Episode 182: How To Breathe Better With Professor Patrick McKeown


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By Lisa Tamati. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

When we optimise our performance, we usually think of the basics of training, sleep, and food. Yet, we often miss one important aspect: breathing. If you have ever felt brain fog, a racing mind or insomnia, breathing may be the solution you need.

In this episode, Patrick McKeown joins us to explain how mouth breathing can harm our health and performance, and many people still do this unconsciously. He shares that we need to transition to nasal breathing to help us breathe better. The change may be difficult at first, but Patrick encourages us through steps to help guide this change.

If you want to know more about the science behind nasal breathing, then this episode is for you.

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Here are three reasons why you should listen to the full episode:

  1. Learn how mouth breathing can affect many aspects of your life.
  2. Discover the power of nasal breathing and how it can help improve your sleep and concentration.
  3. Understand the steps for transitioning to nasal breathing.


Episode Highlights [2:16] Patrick’s Journey Into Breathing

  • Patrick shared how he was a chronic mouth breather and had asthma growing up. This condition got worse in time and affected his concentration and studies.
  • Chronic mouth breathing affects 25 - 50% of children, yet the medical industry is not doing anything to address it.
  • Patrick's personal experience and struggles made him realise that no one is teaching how to breathe correctly.
  • Breathing is fundamental to attention and sleep.
  • Listen to the full episode for an overview of how breathing can affect our development and life!
[13:35] The Importance Of Nasal Breathing
  • Transitioning to nasal breathing can increase oxygen pressure by 10%.
  • Mouth breathing is often tied to chest breathing, which is faster. Faster, shallower breaths cause the body to think it is in danger.
  • Nasal breathing can help conditions such as asthma, COVID-19 recovery, sarcoidosis, anxiety, depression, functional movement and more.
  • Adults usually breath four to six litres of air during rest. Asthmatics report breathing as much as 10 to 15 litres.
  • Approximately 75% of the people with anxiety have dysfunctional breathing.
[21:49] Breathing And Stress
  • Stress is always accompanied by faster and upper chest breathing.
  • Faster breathing causes us to think we’re in danger.
  • Light, slow, and deep breathing should be taught to people with anxiety and PTSD.
  • Correct, functional breathing shouldn't be used in five-minute chunks, but instead, be how we breathe every day.
[25:59] Breathing And Sleep
  • The problem of snoring lies in mouth breathing.
  • Nasal breathing helps address sleep apnea.
  • Roughly 50% of the adult population sleeps with their mouth open.
  • If your mouth is dry in the morning, you may be sleeping with your mouth open.
  • Listen to the full episode to learn more about the importance of breathing for better sleep.
[33:13] How To Remedy Mouth Breathing
  • Patrick recommends taping the mouth to encourage nasal breathing.
  • Dentists are in a good position to spot mouth breathing.
  • Patrick notes that facial abnormalities are a mark of mouth breathing.
  • Mouth breathing in young children and babies can be corrected early with the proper techniques.
[45:06] Effects On Facial Development
  • Anthropologists have concluded that we had straight teeth all the time.
  • However, over the years, eating soft food has changed our jaws and teeth.
  • These changes led to the overcrowding of teeth and dental decay. It even affects our breathing!
  • It’s still being questioned whether small mouths cause mouth breathing or vice versa. Regardless, we need to address this problem immediately.
  • Listen to the full episode for more information on how facial development has changed over the years.
[56:55] Transition To Nasal Breathing
  • As adults, we can still influence the shape of our face.
  • Transitioning to nasal breathing may be difficult at first, but remember that it will be better for you in the long run.
  • You can test your breathing by using the BOLT Method
  • .
  • Nasal breathing, in conjunction with other techniques, can drastically improve physical performance in athletes.
[1:07:55] Building Foundations
  • Wim Hof has been vital in raising awareness of breathwork.
  • Patrick notes that the Wim Hof method is a stressor exercise, not functional breathing.
  • Before learning these high-level breathing techniques, it’s more important to get functional breathing right first.
  • Functional breathing is how you breathe throughout the day.
  • Listen to the full episode for the discussion on building your breathing foundation.

7 Powerful Quotes from This Episode

‘Society does demand us to concentrate. Concentration is demanded of us. But nobody teaches us how.’

‘The other thing about mouth breathing is typically chest breathing is activating the upper chest, and it's also causing faster and harder breathing. And physiologically, this is putting us into a fight or flight response.’

‘When I see people coming in with a racing mind, and I look at their breathing, I very often see faster breathing, just a little bit faster. It's not that the person is having a panic attack, it's just their breathing is a little bit faster. Maybe the respiratory rate is 16 breaths per minute, plus, they have upper chest breathing, they can often have irregular breathing patterns.’

‘If we get stressed today, our breathing gets faster, harder... that's telling the brain we are in danger. So how do we change and switch this off? Well, when we start practising to breathe, breathe slow, and breathe deep. And the acronym that I use is LSD. So light, slow, and deep breathing. The feedback then is from the body back to the brain. And the brain is interpreting it that the body is in a safe environment because the body would not be breathing light, slow and deep if there was danger.’

‘If you have somebody who is breathing harder and faster, our typical person with asthma is a prime example. And it's known that as asthma severity increases, so does obstructive sleep apnea. People with asthma are tired.’

‘We know that 50% of the adult population have their mouth opened during sleep... so if the mouth is dry in the morning, you're not likely to be waking up feeling great.’

‘We're changing breathing patterns but we're not necessarily changing the behaviour of nasal breathing and mouth breathing... I need you to start taping your mouth during the day... and it was a total game-changer. This was really forming that habit of nose breathing.’

About Patrick

Patrick McKeown is a leading authority in the field of breathing. His clinical training was built at Trinity College Dublin in Russia. He was later accredited as a breathing coach by renowned physician Dr Konstantin Buteyko in 2002. Patrick's work focuses on breathing for performance and sleep. He has published several research studies in international medical journals, and top literary publishers have published his work.

In addition to his research, Patrick is also the breathing advisor to the Extreme Performance Training XPT program - created by American big-wave surfer, Laird Hamilton - and has taught more than 700 breathing instructors across 45 countries. He has also trained elite military Special Forces, SWAT, Olympic coaches and athletes. He also regularly appears on popular podcasts including London Real, Ben Greenfield, Ben Pakulski, Warrior Souls and Bulletproof.

Excited for the latest release from Patrick? You can follow him at Buteyko Clinic and Oxygen Advantage. Follow his Amazon page for updates on his latest book, The Breathing Cure.

You can also follow Patrick on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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