Shut your mouth and breathe!

My fellow breathwork facilitator asked me to sum up James Nestor’s book, Breath in one word. “Shutup!” was my reply, which I’ve now realized is two words, but my reasoning stands. If you shut your mouth to breathe, you reap amazing health benefits, according to Mr Nestor. He got the lowdown on this strange topic from the work of George Catlin a nineteenth century documenter of indigenous people of the Great Plains of America and from Ann Kearney, a doctor of speech-language pathology. He also quotes the researcher and author, Dr Burhenne, explaining that when we breathe through the mouth it causes many serious physical issues. In contrast, breathing through the nose enables the sinuses to release nitric oxide, which increases circulation and supports the cells to get more oxygen on board. “Nasal breathing alone can boost nitric oxide sixfold,” he states. Apparently, if you get more nitric oxide into your bloodstream, it opens the capillaries and that’s a really good thing. James alludes to Viagra working in exactly this way, which makes me wonder how much more environmentally friendly the breath would be than a little blue pill, but I digress.

Of course, mouth breathers have varying reasons for their habit, but the consequences seem to be quite concerning for all. Not using the nasal cavity can lead to atrophy and then snoring and sleep apnea may be quick to follow. I immediately thought of the times I’d had to decamp to the futon in the spare room due to my husband’s comedy snoring. So what’s the solution? Mouth taping! James Nestor agrees with the breathing experts that the resulting nocturnal mouth breathing will help train the tissues in the nasal cavity and throat to have a constant workout and this leads to efficient breathing and successful treatment of snoring and apnea, as well as other conditions associated with breathing difficulties like ADHD. Think open pipes, rather than scrunched up straws.

The chances of getting some tape on my husband’s mouth were pretty slim, so I wondered if I could lead by example. There had been the odd comment about my nocturnal nasal concerts, after all. I searched the internet and found a mind boggling world of mouth tape options with catchy taglines. My favourite was myotape, because the sleeping couple looked hilarious and I thought it would be a laugh to have a photo of me with an orange letter box plaster on my mouth with zzzzz.. written all over it to grab your attention. Upon reflection, I delegated that honour to my reiki doll instead.

You had me at safe

SAFE. SLEEP. SCIENCE went the tagline. “You had me at safe,” I thought wryly. I wasn’t too sure how safe it would be to tape up my mouth and I hadn’t liked the idea of the products that went over the whole mouth. It does say on the back of this pack that it isn’t safe for children under 4 years of age or if the child or adult is not able to remove the tape by themselves. Good thing I gave up alcohol two years ago. They also aren’t suitable for anyone with severe nasal congestion or breathing problems. That seemed reasonable, since the main reason behind my mouth breathing was probably my jaw alignment and so I decided to go ahead. For me, it just seemed more comfortable to have my mouth open, but I wanted to change to more healthy nasal breathing. I was waking up quite often for no reason and I had a hunch it could be breathing related. In fact, I’ve had quite a lot of pain on the right side of my jaw for many years and I wondered if I might find some change there too from this little experiment in nose breathing.

So what happened? Well, it was rather odd to wear the plasters and I was a bit embarrassed about the whole look. I decided to wait until the lights were out and hubby was happily snoring to fix up my quirky remedy. With hindsight, that did make the application of the tape quite tricky, with the plasters sticking more to my hands than my face and often ending up lopsided, resulting in a kind of bells palsy feeling. But my technique improved and after a few days, the tape only felt weird for the first 5 minutes. I quite liked the feeling after that. I began to really look forward to the sense of relaxation I got from not having to use my muscles to keep my mouth closed. The tape was doing it for me! I wondered about the jaw pain and its correlation to tense muscles. A hospital appointment and some X rays had brought the unhelpful diagnosis of unidentified jaw pain, so I felt i was on my own with that one.

Fast forward 2 weeks and I was feeling that the mouth taping worked so well that I would definitely carry on for another month. My sleep had improved massively. So, I was just about to head happily into increased nocturnal bliss, when I suddenly ran into difficulties. The first morning of week three, I realized too late that the tape had stuck a little too much to my cheek and it hurt to take it off. It felt like a blister, but there wasn’t much to see. Strange thing is, the enforced wait before I can try again has brought back the pain in the jaw and the broken nights. There really could be something in this mouth taping malarkey after all. Let’s see what happens next in my breathwork adventures!