Do you often wake up with a dry mouth and sore throat? Or does your partner complain about loud snoring or breathing interruptions? This likely means you sleep with your mouth open.
While breathing through the mouth may seem harmless, it can disrupt your sleep quality and negatively impact your health if left unchecked.
The ideal is to sleep with your mouth closed to prevent issues like snoring, dry mouth, and sleep apnea. Doing so allows you to sink into deeper, less fragmented sleep cycles.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explain the downsides of sleeping with your mouth open and provide proven strategies to train yourself to keep it closed instead.
Problems With Sleeping With Your Mouth Open
Mouth breathing when you sleep can contribute to several issues:
Sleeping with an open mouth reduces time spent in restorative deep sleep stages. This impairs brain function and physical recovery.
Open mouth breathing increases turbulence in airways that vibrates soft tissues creating snoring sounds that disrupt both you and your partner.
Mouth breathing leads to dry mouth and throat since air isn’t adequately humidified when it bypasses nasal passages.
The lack of saliva in a dry mouth raises oral bacteria levels that damage tooth enamel.
That excess bacteria combined with a dry mouth creates unpleasant morning breath.
Mouth breathing accelerates water loss resulting in waking up dehydrated with thirst.
Open mouth breathing can exacerbate sleep apnea in those predisposed to airway collapse by creating stronger negative pressure.
Jaw Alignment Issues
Sleeping with your mouth open can cause jaw pain, misalignment or TMJ issues over time due to unnatural positioning.
As you can see, making a habit of sleeping with your mouth closed improves various aspects of sleep-related health and comfort for both you and your bed partner.
Now let’s explore why we mouth breathe during sleep in the first place.
Causes of Mouth Breathing During Sleep
There are several possible explanations for unconsciously opening your mouth to breathe while asleep:
- Nasal congestion – Blocked sinuses from allergies, colds or structural issues force mouth breathing.
- Anatomical factors – Those with smaller jaws/airways are prone to mouth breathing when muscle tone drops during sleep.
- Sleep apnea – Open mouth breathing may reflexively compensate for apnea events.
- Medications – Some allergy, blood pressure, pain and psychiatric meds can dry the mouth and impair nasal breathing.
- Poor sleep posture – Sleeping in positions that collapse or restrict airways leads to mouth breathing.
- Smoking – Irritation from smoke inflames nasal passages.
- Alcohol – Alcohol relaxes the throat muscles making mouth breathing more likely.
Identifying any underlying causes for your nighttime mouth breathing is the first step toward correcting the issue for better sleep.
Now let’s explore top solutions to effectively retrain yourself to sleep with your mouth closed.
How to Sleep With Your Mouth Closed
Breaking the subconscious habit of mouth breathing during sleep requires consistency applying these proven techniques:
Improve Nasal Breathing
Since obstructed nasal airways drive mouth breathing, clear congestion with:
- Saline spray – Use a saltwater nasal rinse 1-2 times daily.
- Nasal strips – Adhesive strips open nasal passages.
- Allergy treatment – Manage seasonal allergies with antihistamines or immunotherapy.
- Humidifier – Proper humidity thins mucus for easier nasal breathing.
- Flush sinuses – Rinse sinuses with saline using a neti pot.
- Avoid irritants – Prevent congestion from smoke, pollution, and triggers like dust mites.
Opening nasal airways facilitates breathing through your nose so your mouth can rest closed.
Sleep On Your Side
Back sleeping makes mouth breathing more likely due to gravity causing the tongue to fall back into the airway. Shift to side sleeping instead to maintain a clear, closed airway.
Place a body pillow at your back to prevent rolling onto it. Side sleeping with legs bent also helps ease nasal congestion.
Use Nasal Tape or Adhesive Strips
Applying external nasal dilators prevents airflow through the mouth at night. Options include:
- Nasal strips – Adhesive bands open nasal passages to improve airflow.
- Nasal tape – Tape placed just below the nostrils prevents the mouth falling open.
- Nasal clips – Plastic clips gently keep the nostrils open to encourage nasal breathing.
- Nasal cones – Silicone inserts hold nostrils open while filtering some air.
These simple tools provide external structural support to keep nasal airways unobstructed and the mouth shut.
Try a Chin Strap or Mouth Guard
Chin straps and functional mouth guards also prevent the mouth from falling open during sleep.
- Chin strap – Wraps around the jaw and head to keep the chin up and lips sealed.
- Oral mouth guard – Custom-fit guards hold the tongue forward to open the airway.
- Oral adhesive strips – Small adhesive strips stick to lips to keep the mouth closed.
These devices act as physical barriers to mouth breathing by mechanically holding mouth tissues in correct alignment.
Adjust Sleep Position
The right sleep posture goes a long way toward facilitating nasal breathing and preventing airway collapse that leads to open mouth breathing.
- Side – Best position to keep airways open. Avoid back or stomach sleeping.
- Elevate head – Use a wedge pillow to elevate the head 4-8 inches to prevent throat compression and open the nasal airway.
- Align spine – Keep your neck, head and spine neutrally aligned. No sharp bending or twisting.
- Use pillows – Position pillows to support optimal neck, jaw and head positioning that maximizes airway patency.
Take pains to achieve proper spinal and airway alignment all night through adjusted sleep equipment and positions. Doing so prevents mouth breathing.
Try Throat Exercises
Performing daily throat and tongue exercises strengthens upper airway muscles so they resist collapse during sleep that leads to mouth breathing.
Helpful exercises include:
- Swallowing – Consciously contracting throat muscles by swallowing frequently throughout the day.
