Sleeping with an open mouth may seem harmless, but it can be a serious problem that affects your sleep quality and cause other health issues. Even if you breathe through your nose while you’re awake, you may mouth breathe during sleep without realizing. It’s important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of sleeping with open mouth, so you can notice the problem and fix it before it becomes a habit.
How Do You Know If You Are Sleeping With an Open Mouth?
You may not realize that you’ve been mouth breathing while you sleep. The easiest way to find out if you sleep with your mouth open is to ask a friend, family member, or partner if they’ve ever noticed it. There are other signs and symptoms of mouth breathing, though.
If you wake up with a dry mouth, sore throat, or hoarse voice, it’s very likely that you breathe through your mouth during sleep. The constant airflow through your mouth can quickly dry it out. Another common symptom is bad breath, which occurs as a result of the dryness.
Mouth breathing while you sleep can cause snoring, which affects the quality of your sleep. This leads to irritability, difficulty concentrating, brain fog, and other issues. If you’re constantly tired, even after a full night of sleep, it may be a sign that you’re sleeping with open mouth.
What Causes You to Sleep With an Open Mouth?
In most cases, mouth breathing is caused by a blocked nasal passage. When something prevents you from breathing through your nose, your body will automatically switch to mouth breathing to get enough oxygen. If your nasal airway is only partially blocked, you may just fight through it and breathe through your nose while awake. However, when you sleep, you’ll breathe through your mouth because it takes less effort.
Some people have narrow or blocked airways because of the shape or size of their nose or jaw. Congestion from allergies, viruses, or a sinus infection is one of the most common causes of a blocked nasal airway. Other causes include a deviated septum, enlarged tonsils, and enlarged adenoids. Even after the obstruction clears, you may continue to breathe through your mouth because it has become a habit.
What Are the Side Effects of Sleeping With an Open Mouth?
Sleeping with your mouth open may not seem like a problem, but it can actually have many harmful effects. If you mouth breathe every night, you may have chronic sore throats or lose your voice frequently. Dry mouth, bad breath, and chapped lips are other irritating side effects. When your mouth is dry, there isn’t enough saliva to wash away bacteria. This can cause cavities, gingivitis, throat and ear infections, and other issues.
Opening your mouth while you sleep can also lead to snoring because it causes the muscles in your mouth and throat to relax. When these muscles relax too much, they can collapse over the airway and vibrate as air moves through, which creates the snoring sound. If your airway becomes completely blocked, you’ll stop breathing until you wake up and gasp for air. This is a serious condition called sleep apnea.
Children who sleep with their mouths open are at risk for physical abnormalities and cognitive issues, especially if they also mouth breathe during the day. Long-term mouth breathing can lead to an elongated face, a narrow mouth, a gummy smile, and an overbite. Because sleeping with an open mouth can affect your sleep quality, kids might also have difficulty concentrating and poor academic performance.
Tips to Stop Sleeping With an Open Mouth
It’s hard to change a sleeping habit because you’re not conscious while it happens. However, there are plenty of strategies you can try. Here are some tips to stop sleeping with your mouth open:
1. Train Yourself to Sleep With Your Mouth Closed
If you sleep with your mouth open, there’s a chance that you breathe through your mouth during the day, too. When you’re awake, you can consciously break the habit, and this should transfer over into your sleep. Put notes around your home or set reminders in your phone telling you not to breathe through your mouth. It may take a few weeks, but breathing through your nose will eventually become a habit.
2. Follow Buteyko Breathing Exercises
The Buteyko method of breathing is used to manage mouth breathing, snoring, asthma, and other breathing problems. It involves easy breathing techniques that you can use at any time during your daily life. You can go to a Buteyko workshop to learn all of the different techniques, or you can use instructional videos.
If you breathe through your mouth because of congestion, one helpful Buteyko technique is to hold your nose closed while gently nodding your head and holding your breath. Once you can’t hold your breath any longer, release your nose and breathe through your nose. This will clear congestion.
3. Clear Your Bedroom of Known Allergens
Congestion is the most common reason people breathe through their mouths while they’re sleeping and while they’re awake. Dust, pet dander, and other allergens in your bedroom could be contributing to your nasal congestion. Clearing all of these allergens out of your room may be all you need to stop sleeping with your mouth open. Dust off all furniture surfaces, wipe down your ceiling fan blades, and change your sheets and pillowcases. You might notice a big difference immediately.
4. Sleep With Your Head Elevated
If you sleep with your head lying flat, the position could be causing your mouth to open. Sleeping with your head slightly elevated can help keep your mouth closed. It will open up your airways and allow for unrestricted breathing through your nose. Try sleeping with an extra pillow, using a wedge pillow, or putting a few books under your mattress beneath your head to prop it up.
5. Lose Weight By Exercising
If you’re overweight or obese, you may struggle to breathe through your nose while you sleep because the excess fat narrows your airway. Breathing through your mouth will provide more air, so you’ll automatically open your mouth when you sleep. Losing weight could help open up your airways and allow you to breathe better through your nose. Exercising is a great way to lose weight, and it also can improve your breathing on its own.
6. Find a Better Sleeping Position
Some sleeping positions are better than others for encouraging your sleeping self to breathe through the nose. You probably have the most trouble with mouth breathing when you sleep on your back because the position makes it very easy for your mouth to open. Also, sleeping on your back forces you to take heavier breaths, and it can be difficult or impossible to get all the air out through your nose. Sleeping on your side or stomach will make it much easier to keep your mouth closed. If you’re used to sleeping on your back, you can try sleeping with a body pillow, which will stop you from rolling over onto your back while you sleep.
Try One of the Following Products as a Quick Solution
Sleeping Mouth Guards: There are a variety of mouth guards and mouthpieces that are specifically designed to keep your mouth closed while you sleep. Many of these also stop snoring, so if you’re a snorer, you can fix both problems at once.
Tongue Retaining Devices: These devices are intended to stop snoring, but they’re also a great tool for keeping your mouth closed during sleep. One popular device is Good Morning Snore Solution, which is a small piece of plastic that attaches to the tip of your tongue with suction and holds it slightly forward. Because of the way the device rests in your mouth, it won’t be easy for you to open your mouth while you’re asleep.
Snoring Chin Straps: These devices wrap around your head and chin and hold your mouth closed. There are many different brands and models, but one effective brand is SleepWell Pro. The strap is stretchy, so it doesn’t force your jaw to clench up. It provides enough resistance that your mouth won’t hang open in your sleep, though. Chin straps are usually adjustable, so they can fit anyone’s head comfortably.
Nasal and Mouth Sprays: Saline sprays moisturize your nose and clear out your nasal passages, so they’re a very easy solution if your mouth breathing is caused by congestion. Using the spray right before you go to sleep should clear out your nose enough that you can breathe through it while you sleep.