Covid-19 and daily mask-wearing turned me into a mouth-breather.
Do you know what they say about mouth-breathers? According to Urban Dictionary, a mouthbreather is basically a stupid idiot. Literally, someone who lacks the necessary intelligence to learn to breathe through their nose. Harsh, right?
Here I thought the stupid idiots were the ones not wearing the masks.
But, after months of mask-wearing, I realized that every time my mask came off, my mouth was hanging open awkwardly. It made me feel completely foolish, and I started worrying mouth-breathing had already become a hard-to-break habit.
When I voiced my concern to my husband, he told me he was noticing the same darn thing. We agreed that our mouths were moving and breathing in strange new ways behind the virus-protecting cloth of our facemasks.
Nearly 6 months into the pandemic, realizing mask-wearing would definitely be the standard for quite a while longer, I decided to do something about it. Adding in a few simple breathing techniques to my daily routine has helped make wearing a mask a little less of a burden on my breathing, and stopped my bad habits in their tracks.
Risks of mouth breathing
As a glasses wearer, mouth breathing began as a way to avoid my glasses fogging up. I was wearing a mask with a wire strip pinched across my nose, and it ever-so-slightly restricted my normal breathing.
That must have subconsciously encouraged me to start breathing out of my mouth — causing my jaw to hang open awkwardly.
Not only was my face starting to look a bit droopy, but my previously good posture was slipping. I was also making myself more susceptible to all sorts of issues associated with mouth-breathing.
According to myofunctional therapist Krista Gavira, some of the negative consequences of mouth breathing are:
- Increases risk of respiratory infections (colds, flu, etc.)
- Dry mouth, bad breath, cavities, and gingivitis
- Decreased overall performance (sports, sex, speaking, etc.)
- Increased risk of bedwetting, snoring, sleep apnea, ADHD, behavioral disorders
- Tendency towards abnormal facial development and poor posture
- Increased risk of TMJ, migraines, depression, and anxiety
How you can prevent mouth breathing
If mask-wearing has altered your breathing and turned you into a mouth breather, there are things you can do to stop it from becoming a habit or causing issues.
Before you worry about fixing your mask breathing habits, you have to find a mask that allows you to breathe comfortably through your nose. For me, that also means finding a mask that won’t fog up my glasses when I exhale or using a high-quality anti-fog spray on my glasses.
Most people can be snapped out of their lousy breathing habits as long as there are no true nasal blockages.
- Mindfulness: According to the Children’s Hospital of Minnesota, being mindful is the first step to avoiding breathing strain while wearing a mask. Become aware of how you are breathing. Keep your lips closed and make sure you are using your nose.
- Practicing breathing techniques: When you realize you‘ve slipped back into unhealthy breathing, researchers at the University of Michigan suggest a method called belly breathing. Give it a try — get comfortable and place one hand on your chest and another on your belly. Take a deep breath in through your nose, and let your belly push your hand out. Breathe out through pursed lips. Repeat as necessary and notice how you feel at the end of the exercise.
- Clearing any internal blockage or exterior restrictions: Blow your nose and make sure you have no blockages that will impact your nose-breathing. Find a mask that doesn’t restrict your nose and allows you to breathe fully and deeply.
- Stress reduction: Sometimes, stress can throw our breathing off and send us into the mouth-breathing territory. Relax your chest and shoulders with some gentle movements. Bringing awareness and mindfulness to your body and breath can help to alleviate acute stress. Engaging in a yoga or meditation practice will also help create a healthy breathing practice and relieve stress.
While breathing comes naturally to most of us, breathing in a mask can add some complications, and it might require a little more practice. If you slip into bad habits, just relax practice mindfulness, and retrain yourself on proper breathing techniques.
We all might look and breathe a little funny when our masks eventually (fingers crossed) come off. But, being mindful and working on these techniques will help alleviate the negative symptoms of mouth-breathing and make that transition a little less painful.