Is it Bad to Sleep With Your Mouth Open

Is it Bad to Sleep With Your Mouth Open?

In everyday life, people use both nose and mouth to breathe. Sometimes, one of the two more than the other. Experts often recommend breathing with your nose over the mouth for several health reasons.

However, when we’re in a hurry, or working out, we’ll find ourselves breathing more casually on our mouth than the nose. That’s because we need to feed our muscles with oxygen.

But, what happens when mouth breathing becomes a common habit of our sleep hygiene. Is it bad to sleep with your mouth open?

In the further paragraphs of this article, we explained why mouth breathing can be bad for your sleep hygiene and overall health. We also found ways to treat it and prevent it.

Symptoms of Mouth Breathing During Sleep

Unfortunately, there is no accurate, medically-approved test that can confirm that you’re a 100% mouth breather through the night. During the day, you may not notice that you often swap between breathing through the mouth or nose.

However, you’re too busy to be bothered by that. Unfortunately, we’re unaware that our daylong habits can easily reflect on our sleep cycle, causing the same habits to occur while we sleep. One of those things is sleeping with your mouth open.

As we can’t test it, we have to notice symptoms or certain actions we take as a result of mouth breathing. If you find yourself doing one of the following things, you’re likely a mouth breather.

  • You often wake up with a dry mouth.
  • You wake up abruptly as a result of persistent snoring.
  • You may experience bad breath.
  • You may wake up tired.
  • You may experience a brain fog.

How to Know if Your Child Sleeps With Their Mouth Open?

Naturally, you can easily spot that your child sleeps with their mouth open if you visit them in their room as they sleep or share the bed. However, if you completely trust that your little ones are sleeping and don’t have a habit of visiting them while they sleep, you can still check whether they’re a mouth breather. Here are some symptoms.

  • According to a 2014 study, mouth breathing is associated with a lower growth rate in children. Especially facial and dental features.
  • They are easily irritated.
  • Another study found that this irritability may lead to crying episodes at night.
  • Enlarged and swollen tonsils.
  • May often experience dried lips and cracks on them.
  • Focus problems.

Advantages of Sleeping With Mouth Open

The points we pinned above give the impression that sleeping with your mouth open can have health and psychological implications on both children and adults. Still, some advantages during sleep do exist.

It Allows More Air

Some people normally need to take more air to breathe properly. Some combine it with nose breathing unconsciously while being able to breathe through the night. It is a good thing to do, especially after a certain injury, or during the hot summer nights when air simply feels too heavy to breathe in. There’s even a study that shows that.

It Helps You Breathe When Sick

It’s no secret that catching a cold, or flu often leaves us with a stuffed nose, making it extremely difficult to breathe. Some children may have problems with tonsils, as well as small nasal canals which make breathing difficult.

As a result of that, there is more relief and convenience in breathing with your mouth open. People who have asthma may also find it easier to breathe on the mouth during that time.

CO2 Reduction

Sometimes, our brain may signal the need to breathe with an open mouth as a result of the CO2 accumulation in our system.

When we start breathing using our mouth, it may be an unconscious result of elevated levels of the CO2 that we need to clean out with proper oxygen intake.

This doesn’t happen only when we’re exercising. When we sleep in a room with a closed window that wasn’t aired for a while, or it’s heated up, the high levels of carbon dioxide in the room may affect the way we sleep, and to get more oxygen, we may open our mouth.

Drawbacks of Sleeping With Your Mouth Open

The advantages of sleeping with mouth open are short-lived and can lead to some certain drawbacks. While breathing with mouth open may be good through the day, during sleep, it can be a bad idea and come with both advantages and risks.

1. You Wake Up With Dry Mouth and Lips

National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research reported that a lot of fluid can be lost through the sleep with open mouth. That happens because fluid or saliva evaporates out of our mouth, causing us to wake up with dry lips, especially if we spend the whole night with open mouth.

This can lead to a lot of problems, including impaired swallowing which can have consequences of both our saliva and saliva’s protective properties. Not to mention that waking up with dry mouth can be uncomfortable and even painful and rise fear of having a serious disease like diabetes.

2. It’s Harmful To Your Dental Health

We first pointed out that loss of fluid like saliva can impair our swallowing, but it can also disrupt our mental hygiene. That’s because our saliva is extremely beneficial to the health of our gums and health. It’s a self-cleaning mechanism that flushes away the bacteria and other germs that get in our mouth.

The loss of saliva leads to a drop of pH value, with plaque pH reaching the level which welcomes the bacteria in our mouth, which damages our teeth. In the worst-case scenario, a combination of sleeping with mouth open along with other dental conditions can lead to teeth loss.

Children who sleep with an open mouth can also lead to crowded teeth and often wake up with swollen gums.

Additionally, sleeping with mouth open can likely lead to a slower growth rate of teeth and sometimes, swollen tonsils.

The growth rate of the skull, head, and jaw is also affected by sleeping with mouth open. Aside from crowded teeth, the dental arches are also affected, likely leading to children having to wear a brace or a retainer to correct the posture of their teeth.

