not up to par with what is counted to be normal.
When you ask people if they breathe through their nose or mouth, many may not be prepared to answer because they are not conscious about it. Many folks have misconceptions of it due to lack of awareness about the best way to breathe.
What is Normal Breathing?
The nose performs at least 30 functions on behalf of the body. Along with providing a sense of smell, the nose is nature’s way of preparing air before it enters the lungs. As the nostrils are much smaller than the mouth, they slow down breathing resulting in a 10-20% greater oxygen uptake in the blood. Breathing optimally through the nose not only increases blood oxygenation, but also increases the amount of oxygen delivered to tissues and organs.
The way we breathe and the volume of our breathing have a direct impact on our sleep quality mattress, as well as on how we function during our waking hours. Healthy breathing should be through the nose, driven by the diaphragm, calm, and almost undetectable.
Unhealthy breathing, involves breathing through the mouth or having noticeable breathing during rest. These seemingly innocuous habits literally disrupt biochemistry and deprive the body of oxygen (O2). Nasal breathing results in a higher concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the blood thereby providing optimal distribution of oxygen to your muscles and organs including the heart and brain.
While often thought to be a waste gas, CO2 is the key variable that allows the release of O2 from the red blood cells to be metabolized in the body. A key determining factor of how much oxygen your body can use is actually the amount of CO2 in your blood.
Over-Breathing? Not Good
Many people over-breathe, meaning they take in more air than required which in turn causes too much carbon dioxide to be exhaled, leaving the body gasping for O2. It is a vicious cycle. Over breathing can also cause our airways to narrow, further limiting the body’s ability to oxygenate properly.
Mouth breathing is another common breathing problem, whereby the person bypasses critical functions of breathing through the nose. Be it from habit or because of clogged nasal airways due to allergies or a deviated septum, the impact is negative for your health and well-being.
Improper daytime breathing can result in breathing stoppage during sleep, a condition known as obstructive sleep apnea. When this happens, there are many associated health risks. Furthermore, the “hunger” hormones leptin and ghrelin are influenced by this, which leads to unwanted weight gain.
If for any reason, you cannot control breathing heavily through your mouth, it is recommended that you consult with your physician who would investigate the underlying cause, which can be a cardiovascular or respiratory disorder. If such is the case, then proper treatment will be necessary.