• Katelyn @ HALE

I Had No Idea I Was A Mouth Breather Until I Tried This

Updated: Aug 28, 2019

Often on FaceTime I catch a glimpse of myself in the corner of the screen with my mouth hanging open. I look... vacant. But that's just how I have to breathe - or so I thought. It wasn't until I tried a simple test that I felt a world of difference. And I'm never going back.

Why You Might Be a Mouth Breather

When I first realized I was a mouth breather, I did everything I could to change it. After all, the insult "mouth breather" must be rooted in some truth, right? From sleeping propped up to steamy bathroom sessions to nasal sprays and allergy meds, nothing seemed to work.

Eventually I'd begun to accept I’d just never breathe well. I assumed it was the weather, or allergies, or just a fact of life.

One simple trick changed everything - it showed me that my lifelong challenges with nasal breathing lie with the structure of my nose. It's never been sinus inflammation, a never-ending cold, or allergies. I'd been looking for the source of my problems in the air, but it was inside of me all along.

Without Further Ado

The Cottle Maneuver is a nasal dilation technique where you tug and hold your cheeks away from your nose. You could also try gripping and gently pulling apart the lobes where your nose meets your cheek. Seriously, try it. I'll wait.

If you feel like you breathe better when you do this, your nose has been letting you down. This means you may have a deviated septum or narrow and weak nasal cartilage - structural problems that restrict airflow. Chances are you're also a mouth breather (no offense intended!) and snorer. You may also dread dental checkups, and you're constantly exhausted. Am I right?

But by temporarily opening the nasal passages, you are able to experience what nasal breathing should feel like. And it feels amazing. For a lifelong mouth breather like myself, it's like coming up from underwater.

The Science Behind the Obstruction

Nasal airway obstruction can be partially explained by the Bernoulli Principle, which weirdly enough also explains how planes fly. Basically: fast moving air has lower pressure than stationary air.

Plane wings are designed as airfoils, so air has to move more quickly over the wing than under it, producing a high-pressure pocket underneath the wing and creating lift that keeps the plane airborne. Is this entirely relevant? No. Do I think it's cool and need to share it? Yes.

With that itch scratched, back to the nose. When you inhale, air flows quickly into your nose, creating a lower pressure region inside compared to the outside, where the air is stationary. Nature loves to get even, so it attempts to equalize the pressures by having the nostril collapse inward, limiting or shunting off the flow. This is lovingly known as nasal valve collapse.

Let's try it: inhale through your nose as hard as you can. Do you see one or both of your nostrils bow inward? That's what I'm talking about. If you're stumped and not seeing anything - congratulations, you're better than us.

The Cottle manuever works by both dilating the nose (creating more room for air) and preventing nasal valve collapse (holding the nose open) at the same time. So there's more room for air there was before, and your nostrils aren't going to collapse inward and shunt the flow.

That said, this technique isn't exactly the solution to your mouth breathing problem. You can't walk around all day tugging your cheeks or nose apart. Well, you shouldn't. Hopefully you have better things to do.

This maneuver is actually used by Ear, Nose, and Throat specialists to diagnose nasal valve collapse and nasal airway obstruction, the medical term for the structural conditions that restrict nasal airflow. Surgeons will perform this technique (or its modified version, which involves pressing a Q-tip, tongue depressor, etc. out against the sides of the nose from the inside) to test the extent and location of a patient's obstruction and assess how it would respond to surgery.

Not all nasal dilators make you look cool

That's right, surgery. A typical approach is for a surgeon to manipulate the cartilage in your nose (or take some more from your ears or ribs) and configure it to widen and support the airway - exactly what the Cottle manuever does, permanently. But is it a perfect solution? Absolutely not, as we'll explain in an upcoming post.

One potential alternative, nasal breathing aids (nose strips, nose cones, etc.) provide a low risk and instant means of dilating the nose and improving flow. That said, who wants to walk around with a Band-Aid on their nose, a silicone nose ring, or whatever's going on with this guy?

There's only one breathing aid out there that you can wear around the clock, and that's HALE. It's a comfortable a discreet nasal breathing aid worn entirely inside the nose. No visible components or aesthetic change, but a whole lot more airflow.

Want to be one of the first to try HALE? You're in luck! We're looking for beta testers and, for those of you who live near Baltimore, clinical trial participants. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Instagram and Twitter at @wear_hale, and sign up to our mailing list to get exclusive updates!​
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