I'm a Mouth Breather, Now What?


Some people always have been and always will be mouth breathers due to their anatomical make up. Some of us lack muscle tone causing the jaw to drop. Others have chronic nasal congestion from allergies or other nasal anomalies and if one cannot breathe well through the nose, it may unconsciously forces us to mouth breathe.


Were you born a mouth breather, or did you develop mouth breathing as a result of having untreated sleep apnea?

Some people always have been and always will be mouth breathers due to their anatomical make up. Some of us lack muscle tone causing the jaw to drop. Others have chronic nasal congestion from allergies or other nasal anomalies and if one cannot breathe well through the nose, it may unconsciously forces us to mouth breathe.

There is a large population of people who became mouth breathers with the onset of sleep apnea. When an apnea episode occurs, we stop breathing. As our oxygen levels dip, it sends the brain in to a panic to breathe resulting in the loud snore, and sudden gasp to gulp in air as quickly as possible. When apnea events occur fast and furious all during the night, we often develop the habit of sleeping with our mouths open to accommodate the need for oxygen.

Mouth breathing in newly diagnosed sleep apnea patients is so prevalent that many sleep doctors start all of their patients on CPAP therapy with a full face mask. Most patients that weren’t born mouth breathers quickly relearn how to sleep with their mouths closed within a few weeks or months of CPAP treatment. They can then exchange a full face mask for a traditional nasal mask or nasal pillow mask if they so choose.

Full face masks can be more challenging due to their sheer size. A larger mask frame and cushion creates the greater possibility of leak simply because there is more surface area for potential leak. A mouth breather on CPAP has 2 choices, a full face mask or a traditional nasal mask/nasal pillow mask with the addition of a chin strap.

To help reduce mask leak – remember to do your final fit and adjustment while laying in bed in your normal sleeping position. So, when it’s bedtime, sit on your bed and place mask on your face with straps loose. Turn on machine so the air is blowing and then lay down with your head on the pillow the way you would naturally sleep. This is when you slowly tighten the straps just until you get a good seal. With a full face mask, leak is often more prevalent in the top portion of the mask and allows air to be blown in the eye area. Tighten the top straps to resolve this leak. If your leak problem is around the mouth or chin area, focus the adjustment on the bottom strap.

Remember that over tightening may seem like the best way to stop leak, but in truth it will only cause pressure point soreness or cuts on the nose bridge. If you find that you must tighten to the point of pain, you may very well have the wrong size or style for your face. No mask should ever cause pain! Your local home health supplier will be happy to help you select the best mask for your face. There are dozens of full face masks to choose from and one will be perfect for you!

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I use nasal pillow masks and am not a mouth breather… unless I have a cold or stuffy nose. On those nights, my nasal pillows won’t work and therefore, neither will PAP be effective. I learned early on that skipping even one nights sleep with PAP meant lousy sleep and sleepy tomorrows. I would never want to put my life at risk by not treating my apnea, so I solved this by purchasing a full face mask to use on any night that I cannot breathe fully through my nostrils. It’s bad enough being sick, who wants to be sleepy too?

When we are ill, its even more important to get quality sleep and using PAP will assure we cycle through the sleep stages properly and receive the important delta sleep where our body produces antibodies to help us fight off infection.

I highly recommend the purchase of a full face mask just for this purpose.

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I attended a conference on myofunctional therapy last weekend and one of the main topics that kept coming up in talk after talk were the advantages of nasal breathing and the disadvantages of mouth breathing. While we cannot necessarily control whether we breath through our nose or mouth at night, we do have control of it during the daytime!

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I’d like to hear what the advantages are of nasal breathing. I have trained myself to breath via my nose. My tool is an oral appliance used in conjunction with a nasal mask. Works great.

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Hello Everyone,
Here is a link to an article that dicusses the benefits of Nasal breathing as opposed to mouth breathing and why it is most advantageous to the patient to breathe through their nose.
Odd how something so simple may be behind much bigger issues. We must constantly learn about our conditions so that we can be the best advocate for ourselves and loved ones :slight_smile: the more you know!
Daryl Coleman
Great Lakes Orthodontics
Buffalo NY


Thanks for sharing this great article, it was very educational!
I especially found this very interesting:
"Nasal breathing (as opposed to mouth breathing) increases circulation, blood oxygen and
carbon dioxide levels, slows the breathing rate and improves overall lung
volumes " Swift, Campbell, McKown 1988 Oronasal obstruction, lung
volumes, and arterial oxygenation. Lancet 1, 73-75

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This is so helpful, Tracy. Nobody showed me how to properly install the CPAP mask, or told me about the importance of having a tight seal.

