Why Can’t I Breathe Through My Nose? 4 Possible Reasons For Nasal or Sinus Congestion


Is nasal congestion turning every breath into a struggle? Are you dreaming of the day when breathing doesn’t feel like a chore?


If you’re feeling blocked up and finding it hard to breathe, you’re not alone. This common complaint can stem from various causes, ranging from a simple infection to chronic structural issues within the nasal passage.


Finding relief from nasal congestion may be as simple as supporting your body to overcome infection or adopting healthier breathing habits, to more complex obstructive conditions that may need medical intervention or surgical procedures.


Identifying the root cause of your blocked nose is the most essential step on the journey to finding the right solution.


We dive into the primary reasons behind nasal breathing difficulties and their solutions to ensure long-lasting relief and easy, comfortable breathing!


Key Takeaways 

  • Understanding the root cause of nasal breathing difficulties is essential when looking for the best solution.


  • Difficulties in nasal breathing may result from colds or flu, bacterial infections, structural conditions like nasal polyps, habitual mouth breathing, or environmental allergies.


  • Effective at-home treatments range from simple remedies like nasal irrigation and steam inhalation to reducing exposure to allergens and implementing mouth-taping techniques.


  • In some cases, medication or surgical interventions for nasal obstructions may be needed.


Nasal Obstruction VS Chronic Sinusitis

Nasal obstruction and chronic sinusitis are both common, uncomfortable conditions that can cause you trouble breathing through your nose.


While nasal obstruction involves a physical blockage of the nasal passages, which make it harder to breathe chronic sinusitis is characterized by prolonged inflammation and irritation within the sinuses, which can make nasal breathing difficult.


Understanding the differences between nasal obstruction and chronic sinusitis is crucial for an effective diagnosis and finding an effective way to treat nasal issues. Let’s dive in.


Nasal Obstruction


Nasal obstruction is an important factor behind nasal breathing difficulties and refers to a physical blockage within the nose or nasal passages.

A wide range of factors can lead to nasal obstruction; fortunately, most of these causes are temporary and can be easily treated, such as:


  • A sinus infection

  • The common cold

  • Poor nasal breathing habits, such as mouth breathing

  • Allergies and environmental triggers

  • Certain medications, such as oral contraceptives and blood pressure medication


On the other hand, nasal obstructions that result from structural issues within the nasal passages require intervention from a medical professional. Examples of these types of nasal obstructions include:


  • Deviated septum

  • Nasal polyps

  • Nasal valve collapse

  • Oversized adenoid glands

  • Inferior turbinate hypertrophy



Chronic Sinusitis


Chronic sinusitis is usually defined as persistent inflammation within the sinuses that lasts for longer than 12 weeks. Symptoms of chronic sinusitis can include:


  • A runny nose

  • Post-nasal drip

  • Sinus pressure

  • Trouble breathing through your nose

  • Pain and swelling around the eyes, nose, or forehead

  • A reduction in sensations of smell and taste


The underlying cause of chronic sinusitis is not always related to bacterial infections as seen in acute sinusitis and, therefore, often doesn’t respond to treatments like antibiotics. 


Other causes of chronic sinusitis may include:


  • Allergies (particularly hay fever or other environmental triggers such as pollen, mold spores, or chemical exposure)

  • Upper respiratory tract infections

  • Immune system disorders

  • Asthma 




Reasons Why You May Be Having Difficulty Breathing Through Your Nose 


Ideally, nasal breathing should be effortless, but at some point, most of us will encounter challenges with feeling blocked up.


In this section, we’ll dive a little deeper into some potential root causes behind nasal breathing difficulties, ranging from structural obstructions and infections to environmental triggers and poor breathing habits.


1. You’re struggling with a cold, flu, or sinusitis 


A blocked nose is one of the hallmark symptoms of fighting a cold, flu, or sinus infection.


When the lining of your nasal passages becomes infected with a virus or bacteria, your body’s immune response will kick in, resulting in the inflammation and swelling of your nasal passage alongside an increased production of thick mucus.


