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Is it better to breathe through your nose or mouth?

Julia Park
Focused breathing

We all breathe without truly thinking about the effect of breath on our bodies. Yet breathing supplies us with the oxygen needed for every moment, every thought, and every action. And the ability to breathe effectively impacts our overall health and wellbeing. 

But what if the way you breathe could affect your focus, energy levels, sleep quality, and even your brain health? Today, we’re exploring the debate that has excited health enthusiasts and researchers for years: nose breathing versus mouth breathing. 

We’ll also look into innovative solutions to help optimize your breathing practice. Tools like the cutting-edge EEG technology of the Muse 2 Headband and the Muse S Headband can keep you focused on your goals. 

Keep reading if you’re interested in uncovering the physiological differences and the surprising benefits of how you breathe.

The science of nose and mouth breathing

Breathing’s effect on your overall health can vary significantly based on whether you do it through the nose or mouth. The delicate balance of structures and processes can greatly impact your immune, cardiovascular, respiratory, and nervous systems. Here’s what the science of nose and mouth breathing has to say on the subject:

Nose breathing

When we breathe through our noses, the air goes through natural filters and regulators. One natural filter is the tiny hair-like structures called cilia that line the nasal passages. Cilia trap dust, allergens, and other particles, preventing them from reaching the lungs. 

Although tiny, this process protects us from diverse medical conditions and can help support our immune system. [1]

The nasal cavity also humidifies the incoming air, ensuring it’s moist and comfortable for the delicate lung tissues. Made up of a maze-like structure, the nasal passages slow down the airflow. This optimizes the exchange of gasses in the lungs. 

Beyond mere efficiency, studies show that breathing slowly through the nose can activate the parasympathetic nervous system. [2] This system can improve concentration, reduce stress, and enhance cognitive performance.

Mouth breathing

In contrast, breathing through the mouth bypasses many of these natural filters and conditioning mechanisms. For example, the mouth lacks natural filters like cilia. Additionally, air inhaled through the mouth is frequently colder and drier. These breathing conditions can make it challenging for the respiratory system to do its job well. 

Mouth breathing can also lead to more rapid and less regulated airflow than breathing through your nose. This can be beneficial during intense physical exercise when you need a quick boost in oxygen. However, long-term mouth breathing can hinder efficiency and lead to breathing issues. 

But the decision to breathe through your nose is not always an option. Some people find they default to mouth breathing due to structural abnormalities in the nasal passages or chronic allergies. For instance, those with a deviated septum often struggle with the effects of long-term mouth breathing. [3

In some instances, people breathe through their mouth throughout the day but it’s most often seen during sleep. This can lead to poor sleep quality and possibly trigger issues like snoring and dry mouth. 

It’s important to recognize that breathing is more than how oxygen enters our bodies. It also plays a critical role in brain function and overall mental wellbeing. Research has shown that the way we breathe can directly impact our cognitive processes and focus. [4

Now, let’s look into the benefits of each breathing method and how those advantages may impact our brain and overall health.

Nose breathing

Benefits of nose breathing

Breathing through the nose offers advantages beyond the basic act of breathing. 

Advantage #1: Balanced blood pressure

Research suggests regular nasal breathing may contribute to maintaining healthy blood pressure levels. The nitric oxide released during nasal breathing may help relax blood vessels. This can reduce the strain on the cardiovascular system and reduce the risk of high blood pressure. [5]

Advantage #2: Improved dental health

Breathing through the nose promotes optimal tongue posture against the roof of the mouth. This alignment can improve oral health. Advantages include proper dental arch development, reduced risk of orthodontic problems, and reduced chances of health conditions like sleep apnea. [6]

Advantage #3: Enhanced sleep quality

Breathing through the nose improves sleep quality. It helps reduce the chance of sleep issues like snoring and sleep apnea, contributing to a more restful night’s sleep. [7

Advantage #4: Support for respiratory health 

Breathing through your nose helps to maintain the health of your respiratory system. It assists in filtering our airborne particles, reducing the risk of infections, and promoting overall lung health. [8]

Advantage #5: Enhanced mental focus

Slow and controlled nasal breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system, promoting a calm and focused mind. This can lead to improved concentration, reduced stress and brain fog, and heightened cognitive performance. [9]

The diverse benefits of nose breathing highlight its significance for your respiratory health and general physical and mental wellbeing. As interest grows in breathing’s impact on the body, people want advanced solutions to help meet their health goals. 

This is where Muse can help. Advanced technology like the Muse 2 Headband complements nasal breathing by monitoring the cognitive benefits of controlled breathing practices. With real-time biofeedback, users see how focused breathing practices affect their performance.

Mouth breathing

Benefits of mouth breathing

While often considered less optimal than breathing through your nose, mouth breathing offers its own set of advantages:

Advantage #1: Enhanced cooling

Breathing through the mouth allows for cooler air intake, which can be beneficial during intense physical activities or hot weather conditions. This cooling effect may reduce the risk of overheating. [10]

Advantage #2: Quick recovery during exercise

Mouth breathing can help you recover more quickly between sets of physical activity. It expels carbon dioxide faster, allowing you to return to strenuous routines sooner. [11]

Advantage #3: Deep healing

Some healing practices, like somatic healing and relaxation techniques, incorporate controlled mouth breathing to foster deep relaxation and emotional release. However, it’s important to be aware that this practice can pose safety risks as it increases the body’s carbon dioxide levels. 

