7 Tips to Breathe Better Through Your Nose

Most people take breathing through their nose for granted. But for many chronic mouth breathers, breathing through the nose is a struggle, if not impossible. Not only is their quality of life diminished, but they’ll also have a variety of other health-related conditions such as dry mouth, snoring, fatigue, and poor sleep. In my last article I addressed 5 reasons why it’s important to breathe through your nose. In this article, I’ll talk about 7 ways that you can breathe better through your nose naturally. 

Before I discuss the various ways to breathe better, a short anatomy course in in order. The nasal septum is a thin piece of cartilage and bone that splits your nasal cavity right down the middle. No one has a perfectly straight septum; everyone’s septum is slightly curved. Sometimes, nasal trauma can shift or move the septum away from its’ midline position. The nasal turbinates are wing-like structures that line the sidewalls of your nose. It’s covered with a mucous membrane, and normally it helps to smooth, warm and humidify air. The turbinates and sinuses also produce about 2 pints of mucous every day. The turbinates swell and shrink, alternating from side to side every few hours. This is called the nasal cycle. 

The front side walls make up your nostrils, which are soft cartilages covered on the inside and outside with skin. The back of your nose is one big cavity (called the nasopharynx), and the passageway turns down 90 degrees into the back of your throat. The nasopharynx is also where your ears connect via the Eustachian tubes. 

If any part of the anatomy that I described becomes obstructed partially or completely, you’ll feel stuffy in your nose. Usually it’s not one thing, but usually due to a combination of different reasons. For example, if you have a mildly deviated septum, suffering from mild allergies will swell up your nasal turbinates, narrowing you nasal passageways. This may not be enough to clog up your nose, but if you have flimsy nostrils or had rhinoplasty in the past that weakened the nostrils, then breathing in with a stuffy nose may trigger your nostrils to collapse. 

#1. Flimsy nostrils?

Starting from the tip of your nose, the first thing you must do is to find out if you have flimsy nostrils. If you have a very narrow nose, or if your nostril openings are very narrow and slit-like, then you may be prone to having flimsy nostrils. Try this experiment: Take both index fingers and press them just besides your nostrils on your cheek. While firmly pressing on your cheeks, lift the cheek skin upwards and sideways, pointing towards the outer corners of your eyes. Take a deep breath in. Can you breathe much better through your nose? Let go and try it again. If this maneuver works for you, you may benefit from using nasal dilator strips at night (one brand is called Breathe-Rite). Sometimes, the adhesives on these devices are not strong enough, or end up irritating the skin. Another way of treating this condition are various internal dilators (such as Nozovent, Breathewitheez, Nasal cones) that you can find over the counter or over the internet. 

#2. Nasal saline irrigation

Second, try using nasal saline sprays. You can use the simple spray bottles that put out a fine mist, to more sophisticated methods such as aerosol cans or even using a Water-pik machine (there’s a nasal adaptor that you can buy for this). Another popular variation is something called a Nedi-pot, which uses gravity to pour salt water into your nose and sinuses. You can either use prepared saline packages, or mix your own recipe (one cup of lukewarm water and 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt or Kosher salt with a pinch of baking soda). Whatever method you use, you’ll have to do it frequently to get maximum results. Besides cleansing out mucous, pollutants and allergens, saline also acts as a mild decongestant. 

#3. Empty your stomach

Third, try not to eat anything within three hours of going to bed. If you still have food or juices lingering in your stomach when you go to bed, it can leak up passively into your throat and not only prevent a good night’s sleep, but these same juices can also leak up into your nose, causing swelling and inflammation. In addition, many people will also stop breathing once in a while, which creates a vacuum effect in the throat which actively suctions up your stomach juices into your throat and nose. 

#4. Avoid alcohol

Fourth, try to avoid drinking alcohol close to bedtime. Not only does alcohol irritate the stomach, it also relaxes your throat muscles as you sleep, which aggravates the process described in the previous paragraph. 

#5. Control allergies

Fifth, if you have any known allergies, especially if it’s something in your bedroom, try to either remove it or or lessen your exposure to it. For example, many people are allergic to dust or molds, and if you have carpeting, or an area rug, it can harbor these allergens. Frequently washing your bed sheets in very hot water also helps. Investing in a quality HEPA filter should help even more. If you have any pets, consider keeping them out of your bedroom. If conservative measure to control allergies is not good enough, consider seeing an allergist for a more formal evaluation. 

#6. Exercise regularly

Sixth, get regular exercise, especially outdoors. Not only are you exercising your heart and your muscles, you’re also exercising the nervous system in your nose. Vigorous physical activity activates your sympathetic nervous system, which constricts the blood vessels that supply your nasal turbinates. This allows you to breathe better through your nose, with all the added benefits described in my previous article. 

#7. Slow down

Lastly, slow down and relax. Modern society has removed all the natural built-in breaks throughout the day. Along with all the information overload and constant stimulation, going nonstop all day only adds to the increased stress levels that everyone experiences. In between major activities, take a minute or so to stop what you’re doing and stretch, get up and move around, and do some deep-breathing exercises. Stress can tense up the muscles, causing you to breathe shallower, which causes physiologic changes that can ultimately aggravate nasal congestion. 