- The Chew – Open and close your jaw while pressing the tip of your tongue to your front teeth. Perform 20 reps twice daily.
- Tongue slides – Slide your tongue back forcefully against the roof of your mouth then forward 20 times.
- Head lifts – Lay on your back and lift your head a few inches without engaging neck muscles.
These quick daily exercises retrain motor control over time to promote proper tongue and throat muscle tone that supports nasal breathing.
Improve Overall Sleep Hygiene
Optimizing all aspects of your sleep environment and habits facilitates high-quality sleep with the mouth closed:
- Maintain cool room temperature
- Use comfortable, breathable bedding
- Block out light and noise
- Establish a relaxing pre-bed routine
- Don’t eat late or drink alcohol before bed
Eliminating distractions and fostering healthy sleep habits helps your body relax into smooth, uninterrupted breathing cycles through the nose all night.
By tapping this combination of solutions using nasal devices, body positioning, throat exercises and sleep hygiene practices, you can retrain your neuromuscular system to sustain mouth closed breathing during the vulnerable sleep period.
Next we’ll explore lifestyle changes and medical treatments to address potential underlying causes of mouth breathing that may be interrupting your sleep.
Medical Treatments for Chronic Mouth Breathing
In some cases, habitual open mouth breathing stems from anatomical factors or health conditions requiring medical attention.
If you’ve tried the methods above without success, speak to your doctor or dentist about potential factors like:
Enlarged Tonsils and Adenoids
Overgrown tonsils narrow your throat opening while enlarged adenoids block the nasal passages. Treating with radiofrequency reduction or surgically removing them opens airways.
A crooked or displaced septum obstructs nasal airflow. Septoplasty surgery can realign the septum and straighten the airway.
Abnormal tissue growths in the nasal cavity or sinuses block breathing. Corticosteroid nasal sprays or polyp removal surgery may be required.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea events promote mouth breathing. Managing apnea with CPAP or oral appliances normalizes breathing.
Overbite, underbite, retrognathia and other improper jaw positioning affects airways. Orthodontic treatment can realign the jaw.
Chronic congestion from seasonal or environmental allergies can make nasal breathing difficult. Try immunotherapy, antihistamines or other medical allergy treatments to clear nasal passages.
Don’t ignore chronic open mouth breathing during sleep, especially if you have excessive daytime fatigue or headaches. Seek medical advice to diagnose and resolve any underlying anatomical or health factors disrupting proper breathing patterns at night.
Lifestyle Changes to Support Sleeping With Mouth Closed
Certain day-to-day lifestyle habits also impact breathing efficiency during sleep. Try making these changes:
Lose Weight If Overweight
Excess weight strains respiratory function by compressing the abdomen and chest cavity. Shedding even 10-15 pounds can help open airways.
Avoid Alcohol Before Bed
Alcohol relaxes throat muscles leading to airway collapse. Avoid any alcohol for at least 3 hours before bedtime.
Smoking irritates airways. Quitting improves mucus clearance and nasal breathing ability.
Manage Stress and Anxiety
High stress impairs breathing regulation during sleep. Try relaxing rituals before bed along with mindfulness practices during the day.
Daily activity improves muscle tone and sleep quality for better nighttime breathing. But complete workouts 3+ hours before bed to allow your body to cool down.
Optimizing these daytime habits facilitates restful slumber with the mouth closed and nasal passages open.
The Takeaway On How to Sleep With Your Mouth Closed
Sleeping with your mouth shut is important for your sleep quality, health and comfort. But for some, keeping it closed all night is challenging without the right adjustments.
Using nasal strips, chin straps, taping, proper sleep positioning and devices can provide external structural support to maintain proper mouth closure and nasal airway opening while you sleep.
Addressing any underlying anatomical factors or health conditions causing chronic nasal obstruction or promoting airway collapse also helps normalize mouth closed breathing long-term.
Train yourself to breathe through your nose and keep your mouth shut using this multi-pronged approach for deeper, uninterrupted sleep cycles. Not only will you sleep better, but you’ll also eliminate issues like dry mouth and snoring.
Getting adequate restful slumber with your mouth closed improves sleep efficiency so you wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day.
FAQs About How to Sleep With Your Mouth Closed
Why can’t I keep my mouth closed when sleeping?
Difficulty keeping your mouth closed while sleeping often results from obstructed nasal breathing, throat muscle collapse, jaw misalignment or sleep apnea. Treating the underlying cause can allow sleeping with your mouth shut.
Is it better to sleep with mouth open or closed?
It’s better to sleep with your mouth closed to prevent issues like snoring, dry mouth, and sleep disruption. But for some people mouth breathing is unavoidable. In those cases, using chin straps or nasal strips can help.
Can sleeping with mouth open cause sleep apnea?
While mild sleep apnea can cause mouth breathing, more often it occurs the other way around. Sleeping with your mouth open exacerbates obstructive sleep apnea in those already predisposed by further collapsing the airway.
Is mouth taping safe while sleeping?
Using medical grade paper tape to gently keep the lips closed is generally safe for most people but should be avoided in small children or those with certain medical conditions. Discuss with your doctor first.
How do I stop breathing through my mouth at night?
Use nasal dilators, chin straps, taping or oral appliances to mechanically keep the mouth closed. Also treat any nasal congestion or blockages, sleep on your side, and avoid alcohol or sedatives before bed to encourage nasal breathing all night.
With persistence applying these mouth closed sleeping techniques, you can retrain your body for deeper, uninterrupted sleep and do away with annoying snoring and dry mouth symptoms.
Originally posted on September 18, 2023 @ 6:22 am