Sleep-related morbidities have always played an extensive role in reducing the quality of life. In the recent decade, we have witnessed keen awareness regarding this. Nowadays, many Australians are looking for viable solutions that could help them or their partners in getting rid of sleep troubles.
One such problem is mouth breathing during sleep and its resultant snoring. If you are also looking for how to stop mouth breathing while sleeping, you have come to the right place.
What This Article Is All About?
This article will discuss the impact of mouth breathing on sleep apnea and available treatments in Australia to deal with this menace.
Mouth Breathing and Sleep Apnea – Are They Related?
The simples answer is: Yes, they are directly related.
This relationship is important to discuss because the treatment modalities are largely designed according to the cause as well as the impact of mouth breathing on the quality of sleep.
Mouth breathing and sleep apnea usually go hand in hand but there is also evidence that the former aggravates the later.
The rationale is that open mouth breathing reduces the diameter of your airway tract. This is due to the displacement of muscles responsible for the dilation of your airway during sleep. These muscles, when unable to function properly due to open mouth, increase the collapsibility of the airway. Consequently, the obstruction increases and obstructive sleep apnea becomes severe.
That is also why you might experience an exacerbation in snoring while breathing from the mouth during the night.
Therefore, the efficacy of any therapy always depends upon its ability to alleviate the mouth breathing as well as its consequences.
Is It Possible to Stop Mouth Breathing While Sleeping?
Fortunately, yes. You can manage mouth breathing, often without going through expensive consultations and scary surgical procedures.
Nowadays, many therapies have become popular and each caters to a different set of patients.
Why does this matter?
This is because every mouth breathing individual has a different cause for his suffering.
One of these causes is nasal obstruction. So, an effective approach is to clear the nasal pathway before moving towards other therapeutic options.
How Can You Treat Mouth Breathing Due to Nasal Obstruction?
Mouth breathing due to nasal obstruction may or may not present with obstructive sleep apnea.
However, evidence suggests a strong correlation. According to one study, one-third of patients of obstructive sleep apnea had an obstructive nasal path.
Since your mouth and nose are only two ways to inspire air, it’s understandable that mouth breathing is often an attempt to meet oxygen demand. It worsens during the night because your conscious levels are low and throat muscles are relaxed. Hence, your mouth allows air passage conveniently as compared to your nose.
An obstruction in the nose can present as:
- Nasal polyp (abnormal tissue growth in the nose)
- A deviated septum (bridge of your nose)
- Mucosal swelling due to allergies
- Swelling of adenoids (tissue at the back of your nose)
The treatment of choice for correction of nasal obstruction is surgery.
The good news is that the Australian Medical Council has approved safe and least invasive nasal surgeries to manage such structural problems. Their efficacy is close to 100% and side effects are minimal.
Please consult your ENT specialist for an expert opinion and a surgical appointment.
Short-term Strategies to Stop Mouth Breathing While Sleeping
If you don’t have a deformed nose but still suffer from continuing mouth breathing, don’t lose hope just yet.
In the absence of nasal blockage, you can opt for therapies that help you close your mouth in the night.
The principle of such strategies is that if you force your mouth to close, somehow, your body adapts to push air through your nose. It not only reduces the long-term structural alterations resulting from chronic mouth breathing but also lessens snoring.
However, keep in mind that these are short-term and superficial solutions. They do not address underlying causes and their efficacy only lasts until you keep using these devices.
#1 Temporary Jaw Closure Devices
As the name suggests, these devices are designed to keep your jaws closed during sleep.
Since your muscles lose their tone while sleeping, jaw drop occurs. Consequently, an open pathway is created for air to pass through your mouth instead of the nose.
Imagine a huge door and a small hole in your bedroom wall. Why would air pass through that hole, when the door is present to create a bigger gradient? The same is with your body. It doesn’t make enough effort to push air through your nose when your mouth is open, making you a habitual mouth breather.