These simple 7 steps won’t help everyone, but If you can go down the list and apply all the steps, many if not most of you should feel some improvement in your ability to breathe through your nose. If you’ve tried all these steps and still can’t breathe through your nose, then seek medial help. An otolaryngologist (an ear, nose and throat doctor) is the best doctor to take care of this condition. 

If you are a chronic mouth breather, in addition to what I described above, your jaw is probably more narrow than normal, with some degree of dental crowding. Chronic mouth breathers also tend not to sleep well at night due to various degrees of breathing difficulty. 

I discuss more ways how you can breathe better in my free report below: How to Unstuff Your Stuffy Nose

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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36 thoughts on “7 Tips to Breathe Better Through Your Nose

  1. I have all the symptoms described above except acid reflux. I do have sleep apnea I alternate using a neti-pot or the waterpik with the nasal attachment. I use both with the salt/soda mix I buy at the drugstore because it’s faster and easier.

    My doctor suggested I sleep on my left side in lieu of wearing the mask for apnea. I sometimes wake up sleeping on my back and I worry about that. Friends have also warned that it is difficult to sleep with the apnea mask. What do you think?

    Thank you

  2. Hi there, i seem to have trouble breathing with my mouth closed, I can breath trough my nose but i just can’t seem to keep my mouth shut, and by that i don’t mean I can’t stop talking I mean i really cant keep my mouth shut when i do I have to have complete concentration I cant just do it casually and not notice and my tongue and the inside of my mouth and my lips feel very irritated I just cant seem to do it when i open my mouth back up everything feels good again, It’s like my mouth was made to stay open. Its just impossible to breath from my nose if tried everything you mentioned.

  3. I do have troubles with breathing in through my nose. I have 2 nasal sprays and use the neti pot but I still struggle with congestion and dryness in the nose. I have asthma so it seems that not breathing through my nose properly greatly affects my breathing.

  4. I tape my mouth shut at night, under my full face mask for SA. This way I can avoid mouth breathing while asleep. Sounds like a lot of trouble, but it really helps with my SA symptoms in general. I have less swelling in not only in my nose, but my tongue and throat as well.

  5. I am a 67 yr young woman. I recently had trouble with nose bleeds, never before. My ENT cautherized my nose 3 times and it’s healing well. I have a lot of problems breathing out of that side of my nose. Recently, had it checked, he said I have non-elergic rhinits. He said all in the back of my nose is clear, my problem is the front of my nose. I use the netty pot, and I still can’t breath out of my right side.. I notice sometimes quick movements it opens and then when I sit still it closes again..

  6. Hi, thanks for the tips, although they have helped to get a good nights sleep more often, I am not cured. I am just wondering if I can continue a healthy life with trusting my mouth to breath. Thank you by the way this has helped and keep it up!

  7. Very informative information. I have history, and conditions which I have not addressed concerning breathing and a deviated septum. I’m considering having something done.

  8. A patent nasal-pharyngal airway is essential to allow proper nasalized breathing.
    Generally there are multiple factors to consider: 1. the nasal valve. 2. the nasal turbinates and nasal septum. 3. The adenoids, tonsils and tongue. 4. The width of the upper jaw. 5. Diet and the air you breathe. 6. Breathing exercises.
    Best to resolve these problems early in life so that nasalized breathing becomes a habit.

  9. I have never been able to breath through my nose. If you put your hand to feel the amount of air that comes out of my nose, it is usually none out of my left nostril and very little out of my right. I saw many doctors, i even went through surgery to check my sinuses but that was all clear.. Every doctor has so far told me that they can’t figure out why I can’t breath through my nostrils. I use a nasil spray ( not too often because they realy don’t work) and I use a nedi-pot which helps very little. What else can I do? I’m beginning to think that it might be something else that’s causing this.
    Thanks for your very valuable info.

  10. I had my adenoids and turbinates removed. It helped for about a year. Now the ramifications are worse than the original condition. Antibiotics and nasal sprays are quick fix band-aids. Saline mix and neti pot and “sinugator” help the most. Zyrtec seems to be better than Claritin and Allegra for most people. After surgery I have “thin nostrils” so the breathe-right strip helps there, but not an infection. For an infection without paying the ENT or GP for a band-aid that quickly falls off, I do this:

    Apple Cider Vinegar
    Green Tea with honey, lemon, cayenne
    Bicylcle kicks in a jazuzzi up to your neck to sweat out your sinuses
    Marijuana with 4 green tea tree oil drops in the water. exhale out nose
    V8 drink with garlic (vitamin c blasting)
    Yellow bell peppers (more vitamin c blasting)

  11. I have excess of mucus in my throat, no doctor could help me so far, I feel I am choking all the time and I have to swallow constantly.

