Nose breathing vs mouth breathing

Breathwork, Calm, Sleep

Nose breathing is what nature intended

The nose is especially designed for breathing. Normal breathing is in and out of the nose. Scientists estimate that the human nose performs up to 30 functions in the body.

Breathing through the nose allows air to be warmed and moistened as it travels along the nasal passage. At the same time, the air is filtered and microbes (including bacteria, fungi and viruses) are trapped in the nasal passage, preventing them from getting into the respiratory system and more importantly, the lungs. The nose is here to protect the body.

The greatest concentration of blood is in the lower part of the lungs. If you are breathing through the nose you are most likely activating the diaphragm and therefore oxygenating the lower parts of the lungs where more oxygen is passed through to the blood. This is good news for the brain as it helps to maintain focus, concentration and decrease brain fog while maintaining alertness.

Slowing down the breath

Nasal breathing slows down the breath and makes it more regular. Breathing slow and relaxed, especially on the exhale, sends the clear message to the nervous system that all is well and the body can stay in a state of calm.

As the air travels through the nasal cavity, nitric oxide is released. Nitric oxide is important for the body to signal the inner muscles of the blood vessels to relax. Relaxing the muscles opens the blood vessels to allow more blood, oxygen and nutrients to be carried throughout the body. It plays an important role in redistributing oxygenated blood throughout the lungs and results in improved lung volume.

Mouth breathing

Mouth breathing is more likely to result in irregular, loud and fast breathing in the upper chest and upper lungs. This type of breathing sends a signal to the nervous system to be on alert in fight or flight mode. It may also result in over-breathing that creates further anxiety and stress responses in the body.

The incoming air from mouth breathing is not warmed or moistened and microbes are not filtered out. As a result there is increased likelihood of inflammation of the upper and lower airways.

Reduced nitric oxide is released in mouth breathing and therefore the muscles in the lung’s blood vessels are less dilated and less blood and oxygen can be carried throughout the lungs and other parts of the body.

Three key areas for nasal breathing

1.  In sleep…

Breathing through the nose during sleep is an important factor in reducing snoring and sleep apnea – a condition where you frequently stop breathing during sleep. Mouth snoring is a result of mouth breathing during the night. Disturbed sleep and frequent waking is often a result of mouth snoring which stops when the mouth is closed. Deeper sleep is possible with nose breathing throughout the night.

2.  In rest…

After periods of concentration and focus, nose breathing reduces body arousal and calms the nervous system. Nasal breathing using the diaphragm is also important to reduce arousal before going to bed and as part of a healthy bedtime ritual.

3.  In exercise…

Breathing through the nose when gently exercising and walking is beneficial because it allows the lungs to extract more oxygen from the air and deliver it to muscles and organs. The better our muscles are fuelled, the longer and harder they can work. Fitness improves. Calmness expands. Anxiety decreases.

Breathing through the nose is such an important tool to reduce over-breathing and bring the body back to a state of functional health. I often wonder why nobody told me this in all the years I had symptoms of asthma.

If you would like help in learning and implementing breathing exercises, we can do this together by emailing me at

You can also book a 30 minute free intro session with me and check out my breathing sessions.

Further reading

Bostock, Richie. Exhale. London: Penguin, 2020

McKeown, Patrick. The Breathing Cure: exercises to develop new breathing habits for a healthier, happier and longer life. OxyAt Books. 2021


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