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Dr Morris Cottle who founded the American Rhinologic Society in 1954 suggests that

Your nose performs at least 30 functions all of which are important supplements to the roles played by the lungs, heart, and other organs[1].

This really highlights the importance of using the nose as much as possible when we breathe in everyday life. And also for the majority of the time when exercising. And that is in and out through the nose.

Here are just some of the benefits

Nasal breathing will increase the resistance to the airflow. This will actually result in an increase of between 10 and 20% more oxygen uptake.

It also warms and humidifies the air that your breathing. And removes a significant amount of germs and bacteria.

It can help reduce the risk of developing a forward head posture. When breathing through the nostrils it’s much more efficient to balance your head on top of the spine to allow a clearer pathway into the lungs.

Nasal breathing encourages diaphragmatic breathing. Taking air in through the mouth tends to draw it into the upper chest whereas through the nose tends to activate the diaphragm taking the breath deeper into the body.

And studies show that diaphragmatic breathing can increase melatonin and reduce cortisol, reduce free radicals and oxidative stress[2].

Another study shows the importance of diaphragmatic breathing in relation to functional movement. 85% of participants who passed a Functional Movement Screening Test were classified as diaphragmatic breathers[3].

We should also ensure that we are nasal breathing during our sleep. Again studies show that you can reduce the occurrence of snoring and obstructive sleep apnoea[4].

Focusing on nasal breathing during the day with help form more of a habit. You can also tape your mouth at night. It’s not as horrendous as it sounds and of course, you would practice this during the day to get used to it but just get a strip of microporous tape, tear a little bit off and slick it on your lips.

With the mouth closed, you’re also decreasing the risk of acidification of the mouth, therefore, dental cavities and gum disease could be reduced.

A gas called nasal nitric oxide is produced in the nasal cavities and as you breathe in through the nose this gas will follow the airstream down into the lower airways and into the lungs.

It will kill deadly bacteria and also acts as a vasodilator – opening up the airways and increasing the surface area of the alveoli, the small air sacs, where the oxygen is absorbed from the air into the bloodstream and therefore more oxygen is absorbed more efficiently.

This is a great quote by Patrick McKeown from the Oxygen Advantage:

True health and inner peace occurs when breathing is quiet, effortless, soft through the nose, abdominal rhythmical, and gently paused on exhale.

This to me really sums up efficient breathing. Total nasal breathing is the starting point for functional breathing and indeed functional movement in everyday life as well as in exercise.

Take time out to focus on the breath

Take time out each day to focus on the breath. Start in an easy resting posture, sitting or lying down and bring  your attention to the nostrils. This is a great place to physically notice the change in temperature in the air as you breathe in and out, the slightly cooler air coming in, and slightly warmer leaving. I recommend spending at least 10 to 20 minutes a day just taking time out to focus on the breath. If you are comfortable with it tape you mouth as you sleep too and very soon you should notice a real change in mood, energy levels, focus and concentration and better quality sleep to help fully rest and restore your body and mind.

[1]  Timmons B.H., Ley R. Behavioral and Psychological Approaches to Breathing Disorders. 1st ed. Springer; 1994

[2] Martarelli D, Cocchioni M, Scuri S, Pompei P. Diaphragmatic breathing reduces exercise-induced oxidative stress

[3] Bradley H, Esformes J. Breathing pattern disorders and functional movement. The International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy, Volume 9, Number 1, February 2014

[4] Nasal obstruction as a risk factor for sleep-disordered breathing. Terry Young, PhD, Finn, MS, Hyon Kim, MS University of Wisconsin Sleep and Respiratory Research Madison, Wis