This unpleasant match made in heaven can make it a real challenge to breathe through your nose. 


As uncomfortable as these symptoms may be, it means your body’s natural defenses are working hard to clear the infection and get you on the road to recovery. [3]


However, if you’ve been struggling with symptoms of sinusitis (swollen nasal passages) for 12 weeks or longer, this is known as chronic sinusitis and usually means it’s time to see your healthcare provider.



2. You frequently breathe through your mouth 


While mouth breathing can often result from nasal congestion, interestingly, if you’re someone who’s gotten into the habit of mouth breathing, this may actually worsen your ability to breathe comfortably through your nose!


How come? Some theories suggest that mouth breathing may increase mucus production within the nasal passages, and the increased water loss from mouth breathing may also exacerbate the symptoms of nasal obstruction. [4]


Nasal breathing exercises and incorporating mouth taping into your regimen with our Mouth Tape can help strengthen healthy nasal breathing habits.


Learn More About our Bamboo Silk Mouth Tape By Clicking Below


dream tape


Mouth tape is also one of the effective ways to widen nasal passages!


3. You have a structural nasal obstruction


There are a few common causes of structural nasal obstructions; some examples include:


Deviated septum: Your nasal septum is the wall of cartilage separating your right and left nasal passages.


If this wall is displaced to one side, it’s known as a deviated septum and can lead to symptoms such as a runny nose and difficulty with nasal breathing, particularly the feeling of one nostril being blocked. 


Nasal polyps: These are painless and benign (non-cancerous) growths that develop within the lining of the nasal passages. If nasal polyps are small, you likely won't know they’re there; however, larger polyps can make it more difficult to breathe through your nose.


Nasal valve collapse: This occurs when the narrowest part of the nasal airway that controls airflow weakens or narrows, leading to significant breathing difficulties. Nasal valve collapse can result from structural defects, injury, surgery, or aging.


4. You’re allergic to environmental triggers


Sometimes, the power of Mother Nature can be a leading cause of that pesky stuffy nose, particularly during the seasons of spring and summer.


There’s also a chance your furry friend could be triggering a blocked nose, as it’s estimated that 10-20% of the population may be allergic to pet dander from cats or dogs. [5]


When some of us are exposed to environmental allergens such as pollen, fungal spores, grass spores, dust, pet dander, and other irritant particles floating through the air, an immune response can be triggered, resulting in the release of pro-inflammatory proteins. [6]


This can lead to swelling and inflammation of the nasal passages, as well as increased mucus production. You may also notice itchy, watery eyes alongside congestion and a runny nose. 


How To Improve Your Breathing Through Your Nose


When addressing nasal breathing challenges, it’s important to identify the underlying cause, as the most effective solution can vary.


Below, we’ve highlighted key strategies that target the root of the problem, whether it's managing allergies, reducing inflammation and congestion, or correcting structural issues.


1. Home remedies


These easily accessible home remedies are most useful when finding it difficult to breathe through your nose as a result of infections and allergies:


Nasal irrigation: Using a saline solution to flush out your nasal passages can help clear congestion by removing excess mucus and potential irritants.


Staying hydrated: Drinking plenty of fluids throughout the day can help to thin mucus, making it easier to clear congestion and breathe through your nose. 


Steam inhalation: Lean over a large bowl filled with freshly boiled water. Cover your head with a towel, and inhale the steam deeply through your nose for 5-10 minutes. You can add a few drops of eucalyptus or peppermint essential oil to enhance the decongesting effect.


Changing your sleep position: Elevating your head slightly while sleeping can help to reduce symptoms of a congested and blocked nose at night.


Nasal breathing exercises: Keeping your mouth closed and practicing slow inhalations and exhalations in and out of your nose while feeling your diaphragm fully contract and expand can help support healthier nasal breathing.


2. Mouth taping


Mouth taping is an innovative practice that promotes nasal breathing, particularly during sleep, and involves gently securing the lips with tape to encourage air flow through the nose.


