Do you have trouble breathing when you’re trying to sleep? Do you snore or sometimes wake up choking? Did you know that breathing through your nose can help you sleep better?
Are you one of the millions of people who can’t seem to fall asleep, or stay asleep? The problem could be breathing problems. Symptoms include:
- Waking often throughout the night
- Feeling as if you haven’t slept at all
- Awakening with a choking feeling
- Waking up too early
The inability to breathe properly when lying down to sleep has been so common for so long that some doctors blame it on our evolution. Dr. Steven Y. Park, author of the book Sleep, Interrupted: A Physician Reveals The #1 Reason Why So Many Of Us Are Sick And Tired says that changes in diet and the development of voice box and a tongue adapted to speech tended to narrow human airways, making it more likely our breathing will be interrupted, as gravity acts on mucus in the throat and nasal passage, and the tongue covers the breathing apparatus. These effects get much worse when, for natural reasons, our breathing pauses during sleep.
Check the room for allergens
It may be a comfort to have your cat or dog join you in bed, but if you have trouble breathing it’s possible that an allergy to pet dander – or material in your bed linens, carpet or curtains – is aggravating your stuffy nose. A round of allergy testing with your doctor might help identify the cause of nighttime congestion that interferes with sleep.
The nose has it
All these congestion causes can tend to promote mouth breathing when you try to sleep, but this has consequences of its own – dehydration and bad breath are the least of it. The consequences of snoring because you’re sleeping open-mouthed include disturbing your bed partner, and the serious condition of sleep apnea. This occurs when your breathing stops completely due to obstruction in the breathing passages, and it can happen as often as 30 times in an hour. Sleep apnea is associated with chronic fatigue, daytime sleepiness and has been implicated in heart problems and stroke.
Nose breathing permits more uninterrupted sleep
One easy remedy for sleep interrupted by breathing troubles is to breathe more naturally through your nose. But a stuffy nose due to cold or allergy can really make that difficult. Amazingly, according to the folks at LiveStrong, your nose produces between one and two QUARTS of mucus a day. When you’re up and active, nasal drainage is natural and goes almost unnoticed. Lying flat, though, the mucus doesn’t move to the back of the throat as easily. Also, because you swallow less when sleeping than when awake, the buildup of mucus can block your throat and nasal passages. Two tips for better nose breathing in bed include positioning pillows to raise your head higher, and using a humidifier in the room where you sleep. Adhesive strips that help spread the nostrils can counter the effect of a deviated septum – the tissue that divides the interior of your nose in half. It can also help to sleep on one side, with the head elevated, keeping open the wider side of your nasal passages.
Better sleep equals better health
Once your breathing stops interfering with your sleep, you’re likely to discover you are more mentally alert in the daytime, feel less sleepy, and have less tendency to overeat (Yes! Fatigue has been shown to promote cravings for salty, fatty foods that bust diets!). All these reasons add up to a powerful argument in favor of learning whether you’re a mouth-breather in bed, or a nose breather, and working to make sure your breathing habits are geared to helping you get the sleep you need to stay mentally alert and physically healthy.