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A New Appreciation of Breath

The simple act of breathing is occasionally taken for granted, until it becomes labored. The same can be said of sleeping. All is well until the alarm rings and it becomes clear that genuine slumber came but for a few hours.

The elemental nature of respiration in all its forms may be an unlikely subject for a non-fiction book, but a new tome called Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art is gaining attention for its clear and concise presentation of forgotten truisms. For example, journalist James Nestor points out the many reasons why nose breathing is better than mouth breathing.

Sleep clinicians have long known that mouth breathing contributes to poor sleep, and the author of Breath discovered this when he participated in a study in which his nose was completely plugged for 10 days. A report on describes the “unpleasant experience” in which Nestor was forced to breathe solely through his mouth.

"I went from snoring a couple minutes a night to, within three days, I was snoring four hours a night," Nestor told NPR in describing his forced mouth breathing. "I developed sleep apnea. My stress levels were off the charts. My nervous system was a mess...I felt awful.”

Positional sleep therapy is one way to up the chances of breathing through the nose, which is made easier when sleepers are resting on their side. “Sleeping on the side promotes better breathing and reduces snoring,” says Shad Morris, D.D.S., inventor of the slumberBUMP positional sleep therapy device. “In some cases, positional sleep therapy can treat sleep apnea, alone or in conjunction with other therapies such as oral appliances and CPAP.”

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