This week we’re learning how to breathe better—and about how doing so can vastly improve our overall health—with help from journalist James Nestor. James is the author of the new book Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art, which covers the extensive research on the many ways in which we sometimes struggle to breathe—from asthma, to allergies, to snoring—and what we can do about it. He talks with Lifehacker Editor-in-Chief Alice about the perils of mouth-breathing, how our intricate nasal cavities improve the quality of the air we take in and how training yourself to nose breathe can lower your blood pressure, help ease your anxiety and improve your immune system.
Highlights from this week’s episode
From the James Nestor Interview
On why breathing through your nose is a vast upgrade to breathing through your mouth:
[I]f you took a human head and sliced it in half, which is something a lot of scientists have done, you would see that the nose looks a lot like a seashell and it gets its name, the Nasal Concha, because it looks so much like a seashell. So seashells are formed that way to help keep invaders out. And our nose does the exact same thing. The reason why we have all of these bones in our nose that that stretch underneath our eyes and that had this labyrinth like pattern in them is to help filter out particulate and bacteria and other problems. And then all of that bacteria and other pathogens have to interact with nitric oxide, which goes and kills a lot of this stuff along the way. That air is going to be conditioned. It’s going to be warmed. It’s going to be filtered, so by the time it reaches the lungs, you know, it’s going to be a lot easier to upload into the bloodstream. So, you know, people have known about this for for so long, but it’s still shocking to me that I live so much of my life breathing through my mouth and so many other people are doing the same thing right now.
On how he trained himself to breathe through his nose:
All you need to do is just to train your mouth to stay shut at night. So I use this teeny piece of surgical tape which has this very light adhesive and just placed it at center of my lips. I could still breathe through my mouth if I had to. If I wanted to, I could even talk. But I was just training my jaw shut. And just by doing this, by breathing through the nose, you get 20 percent more oxygen per breath than breathing through the mouth. So you can imagine at night, a third of your life, if you’re able to breathe through your nose, use the nose to filter out particulate other problems, get more oxygen. It’s so beneficial. And again, there’s no doubt about that. We know nasal breathing is far superior. It’s just a fact. I think a lot of people have been ignoring it.
To hear more about James’ approach to improving your health through breathing, check out the full episode!
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