Functions of the Nose for Sleep, Asthma, and Anxiety

Have you ever suffered from sleep apnea, asthma, anxiety or — snoring? Most people on the planet have experienced one of these afflictions a time or two in their lives. But most people have never considered the role the nose plays in any of these conditions.

In fact, most people seem to overlook the role of the humble but ever-so-important nose in our health.

The nose is crucial in protecting us from airborne germs, allergens, and dirt. It sterilizes bacteria and viruses, preventing them from entering our body.

The nose also ensures the air we breathe is the proper temperature and humidity for our body to use.

Sleeping; image source:

How our nasal health affects our sleep

For the millions across the globe who snore, it’s important to understand that snoring is not normal. It is disordered breathing.

For those who have disrupted sleep because of a snorer in the bed next to you, know that there are solutions.

If you’re of the slightly more exclusive club of those with sleep apnea, take heart as well.

Sometimes, nasal breathing is all that’s needed to turn these dangerous conditions around.

Mouth breathing during sleep is the primary culprit for snoring and sleep apnea. When we breathe through the mouth, especially at night, too much air enters the lungs. This increases negative pressure on the upper airways. Also, the air that is brought in through the mouth is too cool and dry for the respiratory system. This is the perfect storm which creates inflammation and narrowing of the airways. This results in snoring, or worse, sleep apnea.

The good news? If you can train yourself to breathe through the nose — both conditions can be resolved in a completely non-invasive way.

Proper nasal breathing and asthma relief

An estimated 300 million people around the world are currently diagnosed with asthma.

The healthcare costs for this debilitating disorder are staggering — over $56 billion globally.

Learning how to regulate nasal breathing effectively mitigates asthma symptoms.

Again — when air (and especially too much of it) enters through the mouth, the result is dry and cool lungs. This leads to bronchial restriction — exactly what you don’t want as an asthma patient.

In contrast, shallow, nasal breathing creates the optimal levels of carbon dioxide in the body. Have you heard that oxygen is what we need to survive? This is really only partly true. It’s carbon dioxide that is the key to healthy respiratory function. Carbon dioxide handles the bond between hemoglobin and oxygen — resulting in optimal oxygenation.

Breathe through your nose and reduce anxiety

Anxiety and panic attacks are becoming more common in our society that has normalized stress.

Long-term stress leads to, among other harmful side effects, over-breathing.

Studies show a relationship between those prone to anxiety and dysfunctional breathing patterns. But — learning how to breathe only through the nose can ease panic attacks. It can stop anxiety before it even begins.

During a panic attack, increased oxygen intake only increases panic. The excess oxygen disturbs normal blood gases. This reduces the delivery of oxygen to the brain. The panic attack then intensifies. It’s a vicious cycle that’s hard to escape.

Reduced, nasal breathing is helpful in thwarting these attacks. Decreased breath helps combat the physical symptoms of over-breathing. And it also gives the sufferer a feeling of control over the situation.

Those with anxiety can begin training their breath easily. A gentle exercise to try is holding the breath for 3-5 seconds at a time, a few times throughout the day. Once you’ve mastered this technique, you can further explore nasal breathing. With practice, you’ll be able to hold your breath longer.

Mastering the Buteyko method — honoring the way you were meant to breathe

The Buteyko method was first developed by a Ukranian doctor in the 1950s. It has developed a devoted following that continues to grow.

The primary teachings of Buteyko breathing center around reduced nasal breathing.

Humans, like all mammals, were meant to breathe through the nose exclusively. Just look at how a baby instinctively breathes.

When we are able to re-train our breath we are able to overcome many common health concerns.  Conditions including asthma, anxiety, sleep disorders, high blood pressure, and IBS can disappear.

Buteyko practitioners work with clients to teach them how to breathe again. Using simple techniques, breath stamina is built over time. Many patients experience dramatic results quickly. People all over the world have been able to stop asthma medications. Sleep normally again.

And the best part? Once you’ve re-trained the brain how to breathe properly, you don’t have to do it again. It’s kind of like riding a bike.

Give the Control Pause a try

A Buteyko practitioner commonly conducts a test coined the “control pause”.

It’s easy to test yourself:

  • Sit up straight in a chair and breathe as you normally would
  • After you exhale completely, hold your breath (nose pinching optional)
  • Start a stopwatch
  • Once you feel slightly uncomfortable and need to take a breath, note the time on the stopwatch
  • The number of seconds you have measured is your control pause

Individuals with a control pause of 40-60 seconds are in great shape.

Those with a score between 20-40 seconds may not have an existing health problem – but are likely to manifest one.

A score in the 10-second range? It’s time to address your breath to gain control of your health.

And remember — always breathe through your nose. That’s exactly what it was put on your face to do.

Interested in learning more? Find a trained Buteyko practitioner near you.



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