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April 29, 2024 7 min read

Sleeping with your mouth open can be disruptive to your rest and cause a variety of health issues. It can also lead to snoring and worsen sleep disorder symptoms. But before you can learn how to stop sleeping with your mouth open, it's critical to first look at what’s causing it in the first place.

Reasons You Sleep With Your Mouth Open 

Some people sleep with their mouths open simply out of habit. However, chronic mouth breathing at night may indicate something is out of order, especially if it coincides with snoring. Here are a few additional reasons you may be sleeping with your mouth open. 

Image with common reasons why people sleep with the mouth open
  • Nasal congestion,  either temporary from a common cold or chronic from asthma or allergies, can cause you to breathe through your mouth at night.
  • Polyps, which are large growths in the nose lining, can restrict nose breathing. 
  • Nose and mouth anatomy may also cause mouth breathing. For example, a  deviated septum might cause mouth breathing by blocking one nostril. 
  • Misaligned teeth can make it challenging to keep your nose closed at night. 
  • Stress and anxiety can also cause shallow and fast breathing, which may make it more likely that you breathe through your mouth instead of your nose. 
  • Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA),in which the upper airway becomes blocked, is also associated with mouth breathing. (Enlarge tonsils and swollen glands in the back of the nose and throat are common causes of OSA.)

Why Is Sleeping With Your Mouth Open Bad? 

Sleeping with your mouth open occasionally, like when you have a cold, shouldn't cause significant health problems. However, if it's a common occurrence, it can lead to chronic dry mouth, which reduces the saliva you need for good oral health. Chronic dry mouth and sleeping with your mouth open can lead to many health risks, including the following:

Negative effects of sleeping with the mouth open
  • Dental problems, such as a  higher risk of cavities
  • An increased risk of gum disease 
  • Yeast infections inside the mouth
  • Difficulty speaking or eating 
  • Bad breath
  • Cracked lips
  • Sore throat
  • Hoarseness
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Brain fog
  • Runny nose
  • Tumors (though rare)
  • Decreased cognitive function
  • Increased likelihood of snoring
  • Higher risk of developing sleep apnea
  • A reduction in the effectiveness of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy for those using it to treat their sleep apnea

Keeping your mouth closed while sleeping is essential for your saliva production and a good night’s rest.

Benefits of Breathing Through Your Nose

Conversely, teaching yourself how to breathe through your nose has many advantages. Our nasal lining is specifically designed to filter air as it goes through our nose and toward our lungs — an essential step missed when we breathe through our mouth. 

Breathing through your nose also adds moisture to the air and warms it up to room temperature before it moves into your lungs, helping to prevent dryness. It also creates resistance to the airflow, maintaining your lungs’ elasticity and increasing oxygen uptake. An added plus? You’re less likely to snore at night when you breathe through your nose. 

How To Stop Sleeping With Your Mouth Open: Methods And Tips

The first step to figuring out how to stop mouth breathing while sleeping is to get a diagnosis from your doctor. Once you know the root cause, you can start pursuing treatment options. Here are a few common methods to help stop people from sleeping with their mouths open. 

Tips to sleep with a closed mouth

Address Congestion

For sleepers who suffer from congestion, there are a few different tactics that can help, including the following: 

  • Sleep with a humidifier in the room. 
  • Use decongestant nasal sprays. 
  • Clear your nasal passages with a neti pot. 
  • Stay hydrated and drink plenty of water. 
  • Frequently clean your sheets and bedding. 
  • Keep pets off your bed if you have allergies.  
  • Prevent allergens from spreading by installing air filters in your HVAC system.

Use Nasal Strips

Some studies have found that nasal strips can help encourage breathing through the nose and improve sleep quality. These strips are typically made of stiff adhesive fabric. They stick to the bridge of the nose and help widen the nostrils, making it easier for air to flow into the nose.  

This treatment may come with mild side effects, including itching, redness, skin irritation, and feeling the urge to sneeze. 

Try Mouth Tape 

Using mouth tape for treatment involves taking a porous strip of tape or a patch and placing it over your upper and lower lip to keep your mouth shut at night. Some people with OSA use mouth tape with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines to  prevent air leaks

Only a few studies, however, have examined its effectiveness, showing that it  may help cases of mild OSA. Side effects may also include difficulty breathing, irritated skin, and anxiety. Because there are no guidelines and limited research around mouth taping, consult your doctor before trying this treatment option. 

Use a Full Mask for CPAP Therapy

A well-fitted full-face CPAP mask is recommended for people with OSA who sleep with their mouths open. That’s because if the mouth is left uncovered during therapy, it reduces the effectiveness of the treatment. An open mouth limits the air pressure needed to keep the airways clear. A full CPAP mask can help sleepers quickly relearn how to sleep with their mouths shut. Over time, if the treatment is successful, former mouth breathers may then be able to switch to a less invasive mask like a nasal pillow. This type of CPAP mask has plastic inserts that slip directly into the nostrils. 

Try a Tongue-Retaining Device

If you’re a mouth breather who snores, try using a tongue-retaining device (TRD). This type of anti-snoring mouthguard rests lightly against your lips so you can sleep with your mouth closed. The small compartment for your tongue keeps it in place, preventing it from moving back toward the throat and causing snoring. 

TRDs are generally light and easy to wear, and many don’t require a prescription. These mouth guards for snoring also won’t interfere with dentures or braces. 

