Life Advice



Breathing Bothers

Annie Lane on

Dear Annie: My husband of 42 years discovered a new way of breathing, and it has made me scared to death. I am afraid that he might die in his sleep.

"Charles" had asthma and allergies in his childhood, and he was prescribed all kinds of medication. He mostly outgrew his asthma as an adult, though he would frequently get terrible allergies and take various forms of antihistamines, usually prescribed by his doctor.

But a year ago, someone at his office was talking about the "Buteyko Breathing Technique," which basically means taking shallow breaths through the nose. It seems that this technique was discovered in the Ukraine years ago and was used to treat people in Russia with asthma and allergies -- mainly children -- and to help them get off medications.

My husband checked on the internet and on YouTube and found all kinds of advice about breathing through your nose, not your mouth. In fact, he even bought a book about it called something like, "Shut Your Mouth."

My concern is at night because he puts a piece of tape over his mouth before he falls asleep, and he sleeps the entire night with that tape on. I am afraid that if his nasal passages were to clog up, and he didn't know it, he could actually suffocate in his sleep. I have told Charles this, but he only laughs, saying there is no way. He says that if he couldn't breath, at all he would rip the tape off. He reminded me of the two times that he had to cough in his sleep, and he woke up and ripped the tape off. After coughing, he put a new piece of tape over his mouth. The product that he uses is called "cloth tape," which he buys at the local pharmacy.

He says that he almost never needs an antihistamine because his allergies rarely act up. When they do, he takes medication, but that is only once or twice a year, while before all this he was taking one or two pills a day.

I asked our doctor about it, and she said breathing through the nose is a good idea because the nasal passages filter out germs, but she added that she had never heard of anyone taping their mouth shut to sleep. She did not seem concerned, but she's not married to the guy. -- Holding My Breath


Dear Holding My Breath: Relax. Your husband won't suffocate in his sleep. Given a choice between mouth breathing and nasal breathing, many experts recommend nasal breathing for the reason your doctor stated. The fact that your husband has been able to cut way back on his medications is a good sign, as is your doctor not having concerns.

We breath through our nose or mouth; those are our only two options. Normally, when people think of calming down, they say, "Take a deep breath," and most people would do so by breathing through the nose and out the mouth.

Shallow breathing through the nose is an interesting concept. If any other readers have tried this and experienced good or bad results, I'd love to hear about it.


"How Can I Forgive My Cheating Partner?" is out now! Annie Lane's second anthology -- featuring favorite columns on marriage, infidelity, communication and reconciliation -- is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to




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