By improving the habit of nasal breathing (the body’s natural breathing pathway), the air we inhale is filtered, humidified, and warmed, which may decrease the risk of catching upper respiratory infections, one of the main causes of nasal congestion. [7]


Mouth taping may also enhance sleep quality, reduce snoring, alleviate stress, and even support jaw alignment by supporting healthy nasal breathing. [8] [9] [10]


However, not all mouth tapes are created equal…


Dream Recovery Mouth Tape is made from organic bamboo silk, known for its luxurious comfort and antibacterial properties, with hypoallergenic adhesive for even the most sensitive skin.


And get this: our mouth tape doesn’t just make a powerful ally for your sleep regimen; it can also be used during the day while exercising or practicing nasal breathwork.


See the benefits of our Dream Tape Strips below and click the image to learn more:



dream tape



Note: We do not recommend using Dream Tape if you have a cold, sinus/ear infection, or structural nasal obstruction. If you are unsure if mouth taping is safe for you, consult with your healthcare practitioner.

3. Reduce environmental triggers that lead to congestion


If your nasal congestion is a result of environmental triggers, there are a few easy strategies you can implement to reduce your exposure:


Use an air purifier: Equip your living spaces with air purifiers that have HEPA filters to capture airborne triggers/allergens such as pollen, spores, dust, and pet dander.


Stay indoors during high pollen counts: By checking pollen forecasts, you can try to stay indoors and keep windows closed on days when pollen counts are very high.


Manage your pets: If you've found that you’re allergic to pet dander, you can consider keeping pets out of bedrooms and off upholstered furniture. Bathing your pets regularly may also reduce pet dander.


4. Medication and surgical procedures


Over-the-counter medications like decongestant and anti-inflammatory nasal sprays or drops can provide temporary relief from swelling and congestion but should be used sparingly. 


For structural issues like a deviated septum, nasal polyps, or nasal valve collapse, surgical intervention may be necessary to improve airflow through the nose when other treatments have failed to help you breathe comfortably.


The appropriate surgery depends on the specific cause of nasal breathing difficulty. A thorough examination by an ENT specialist (also known as an otolaryngologist) is necessary to determine the most suitable surgical option to restore proper breathing function.


Many of the surgical procedures offered today are considered minimally invasive thanks to technological advancements.




What to do when you can’t breathe through your nose?


When you can’t breathe through your nose, home remedies like nasal irrigation, steam inhalation, and over-the-counter decongestants can offer relief. If the issue persists, seek the advice of a healthcare practitioner to establish the root cause of your blocked nose.


What are the health benefits associated with nasal breathing?


The health benefits of nasal breathing include improvements in sleep, heart rate variability (HRV), jaw structure, vascular health, anxiety, dental health, and more.


What’s the difference between acute and chronic sinusitis?


The main difference between acute and chronic sinusitis is their duration.


While both acute and chronic sinusitis may present with similar symptoms, chronic sinusitis is classified as swelling and inflammation of the nasal passages that lasts for over 12 weeks. 


When should I see an ENT specialist for nasal congestion?


You should see an ENT specialist for nasal congestion if your symptoms have continued for longer than 2 weeks and haven’t improved with home remedies or antibiotics. 


Final Thoughts


Struggling to breathe through your nose can arise from a variety of causes, including nasal obstruction due to infections, poor breathing habits, allergies, chronic sinusitis, or structural issues like a deviated septum or nasal polyps.


Effective solutions to treat some types of nasal congestion may include home remedies like nasal irrigation, avoiding allergens, and adopting mouth-taping practices with Dream Mouth Tape. For more persistent or severe concerns, medical interventions may be necessary. 


The key to relieving nasal breathing difficulties lies in accurately diagnosing the specific cause and tailoring your treatment accordingly, ensuring long-term relief and better breathing habits for a healthier, happier you!


Try our Dream Recovery Mouth Tape today and experience all the incredible science-backed health benefits that nasal breathing has to offer!


dream tape


Want to dive deeper? Head on over to our research hub to learn more.

Back to blog