We’ve all heard the insult “mouth breather” before.

It’s most often used to belittle someone, but what most don’t know is that many people are  “mouth breathers”.

If untreated, breathing through your mouth can cause a multitude of other health issues, so there’s a reason why it is such a big deal. Who knew that something as simple as breathing could affect our health in such a dramatic way?

Abnormal breathing is the technical term for breathing through the mouth, and it is typically quicker and more shallow than nasal breathing.

You can tell if someone is breathing abnormally if their chest is rising and falling instead of their abdomen and it’s normally seen when a person is under stress. However, if a person breathes through their mouth habitually it can have serious side effects over the course of their life.

Habitual mouth breathing involves a person breathing in and out of the mouth for sustained periods of time at regular intervals during rest or sleep. It is common for mouth breathing adults to experience sleep-disordered breathing, fatigue, decreased productivity, and a poorer quality of life than those who are nasal breathing

“Children especially should not breathe through their mouths. Not while awake, not while asleep,”

Negative effects of Mouth breathing

First, we need to learn the negative effects mouth breathing has on a child’s growth and development.:

  • Mouth breathing is a common habit, in more than 50 percent of children. It is caused by an inability to breathe through the node due to airway obstruction or small airway size. Common risk factors include swollen adenoids and tonsils or a blocked, stuffy nose.


  • Breathing through an open mouth is extremely detrimental to the development of the face, teeth, and upper airways. Left untreated in childhood, the habit results in abnormal facial features and smaller airways in adulthood. These poor breathing habits lead to a lifetime of health issues.


  • When a child mouth-breathes, the brain receives insufficient oxygen. Long term, this has been proven to have a direct impact on cognitive ability, learning, and behavior.


  • Mouth breathing at night can result in sleep-disordered breathing with problems such as bedwetting, snoring, and sleep apnea. No child should ever snore.


Mouth breathing in your child may be more noticeable when your child is asleep – or it may be a constant habit. Regardless, this form of breathing is bad news at night for developing brains.

Doctors can diagnose mouth breathers by looking at behavioral patterns, dental problems, tongue position, speech, and facial features. But it takes time as all these symptoms are fairly common and not particularly alarming by themselves. When viewed together they are not good for your growing child. People rarely realize the importance of nasal breathing until they get sick.

One of the main causes of mouth breathing in children is allergies and blocked noses caused by enlarged adenoids and tonsils. Here is an image of a young boy with normal breathing and a balanced facial profile to begin with, until he was introduced to an allergen ( the family pet).

When the mouth is open, the tongue cannot rest in the correct place. Over time this can lead to incorrect development of the upper jaw, a recessed lower jaw, speech problems, and misaligned teeth. When sleeping, the recessed jaw can also cut off the airway completely and contribute to sleep apnea in children.

Second, we need to understand what I mean by the correct resting tongue position. Simply put – the tongue should rest gently on the roof of the mouth at all times apart from when you talk and eat.

American painter and historian George Catlin wrote the book “Shut your Mouth and Save Your Life”. 

In his search for answers as to why Native Americans had such strong characteristics and longer trouble-free lifespans,  He drew a direct link between the “closed-mouth” sleeping practices of the “Indians,” 

Catlin was particularly impressed by the beauty, strength, demeanor, and superb health of the Native Americans. He described some of the tribes he met as picturesque and handsome, “almost beyond description.” 

In visiting Native American graveyards, he couldn’t help but notice the extremely low proportion of children buried compared to the more “civilized” races. Convinced that the diseases of civilized man weren’t due to genetics or inherent flaws in physical makeup, Catlin began looking for the one great “lamentable fault” that might be behind the great disparity of health found between the civilized and less civilized peoples…..Mouth Breathing!

Today, sleep researchers have documented that breathing with the mouth open while sleeping can lead not only to snoring but lower sleep quality and eventually, a decline in health.

This book written in the 1800s was considered by some to be a bit “over the top” but it has proven itself–and many of the concepts presented–to be not only scientifically sound, but deserving of consideration by virtually everyone interested in being healthy.

Sleep dysfunction is becoming an epidemic worldwide. My daughter is one of these children that suffer from a lack of oxygen due to her inability to sleep because of mouth breathing. We teach our children through our actions. She has watched me breathe with my mouth open for years. I had no idea the side effects it was causing for both of us. 

Mouth breathing triggers fight or flight to switch on and rest and digest to switch off. So we are not getting enough oxygen or good sleep. Two important elements our bodies need to survive and thrive.

Nearly one-third of mouth breathers reported awareness of having problems during their sleep, such as sleeping with their mouth open or drooling on their pillow. 

I have been learning about human beings’  and strategic breathing, and how oxygen and co2  are the life force energy that moves through us and can be regulated through breath but there’s something more interesting than I found, There’s a tremendous relationship between breath, the lungs, and grief.

I am going to share our journey and why I am so passionate about this subject.

I have learned our body keeps score and we accumulate grief. 

My daughter lost her favorite uncle in 2012 when she was 8, Not really old enough to understand death much less process her feeling and emotions

When she was 14 her Dad had a kidney transplant. She thought she was going to lose him. He prepared her for the fact that the surgery may not be successful. She thought she was prepared for the unthinkable. That is when I became aware of her sleep issues and started researching.  How to help her. She needed more than just counseling. This is when I learned about myofunctional therapy.

