Breath Betrayal: Could Mouth Breathing Be Shortening Our Lifespan? Exploring the Evidence

January 9th, 2024

By Lily Anderson

Staff Writer for Wake Up World

In the midst of our fast-paced lives, the act of breathing often becomes automatic, escaping the depths of our awareness. However, a deeper examination into the science of breath reveals the profound impact that mindful breathing, particularly through the nostrils, can have on our overall well-being. Join us on an extensive journey into the world of nasal breathing and the enlightening insights derived from James Nestor’s enlightening book, “Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art.”

Unveiling the Marvels of Nasal Breathing

Filtration and Humidification: To fully appreciate the benefits of nasal breathing, we must acknowledge the intricacies of our nasal passages. Acting as nature’s air purifiers, the nostrils filter out airborne particles and bacteria, safeguarding our respiratory health. Simultaneously, the nasal passages humidify the inhaled air, ensuring that the delicate tissues of the respiratory system remain moist, preventing irritation and discomfort.

Nitric Oxide Production: Nestor’s work brings to light the fascinating role of nitric oxide, a gas produced in the nasal passages during nasal breathing. Nitric oxide serves as a powerful vasodilator, widening blood vessels and optimizing oxygen uptake in the lungs. This dual action not only enhances respiratory efficiency but also plays a crucial role in the regulation of blood pressure.

Improved Lung Function: At the heart of Nestor’s exploration lies the promotion of diaphragmatic breathing through nasal inhalation. This technique engages the diaphragm and promotes the effective use of the lower lungs, resulting in improved oxygenation of the blood and heightened overall lung function.

Insights from “Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art”

James Nestor’s groundbreaking book encourages readers to reconsider the lost art of breathing, weaving together historical insights, modern scientific research, and practical tips for reclaiming the power of breath.

The Historical Wisdom of Breathing: Nestor takes us on a journey through time, unraveling the historical significance of breathing practices across different cultures. From ancient yogic traditions to indigenous rituals, the book sheds light on the diverse and profound ways in which breath has been regarded as a pathway to wellness and spiritual connection.

The Parasympathetic Path to Calmness: Nestor’s examination of nasal breathing draws a direct link to the parasympathetic nervous system. Nasal breathing serves as a potent tool to activate this rest-and-digest system, inducing a state of calmness and relaxation. In the midst of our demanding lives, conscious adoption of nasal breathing becomes a pathway to tranquility and balance.

Breath and Dental Health: Delving further into Nestor’s findings, the repercussions of mouth breathing on oral health are emphasized. This common modern habit can lead to dry mouth and dental issues. Nasal breathing, on the other hand, maintains optimal saliva production, offering protective benefits for oral health and preventing conditions such as cavities and gum disease.

Mouth Breathing and Modern Ailments: Nestor delves into the consequences of the modern habit of mouth breathing, linking it to a myriad of health issues. Chronic mouth breathing, often a result of lifestyle factors, is associated with sleep apnea, snoring, and reduced oxygenation. By addressing this pervasive habit, individuals can potentially alleviate symptoms of various respiratory and sleep-related disorders.

The Art of Breath Holding: Exploring the benefits of intentional breath holding, Nestor uncovers the physiological adaptations that occur when we challenge our respiratory system. From improved lung capacity to increased tolerance to carbon dioxide, controlled breath holding emerges as a powerful tool for enhancing overall respiratory health.

Breathing and Athletic Performance: Nestor’s examination extends to the realm of sports and physical performance. The book explores how optimizing breathing techniques can be a game-changer for athletes. Whether it’s through increased oxygen delivery to muscles or improved endurance, the way we breathe can significantly impact our physical capabilities.

Transformative Experiments: Nestor’s personal journey involves participating in various experiments, including spending time with freedivers, exploring ancient breathing practices, and even taping his mouth shut during sleep. These experiments provide firsthand experiences that offer readers a unique perspective on the potential transformative power of conscious breathing practices.

Practical Insights for Everyday Life:

Breath Awareness Throughout the Day: Nestor advocates for integrating breath awareness into daily life. Simple practices such as taking moments to notice your breath during routine activities can foster mindfulness and create a foundation for more intentional breathing.

Breath Retraining for Health: The book suggests that individuals can benefit from breath retraining exercises, especially if they have developed suboptimal breathing habits. By consciously adjusting our breathing patterns, we can positively influence various aspects of our health, from respiratory function to overall well-being.

Embracing Nasal Breathing During Exercise: Nestor emphasizes the importance of nasal breathing during physical activities. While many associate intense exercise with mouth breathing, the book encourages individuals to explore nasal breathing even during vigorous workouts, tapping into the full spectrum of benefits that this method offers.

Mindful Breathing in Stressful Situations: Nestor acknowledges the impact of stress on our breathing patterns and advocates for the integration of mindful breathing practices during moments of tension. By consciously slowing down and deepening our breath, we can engage the parasympathetic nervous system, promoting a sense of calm and resilience.

A Practical Guide: Rediscovering Breath for Optimal Living

In the spirit of Nestor’s exploration, let us embark on a practical journey of self-discovery through intentional breathing. The following breathing exercises can be incorporated into daily life to harness the myriad benefits of nasal breathing.


1. Nasal Diaphragmatic Breathing:

  • Find a comfortable seated position.
  • Close your eyes and take a few natural breaths to settle.
  • Inhale deeply through your nose, allowing your diaphragm to expand.
  • Exhale slowly through your nose, engaging the diaphragm.
  • Repeat for several minutes, focusing on the rhythm and depth of your breath.

2. Alternate Nostril Breathing (Nadi Shodhana):

  • Sit comfortably, spine straight, and shoulders relaxed.
  • Close your right nostril with your right thumb and inhale deeply through your left nostril.
  • Close your left nostril with your right ring finger and release your right nostril.
  • Exhale slowly and completely through your right nostril.
  • Inhale through the right nostril, then close it and release the left nostril.
  • Continue this cycle for several minutes, maintaining a steady and relaxed breath.

3. Box Breathing (Sama Vritti):

  • Inhale through your nose to a slow count of four.
  • Hold your breath for a count of four.
  • Exhale slowly through your nose for a count of four.
  • Pause and hold your breath for another count of four.
  • Repeat the cycle for several rounds, gradually increasing the count as you become comfortable.

Conclusion: Rediscovering the Transformative Power of Breath

As we navigate the demands of the modern world, let us not forget the profound impact that something as simple as conscious breathing can have on our physical, mental, and emotional well-being. With “Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art” as our guide, let’s delve into the transformative power of breath and pave the way for a healthier, more mindful existence, one breath at a time.

About the author:

Lily Anderson is a passionate wordsmith and dedicated explorer of cutting-edge scientific inquiries. Fuelled by a thirst for knowledge, she skilfully transforms intricate ideas into relatable tales, inviting readers to embark on a captivating expedition of revelation. Lily’s efforts play a crucial role in bridging the gap between experts and the wider public, evoking a sense of awe and encouraging insightful discussions about groundbreaking scientific advancements.

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