Such devices include:
- Porous Oral Patch is a jaw-closing device made of silicone and polyurethane film. You can fix it in your mouth before sleeping
This device was used by a group of researchers for conducting a study in Taiwan to test the efficacy of lip seal in mouth breathers. The results were extremely encouraging and all the participants experienced a reduction in the severity of snoring. They concluded that jaw-sealing devices could prove largely beneficial in mouth breathers without nasal obstruction.
- Chinstrap is also a device designed to lift mandible and level it off with the upper jaw, ensuring a lip seal.
The mandible in individuals with mouth breathing problems moves downwards and backward during sleep and this opens the mouth. Chinstrap alleviates this problem by lifting the mandible effectively.
However, some studies show that combining chinstrap with some other oral device is required for significant results.
#2 Intra-oral Appliances
Intra-oral devices are often used in Australia to manage the snoring problem. Since all these devices are placed in the mouth, they mechanically hinder the oral cavity. When your mouth is filled with a plastic foreign body, it is obvious that your nose jumps in to take the role of inspiration.
A popular choice in oral devices is a mandibular advancement device that moves your lower jaw forward. It not only reduces space for mouth breathing but also makes your airway spacious. Hence, you get a two-fold solution to your sleep problems; nasal breathing and lesser snoring!
Long-term Strategies to Stop Mouth Breathing While Sleeping
These treatment options are based on the principle of modifying the musculoskeletal integrity of your face. In simple words, these are indirect therapies that aim to permanently modulate your facial structure to ensure mouth closure while sleeping.
Although they effectively address mouth breathing, it takes a lot of consistency and compliance to achieve them.
#1 Myo-functional Exercises
Myofunctional therapy includes various exercises designed to strengthen the muscles of the tongue and jaws. It is like the physiotherapy of oral muscles. They help you in making your oral muscle robust enough to overcome the loss of tone during sleep, which eventually leads to natural jaw closure during the night.
Some of these are:
- Hold a spoon
Practice holding a spoon between your lips (not your teeth) and try to keep it parallel to the ground.
- Push up the tongue
Stick your tongue against your hard palate, behind your teeth, and push against it for a few seconds.
You can find many of these online or get a sleep specialist to enroll you in a therapy program.
Most of them are simple and non-invasive. The only con is that you need to keep doing them for at least a year for effective results.
While compliance is an understandable drawback, the outcome is highly encouraging. The research shows that adults who continue myofunctional exercises for a significant period, experience a 50% reduction in snoring and mouth breathing.
Sticking your tongue out for a few seconds doesn’t look like a bad deal at all now, does it?
#2 Facial Bone Expansion
Facial bone expansion is probably the most effective treatment for mouth breathing. It focuses on expanding the mouth space by fixation of facial bones. This lessens the obstruction that causes snoring. A congested airway also makes you open your mouth while sleeping to get enough oxygen. So, with your bones re-aligned, mouth breathing also stops.
The bones expanded in this therapy are mandible and maxilla. These two make your upper and lower jaw; so a permanent surgical intervention can reverse your sleep apnea.
Despite being highly effective in curing mouth breathing, it remains the least opted for treatment choice in Australia. The reason is that surgically cutting or realigning the bones sounds ideal in theory; but practically, it is extremely invasive. Moreover, dealing with the airway is a complicated procedure and patients often find it nerve-wracking.
The Final Verdict
Mouth breathing is a common problem and often aggravates sleep apnea. It can arise with or without nasal obstruction and treatment is largely dependent on the clinical presentation. For those with nasal obstruction, minor surgical procedures are widely performed by ENT doctors in Australia.
Those without nasal obstruction can rely on jaw-closing or oral devices, which serve as direct but short-term treatment options. There are also long-term strategies available that include muscle strengthening exercises and manipulation of facial bones. Although both these options have their efficacy well-documented, how you choose to stop mouth breathing while sleeping mainly depends on your priorities.
Dr. Muhammad Usman is a Doctor, Nutritionist, Wellness Coach and a Researcher with a deep insight into all aspects of writing related to health and science.