Her Dad’s surgery was successful.  She went back to life as usual while we worked on helping her sleep and getting rid of the dark circles under her eyes.

Seven months after this surgery  I was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a double mastectomy. In a very short period, she thought she might lose one or both parents. Talk about a stressful year for a 15-year-old. No matter what we tried her sleep-disordered breathing got worse.

Eight months after my surgery, Her Dad passed away. Then there were a series of events that happened over the next several months that added to her stress, anxiety, and sleep issues.

When you suppress grief, which is what we have learned to do, 

You layer it as new brief events happen in your life. It comes out in another way…it comes out as anger, anxiety, or both.

Anxiety, panic attacks, or outbursts are because of your grief. 

Breathing exercises and nose breathing and allowing yourself to feel the grief that you were terrified of can help.

 Breathing exercises for people that have anxiety can work almost immediately.

You can time it. It usually takes three to five minutes, sometimes 30 seconds. 

Mouth Breathing and ADHD

Growing evidence suggests that a segment of children with ADHD are misdiagnosed and actually suffer from insufficient sleep, insomnia, obstructed breathing, or another known sleep disorder. But the most paradigm-challenging idea may be that ADHD may itself be a sleep disorder. If correct, this idea could fundamentally change the way ADHD is studied and treated.

I cannot stress enough…Mouth breathing is not normal and has long-term consequences for health. When a child breathes through their mouth, their brain and body are not getting enough oxygen. At night, this lowered oxygen saturation is detrimental to the quality of sleep and the brain’s ability to get enough rest.

  • Making it tough for them to concentrate during the day.  Think about how you feel when you are sleep-deprived. Now imagine a child that appears to have had a full night of sleep wakes up tired and does not know what they are feeling or how to express it. They have no idea they did not get a good night’s rest. They are just cranky and short-tempered. 
  • When sleeping, the jaw is recessed and the tongue can also cut off the airway completely and contribute to sleep apnea in children. To compensate, the body wakes the child and pushes the jaw forward, resulting in disrupted sleep cycles, snoring and teeth grinding.

Perhaps the most important thing for a frustrated mom: “Sleep deprivation in children and ADHD exhibit the same symptoms, the exact same symptoms.”

Now imagine being told your child has ADHD and as a MOM you know your child. I knew when Faith was sleep-deprived. That was the only time she was irritable, cranky, and lashed out. To others who are not with her every day and don’t believe what you are saying because they are not in it with you. You feel like you are a bad parent and are being judged.  This is how I feel even now. I no longer feel the need to explain. Not everyone understands sleep-disordered breathing in children especially when the signs are so similar to something else that is a more common diagnosis. 

I had to be my child’s health care advocate. We had grief and a sleep disorder at the same time. I did not understand how all this was connected. Until now. When you have a child that has sleep-disordered breathing you don’t get much sleep either.  This is why I am speaking about it now. The trauma just kept piling up and the people were supposed to be there for her. Well, that is what it is. 

Sleep problems fall into three categories: insufficient sleep, insomnia, and disordered breathing. All are common among young children. Some studies estimate that their prevalence might be as high as 20 to 50 percent in young children.

Karen Bonuck, a professor of family and social medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, is known for her work on a 2012 study of 11,000 children published in the journal Pediatrics. It found that those with snoring, mouth breathing, or apnea (in which a person’s breathing is interrupted during sleep) were 40 percent to 100 percent more likely than those without the sleep issues to have behaviors resembling ADHD by age 7.

If you put your toddler down at night to sleep, he or she cries and cries. How do you make bedtime a more pleasant experience? Are they mouth breathing? Do they have a hard time going back to sleep when they wake up?

A nighttime bedtime routine can lead to better-rested children and happier parents. The idea is that for the 30 minutes before you want her to go to sleep, you follow the exact same rituals in the exact same order: bath, brushing teeth, book, whatever makes the most sense for you. This was ours. 

There are two keys to implementing a good bedtime routine: The first is to start by working around the time when your toddler usually falls asleep. If you don’t care for it and want to change it, wait a few days, then adjust it gradually — in increments of around 10 minutes. And the other is to give her notice that those 30 minutes of bedtime rituals are about to begin so she can get used to the idea: “We’re going to get ready for bed in 30 minutes,” followed by “We’re going to get ready for bed in 20 minutes,” and so on. When Faith was little she slept 9 hours from the time we put her to bed. There was a time this worked well for us.
Sleep disorders take a toll on everyone! In Sharon Moore’s book “Sleep wrecked kids” She helps parents understand sleep disorders and addresses all aspects related to the importance of sleep including mouth breathing and myofunctional therapy. This is an emerging field that is virtually unknown. She demonstrated just how beneficial myofunctional therapy can be for sleep-wrecked kids and their sleep-deprived parents.

Many kids slip under the radar. Myofunctional therapy is not a replacement for medical treatment when needed,  it is perfect alongside medical and dental treatments to reinforce, rehabilitate and maintain both oral health and overall health. 

A healthy mouth is a healthy body and a happy healthy life!