As for mouth-breathing: I’m a lifetimer mouth-breather and I’m slowly learning how to breathe through my nose. So give me a break: mouth-breathing is probably preferable to apnea.


My Pleasure Tracy I am always on the lookout for information to help the cause


This link might be helpful for mouth breathers using CPAP!


If you’re a mouth breather and exhibits loud snoring, morning headaches, extreme sleepiness during the day just to name a few, then you may have sleep apnea. Visit your doctor, and ask about a sleep study. Come back to this fine forum for support :wink:

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this would be a good time to look into myofunctional therapy. We need to learn how breath via our nose. Our nose is fro breathing and our mouth is for eating and talking.

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Resmed Airsense F10 full face mask…so light, you get used to it very quickly…

From a 3 time flunked sleep test person who developed claustrophobia in the first two tests.

I’m 7 weeks into treatment now and absolutely shocking myself.


May I assume that 7 weeks later, the shock is a positive one?
Can you tell more about how you are feeling upon wakening in the morning? What are the benefits you are noticing?

My “Holy Cow” moment came within the first 10 days after treatment with the right mask and machine pressure. I woke one morning without a headache and feeling foggy. I had forgotten what it felt like to wake up and actually feel good and be excited to get on with my day.


The “shocking experience” has been VERY POSITIVE! Sorry I didn’t make that clear(LOL). I’m feeling more rested each morning and the “fear of making it four hours a night” has long since passed.

I struggled with the headaches somewhat, but when I got the headgear replaced to a large versus medium, that seemed to have cured it.

Biggest noticeable benefits other than not feeling tired is that I’m not waking myself up snoring or biting my tongue when I wake up quickly. I’m actually looking forward to going to bed at night for the first time in years.

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I’m so happy to hear your positive news!
So, now…I want to ask a question…do YOU know WHY you have sleep apnea?

To me, this is one of the most important things we patients need to know but are rarely told,
As I was going through the process of finding and achieving success with my bilevel treatment, my new found energy got me interested in learning more about apnea.

I learned that most of us are born with apnea and while children do have apnea, it often waits to rear its ugly head after puberty when our tongue and jaw are fully developed in size. It’s one thing to be told “you have sleep apnea, here is your CPAP for treatment”, and yet another thing to find out the WHY. Knowing your anatomical anomalies that block your airway and cause you to stop breathing is important.

Why is it important to know?

  1. You will have a clearer understanding of your best treatment options if you know what blocks or collapses your airway

  2. When treatment works, you will know why it works and this should give you added incentive to use therapy every single night without fail…keeping you healthy and enjoying your life.

  3. In most cases, the anatomical causes were inherited from your mom or dads side of the family. For me, it explained my dads disabling stroke at age 57, some family obesity and type 2 diabetes, long and wide tongues, loud snoring and gasping during sleep and dementia all on his side of the family. As we look back a few generations and consider our family medical history, apnea becomes so apparent.

  4. Once you recognize the hereditary factor, you can then share your knowledge and treatment success story with your parents, siblings, children and other relatives. Give them the gift of your knowledge by informing them. You might be saving the life of a loved one.

I was the first diagnosed in my family 25 years ago. I now have cousins, nephews, brothers and my son treating apnea with CPAP.

I’m so glad you found our discussion group and are sharing your positives! It will be helpful to many, thanks so much!


Can you tell me if as a full face mask user if I should be breathing with mouth or nose? I’ve been on the mask since Dec and I’m still trying to adapt to it. Thanks.


The beauty of a full face mask is that it allows you to breath through nose or mouth, it has ya covered.

A normal healthy sleeper breathes with mouth closed and through nostrils only. I’ve heard that about 20% of the population are natural born mouth breathers, always have been, always will be. BUT some of us with apnea patients became mouth breathers during our untreated years, We start with full face masks and slowly relearn to sleep with our mouths closed and then can switch to the regular nasal mask.


Breath however you want or whatever you are naturally comfortable with. Full face mask is designed to deliver therapy whether you breath through your nose or mouth or both. It’ll be a process either way. Please do not give up. The benefits outweighs any problems :wink:


After a recent Sleep Test, the Sleep Center loaned me a full face Res Med Mirage Quattro Small. On my back, I have constant apnea. I have an overbite and my mouth falls open–my nose is not stuffed up.

I’ve been trying to get the mask properly adjusted–had the nurse at the sleep center do it for me. In all attempts the past week, it’s not leaking at 5 when I go to sleep. Then it ramps up to 9 or 10 and I’m awakened by air rushing out the bottom and loud squatting noises as the seal isn’t holding. I begin tightening the bottom straps,but the leaks do not stop.

I do begin the evening with it loose and only adjust to keep it from leaking.

As this scenario keeps replaying, I can’t see what else I can do.

Thanks for any suggestions you have,