Does your partner joke or complain about your snoring? Do you have to go to the bathroom several times during the night? Do you wake up with a dry mouth? Do you still feel tired in the morning? If any of you answers were yes, it could be a sign you’re a mouth breather. And sleeping with your mouth open can be a cause for concern.
Researchers report nasal obstruction puts you at greater risk for snoring, sleep apnea and other sleep disorders. In children, it can affect normal facial and dental development, along with academic performance and behavior because of poor sleep.
Compared to nasal breathing, mouth breathing is hard on your heart. It can result in low oxygen concentration in the blood, which is associated with high blood pressure and heart issues. Lung function can also be affected. Additionally, breathing through the mouth all the time can lead to bad breath and gum disease.
“Nasal obstruction can be caused by a number of things,” says Dr. Amit Gupta, who specializes in sleep medicine at Aurora BayCare Medical Center in Green Bay, Wis. “Most commonly it’s a stuffy nose from allergies or a cold, but a deviated septum, stress, anxiety and even some medications can cause congestion. And when you lay down to sleep, your nose becomes even more plugged.”
There are several things you can try to relieve temporary congestion to open your nose. Nasal irrigation systems like a neti pot flushes out the nose with salt water. Some people also find nasal strips helpful, which open the nostrils from the outside. Mouth tape is another treatment product that’s available, but experts warn taping your mouth shut while you sleep to force nasal breathing can be dangerous, especially if you have sleep apnea.
“If you’re a chronic mouth breather, see your physician to pinpoint the underlying cause,” Dr. Gupta recommends. “They can also help you determine if testing for sleep apnea may be necessary. Detecting and treating this disorder early is extremely important to your overall health – and your life.”
Untreated sleep apnea can lead to serious health conditions, including high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and depression, he says.
“Once you know why you’re mouth breathing or if you have a sleep disorder, you can get on the path to restful sleep,” Dr. Gupta says. “In doing all you can to be your healthiest, you should focus on getting a good night’s sleep, along with eating well, exercising and regularly seeing your primary care physician.”
Take this free sleep apnea quiz to help you evaluate your risk factors like snoring, breathing pauses during sleep, fatigue and body weight. Based on your results, it will give you an idea of what to do next.