  12. Dear sir

    I have a problem to breathe through nose
    i am getting a problem in nose. I mean
    i am feeling that one part of my nose is not work properly Sometime . Sometime i got part one is not working properly to take breathe. I feel it is block and sometime i got part one is working properly but part two is not working properly . I feel its block to take breathe . I mean to say that i have a problem in part one or part two nose to take breathe through nose.
    Sometime part one works but part two block. And sojwmetime part two work but part one blocK of my nose . so i am feeling difficulty to take breathe either part one or part two of my nose.
    I am not feeling force to take breathe through mouth.
    I hope you are understanding my text , what i want to say .
    So plz do needfull.

    jitender malhotra
    mob. +91-9034340190

  13. I praise the good and thoughtful doctors who realize the major problem with poor breathing is a physical one. I too have always had difficulty breathing through my nose, trouble breathing and sleeping, allergies, little physical stamina compared to others and more. I was hit in the nose with a baseball bat when I was about 11 years old and that made it worse. At times, I think the back of my tongue blocks my airway.

    I never feel I have enough oxygen and that my heart needs more oxygen. I have almost every symptom that anyone else has described and have tried about everything that they have with little satisfaction. I was surprised about the size of the jaw and loss of teeth being possible culprits. I very much look forward to your resolving or hopefully resolving the problems we are having.

    Thank you again for your efforts.
    Barbara Boyd

  14. I breethe through my mouth all the time, most of the time my nose is stuffed but on the inside way down the nose so all i hear is squeeking noises. But i sleep really well and i snore really loud.

  15. Try breathing far from the ground and noticing where the breath goes (back down and out). Most air should expand your stomach and less into chest. Try researching breathing techniques for anxiety and depression e.g 1234, 1234 in succession etc etc

  16. I remember seens like for all my life never been able to breathe from my nose and I have asthma so I don’t know if that is the cause . Is it my asthma or maybe i just can’t ? Help me please. 🙁

  17. Hurt bone but nose is not crooked. Every time a nostril is blocked. Rotates from left and right. Would surgery fix this? My nose is not confirmed to be broken nor fractured yet but I heard it make a cracking sound on the nasal bone area right along before the septum. If I cry , even if clear nose with tissue, it is clogged fully. Even if blow all mucus out the empty space is somehow blocked from letting air pass fully through.

  18. Hi I haven’t read all the way through but basically I struggle to breath at night through my nose it’s always runny of a morning and night maybe sometime in the day I’ve been like it for a month now. Can you help

  19. Thank you. I had not considered having a small nose as part of the problem – I always need to get eyeglasses with a narrow bridge so my nose must be small. I will try your suggestions. I enjoyed your article but wish it would help right now. I have been using the drug Afrin for about a week. I try just to use the smallest amount but now I am totally stuffed without it and I can tell it starting not to work.

  20. Thank you! Will you please address “dryness” in an article. My nose is very dry, it scans and bleeds and makes breathing at night impossible. Your article does show me that there still are steps I need to take and so I really appreciate it.

  21. I like your thoughts about using a nasal spray to make it easier to breathe through your nose. I imagine that even when using generally accepted methods such as nasal sprays and Nedi-pots it would be wise to work with your primary care provider on the best ways to clear your sinuses. My sister has been complaining of a clogged nose this season, I think I will tell her to look at your thoughts.

  22. I feel issue typically during winter nights. I do work on desk in front of computer 8 hours and in air conditioned environment – whole year. I live in San Francisco – USA.
    While “Flimsy nostrils” trick works fine, I don’t understand why only during winter I get issue.

  23. Jigar,

    Winter is when you have more nasal congestion due to dry heat, indoor allergies, and more colds and infections. The more stuffy your nose, the more likely your nostrils will cave in.

  24. Smoked herbal remedy. Cannot sense moisture therefore cannot sense air in nose but even a tiny breath causes nostril collapse. Have deviated septum my whole life without issue before this. Read about devices such as Latera that can be inserted without invasive surgery. Have inflammation in nose and red mucosa. Should I wait for inflammation to go down or nerves to recover or consider inserting these device? Breathe Right strips help but cannot wear at work.

  25. Hi,

    My son and i find that during exercise one of nostrils becomes almost blocked.

    Is there a link between swelling of the turbinates and exercise and what can be done to improve the situation?

  26. I am 72 make in good health. I went to the dentist and they reclined me in the chair. Then they said open wide. In this position I can breath in through my nose but not out! This must be a recent issue for me. Should I go to ear, noise, throat specialist? It is a mystery to me how this happened.

  27. Chet,

    Take a look at this article. Basically, in some people, the soft palate backs up in the nose and causes sudden occlusion during mid-nasal exhalation. Being on your back or opening your mouth can make things worse.

  28. Thank you for taking your time to post this information, it has been very helpful, this is by far the most useful info on this subject that I have found yet!! Your the man! I especially found step 1 to be useful 🤘

  29. Doctor,
    When I talk, air come out through my mouth and it started two years ago. I normally breathe through my nose when I talk. Is there a cure for this?

  30. I can’t breathe through my nose I think because of a deviated septum.
    I struggle to sleep get stressed and sometimes feel like I’m about to die