Sometimes, sleeping with an open mouth can lead to shorter or longer faces, narrowed nasal passages, smaller chins, and stuffer lips. At times, it can lead to the lower jaw facing more on the inside compared to the upper lip.

3. Gum Disease

In addition to the aforementioned tooth decay, sleeping with your mouth open can lead to gum disease that may progress from harmless gingivitis to advanced parenthesis and also lead to teeth loss.

It’s a condition where gums will start receding as a result of invasive bacteria eating it away from the tooth’s enamel.

4. Bad Breath

Bad breath, also known as halitosis, manifests as a result of changes in halitus which leads to uncomfortable odor from your mouth. It’s also a consequence of loss in saliva which prevents our mouth to self-clean.

If a lot of bacteria accumulate, not only will it lead to tooth decay, the tooth decay will also influence the bad breath.

A study even found an association between invasive mouth breathing during sleep and odor in children, reporting that over 50% of study participants had a strong odor as a result of sleeping with their mouth open. The same study can likely apply to adults.

5. Frequent Swallowing

Sleeping with mouth open can lead to more frequent swallowing throughout the day. While swallowing is necessary to flush the bacteria away from our mouth and self-clean, frequent swallowing can turn out abnormal.

Dry mouth usually forces the tongue out to swallow instead of doing so with your mouth muscles, which are too dry.

Swallowing too much air can also lead to issues with stomach reflux which can be bad for health.

6. Fatigue and Sleepiness Through the Day

Lastly, one of the common consequences of sleeping with an open mouth is waking up tired and fatigued. The restful night is short-lived so you will feel tired throughout the day.

A study found that the way we sleep with mouth open can affect the sleep stages, and disrupt the deep sleeping patterns which are essential for restorative sleep and rest.

Sleep With Your Mouth Open, Terry Cralle
Image source: Terry Cralle, RN

7. Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that leads to pauses in breathing that cut the airflow to our lungs. As a result, we may wake up gasping for air and searching for the way to breathe. It’s very disruptive towards sleep and to gain enough air, it often means sleeping with an open mouth.

If you sleep on your back, on a flat surface that doesn’t elevate your head enough, the odds of breathing through the mouth while you sleep increase. The consequence of that in combination with other side effects may also be intense headaches after waking up, as well as feeling sore and unrefreshed.

More: How Does Sleep Apnea Impact the Brain?

How to Treat Sleep With Mouth Open?

There are different ways to treat mouth breathing. However, before your doctor or dentist can determine how to treat it, it’s important to know whether you’re a child, whether you have respiratory problems like asthma or sleep apnea.

Your doctor specialist may also recommend medications like steroid nasal sprays, antihistamines, nasal decongestant medicines, and other treatment options.

Another option for treating mouth breathing is using strips that are attached to the bridge of the nose, as it can help with promoting breathing through the nose.

An additional adhesive strip that is stiffer than the traditional ones is called nasal dilator that is placed across the nostrils which increases airflow to your nose, allowing easier breathing.

Sleep apnea patients whose obstructive sleep apnea influenced breathing through the mouth may also be recommended a continuous air pressure therapy (CPAP) machine which supports your breathing during sleep.

For children, the treatment is a little different. Doctors may suggest surgical removal of tonsils, especially adenoids that are in our nose.

If you pay a visit to a dentist to treat your child’s problem with sleeping with mouth open, they may recommend retainers, braces, or other devices that can widen the jaw and palate, making it easier on nasal passages to circulate air.

Using some of these devices may also promote the healthy growth and development of teeth, preventing crowding.

Sleeping With Mouth Open Prevention

But, how can we avoid taking such measures in the first place? While not all mouth breathing during sleep can be prevented, as a result of our facial features and bone structure, there are still ways to work around these deformities to stop mouth breathing.

For example, people who constantly experience congested nasal canals as a result of an allergy or an infection there are ways to clear the nasal passages and ensure healthy breathing again. Here’s how we can prevent your child or yourself from sleeping with mouth open.

  • Using saline mists, sprays, decongestants, allergy relieving medicines. Especially during long flights or trips where sleeping soundly isn’t always guaranteed. Keep in mind that using allergy relieving medicines is only advised during allergy seasons like spring and fall. You shouldn’t overdo with those medicines as side effects include nausea, dry mouth, drowsiness, disorientation, and depression, according to a report.
  • Sleeping on your back, but your head needs to be elevated in a way that allows proper airflow.
  • Hypoallergenic bedding, mattress, and genuinely clean environment where you sleep.
  • Practicing breathing through the nose during the day, for the sake of a habit.

It’s worth noting that stress, anxiety, and depression can also influence sleeping with mouth open. Reduce the stress intake to control your mental and sleep hygiene.


Overall, while we use both nose and mouth to breathe during the day, leaning more towards mouth when we’re sick or exercising, you should breathe through your nose when it’s time to sleep.

Sleeping through your nose is beneficial. As we breathe, our nose releases nitric oxide which improves our lungs’ capability of transferring oxygen, helping with its transfer.

Lastly, unless you’re sick, there should be no excuse to sleep with your mouth open.

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