Change Your Sleep Position 

Switching up your sleep position can also help you stop sleeping with your mouth open, especially if you’re sleeping on your back. This posture is known to  worsen sleep apnea and snoring. It can also cause congestion to build up and block your nose, making it difficult to breathe through your mouth. 

Sleeping on your side or upright with your head elevated may help keep your nasal airways open and prevent mouth breathing. Specialized pillows, like MedCline’s sleep solutions, can help you sleep comfortably in the doctor-recommended side position (more on this below).

Surgery

In certain instances, patients may need surgery to treat chronic mouth breathing. For example, nasal polyps that block the airway must be surgically removed. Swollen adenoids, lymphoid tissue at the back of the nasal passage, is also a common problem requiring a surgical procedure. Correcting a deviated septum may also help stop mouth breathing.

How MedCline Can Help 

Unlike other sleep wedges, MedCline’s clinically proven sleep solutions have patented arm pockets that keep you securely in place while helping to prevent congestion buildup. This versatile design also takes the pressure off your shoulders and allows for either left or right-side sleeping. 

Our pillows, in particular, elevate your head and upper torso while you sleep. This position helps keep your mouth closed and encourages breathing through your nose. Full-body support also keeps your spine aligned, while adjustable memory foam provides the utmost comfort. 

Chronic mouth breathing at night can lead to several health issues, from poor oral hygiene to aggravated sleep disorders. Understanding the root cause and getting a diagnosis can help you know how to stop sleeping with your mouth open. Together, you and your doctor can find the right treatment plan to help address any health concerns so you can sleep easily at night. 

MedCline’s innovative sleep solutions offer a non-invasive treatment option. Our pillows can help you sleep better on your side, elevating your head and keeping your mouth closed. For more information about how our sleep solutions can help with mouth breathing, head to our  MedCline FAQs or reach out to our team of  Sleep Specialists today! 

Mouth Breathing FAQs

Q: Why do I sleep with my mouth open?

A: Mouth breathing at night can be caused simply by habit. Other factors can also contribute to it, such as nasal congestion, polyps, the anatomy of your face, mouth, and teeth, and sleep disorders like obstructive sleep apnea. 

Q: What are the health risks of sleeping with your mouth open?

A: Constantly sleeping with your mouth open can lead to chronic dry mouth. This lack of saliva production can cause problems like poor oral health and yeast infections in the mouth. Breathing out of your mouth instead of your nose can also lead to sore throats, chronic fatigue, decreased cognitive function, snoring, and an increased risk of disordered sleeping. 

Q: How can I train myself to sleep with my mouth closed?

A: Practicing breathing through your nose during the day can help you relearn how to sleep with your mouth closed at night. Using devices like nasal strips or changing your sleep position can also help prevent congestion buildup and clear your airways. 

Q: How can products like those from MedCline aid in keeping the mouth closed during sleep?

A: MedCline’s solutions have varying degrees of elevation that lift your head and upper torso while you sleep, helping keep your mouth closed and encouraging breathing through your nose. 

 

Resources

Shetty, Shishir R., et al. "The Effect of Concha Bullosa and Nasal Septal Deviation on Palatal Dimensions: A Cone Beam Computed Tomography Study."BMC Oral Health, vol. 21, no. 1, 2021, p. 607,https://doi.org/10.1186/s12903-021-01974-6.

 

Yi-Fong Su, Vincent, et al. "Mouth Opening/Breathing Is Common in Sleep Apnea and Linked to More Nocturnal Water Loss."Biomedical Journal, vol. 46, no. 3, 2023, p. 607,https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bj.2022.05.001.

 

Talha, Bilal, and Suman A. Swarnkar. "Xerostomia."National Library of Medicine, 2023,https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK545287/.

 

Jung, Ju-Yeon, and Chang-Ki Kang. "Investigation on the Effect of Oral Breathing on Cognitive Activity Using Functional Brain Imaging."Healthcare, vol. 9, no. 6, 2021, p. 645,https://doi.org/10.3390/healthcare9060645.

 

Ruhle, Karl H. 1, and ChaGeorg Nilius. "Mouth Breathing in Obstructive Sleep Apnea Prior to and during Nasal Continuous Positive Airway Pressure."Respiration, vol. 76, no. 1, 2008, pp. 40-5,https://doi.org/10.1159/000111806.

 

Schenkel, Eric J., et al. "Effects of Nasal Dilator Strips on Subjective Measures of Sleep in Subjects with Chronic Nocturnal Nasal Congestion: A Randomized, Placebo-controlled Trial."Allergy, Asthma & Clinical Immunology, vol. 14, no. 34, 2018,https://doi.org/10.1186/s13223-018-0258-5.

 

Foellner, Sebastian, et al. "Prevention of Leakage Due to Mouth Opening through Applying an Oral Shield Device (Sominpax™) during Nasal CPAP Therapy of Patients with Obstructive Sleep Apnea."Sleep Medicine, vol. 66, 2020, pp. 168-173,https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sleep.2019.06.023.

 

Lee, Yi-Chieh, et al. "The Impact of Mouth-Taping in Mouth-Breathers with Mild Obstructive Sleep Apnea: A Preliminary Study."Healthcare (Basel), vol. 10, no. 9, 2022, p. 1755,https://doi.org/10.3390/healthcare10091755.

 

Menon, Akshay, and Manoj Kumar. "Influence of Body Position on Severity of Obstructive Sleep Apnea: A Systematic Review."ISRN Otolaryngol, 2013,https://doi.org/10.1155/2013/670381.