It can be a valuable tool in these therapeutic practices when done safely, promoting emotional healing and stress reduction. [12] Always ensure a well-ventilated area and consult with a qualified practitioner to maintain a safe healing experience. 

Advantage #4: Adaptability

Rapid breathing through the mouth is helpful during intense physical activity, emergencies, or when you need more oxygen quickly.

While mouth breathing offers advantages in certain situations, it’s generally better to prioritize nasal breathing for daily activities. Nevertheless, understanding the benefits of both breathing methods can help you make informed choices about your body and its processes. 

The relationship between breathing and focus

The way we breathe can significantly influence our cognitive performance and our ability to pay attention. Shallow, erratic breathing patterns, often seen with mouth breathing, can lead to a scattered mind and difficulty concentrating. In contrast, slow, controlled nasal breathing can promote a calm and focused state of mind. 

One area where the importance of breath control becomes obvious is meditation. Research has consistently shown that mindfulness meditation, which incorporates focused attention on controlled breathing, can improve attention span and cognitive function. 

Combining technology and meditation can have multiple benefits. It can improve productivity, reduce stress, and enhance mental health. You achieve this quickly by combining breath control with guided mindfulness practices. 

For meditators interested in improving their brain focus, the Muse premium subscription is your answer. It provides access to a library of 500+ guided meditations and expert-led programs. Pair it with the Muse S Headband and Muse 2 Headband to understand how breathing impacts your brain activity.

Breathing techniques for different situations

Deciding between nose breathing and mouth breathing depends on the context and your goals. Here’s a recap of when each breathing method is most suitable:

Nose breathing: Experts generally recommend nose breathing for activities that require calm, focused, and controlled breath. Nasal breathing allows for better filtration and humidification of incoming air, which can promote a calm state of mind. It’s ideal for:

  • Meditation 
  • Relaxation exercises
  • Increased focus on everyday tasks 

Mouth breathing: Breathing through the mouth helps get more air quickly, which is important when you need more oxygen. It may be more appropriate during:

  • Intense physical activities like intense workouts or sports
  • Therapeutic practices like somatic healing techniques
  • When you need substantial airflow in emergencie

Whether you choose nose or mouth breathing, mindfulness and self-awareness play crucial roles in optimizing your technique. Being aware of your body’s needs and the demands of each moment is crucial in making the right choice. 

Focused meditation

Key takeaways

In the science of breathing, every inhale and exhale holds the potential to affect your life. Nose breathing for focus, mouth breathing for intensity – these techniques are your keys to enhanced clarity, resilience, and vitality. 

But it’s critical to focus on more than just the way you breathe. It’s also about the mindfulness you bring to each breath. 

Take a deep breath, and empower your breathing practice with the Muse 2 Headband, the Muse S Headband, and our premium subscription. Keep awareness at the forefront as you work towards better focus, reduced stress, and improved sleep. 

Explore the world of breath with us and experience the impact of combining mindful breathing with leading-edge EEG technology

  1. [1, 8] Sobiesk JL, Munakomi S. Anatomy, Head and Neck, Nasal Cavity. [Updated 2023 Jul 24]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan. Available from:
  2. [3, 11] Recinto, C., Efthemeou, T., Boffelli, P. T., & Navalta, J. W. (2017). Effects of Nasal or Oral Breathing on Anaerobic Power Output and Metabolic Responses. International Journal of Exercise Science, 10(4), 506-514.\
  3. [2, 4, 9] Zaccaro, A., Piarulli, A., Laurino, M., Garbella, E., Menicucci, D., Neri, B., & Gemignani, A. (2018). How Breath-Control Can Change Your Life: A Systematic Review on Psycho-Physiological Correlates of Slow Breathing. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 12.
  4. [5] Cleveland HeartLab (2017). Nurturing Nitric Oxide: The Heart-Healthy Chemical in Your Blood Vessels.
  5. [6] Heit, T., Tablizo, B. J., Salud, M., Mo, F., Kang, M., Tablizo, M. A., & Witmans, M. (2022). Craniofacial Sleep Medicine: The Important Role of Dental Providers in Detecting and Treating Sleep Disordered Breathing in Children. Children, 9(7), 1057.
  6. [7] Lavie P. (1987). Rediscovering the importance of nasal breathing in sleep or, shut your mouth and save your sleep. The Journal of laryngology and otology, 101(6), 558–563.
  7. [10] Morton, A. R., King, K., Papalia, S., Goodman, C., Turley, K. R., & Wilmore, J. H. (1995). Comparison of maximal oxygen consumption with oral and nasal breathing. Australian journal of science and medicine in sport, 27(3), 51–55.
  8. [12] Salamon, Maureen (2023). What is somatic therapy?

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