How to Sleep Better by Cleaning Your Nasal Passages

By Dr. Ben Kim

When asked for advice on how to address any chronic health challenge, I like to remind my clients about the importance of getting deep, restful sleep. It's during restful sleep that your body produces hormones that are essential to healing (growth hormone, testosterone, and erythropoietin). These hormones work together with your self-healing mechanisms to restore every part of your health.

An often overlooked determinant of quality of sleep is cleanliness of the nasal passageway. Assuming that you have access to clean air, a clear nasal passageway ensures optimal delivery of oxygen to your blood, which in turn, ensures optimal oxygenation of all of your organs. And it's optimal oxygenation of your organs that should be a top priority at all times. Why, you ask? Oxygen plus glucose equals energy, the very same energy (ATP) that drives every metabolic process in each of your trillions of cells.

When your nasal passageway is partially blocked by debris, your body compensates in part by drawing air in through your mouth. But it's always best to rely on your nose for drawing in fresh air because your nasal passageway is lined mucous and hairs that specifically work to trap dust, harmful microorganisms, other small particles, and even larger particles like dirt. In effect, this filtration mechanism allows little but air molecules, including oxygen, to travel back into your pharynx, which becomes your larynx, then your trachea, and finally the branches that deliver air into your lungs.

Sneezing, by the way, is the mechanism that your body uses to rapidly discharge foreign material that your nasal passageway has trapped.

So, getting back to quality of sleep, if you have a buildup of mucous and waste materials - usually called snot - in your nasal passageway, chances are good that your brainstem will sense a suboptimal ratio of oxgyen to carbon dioxide in your blood, which, via altered autonomic nervous system tone, will disrupt your overall quality of rest. In this scenario, none of your glands and organs can do their best work in restoring your health, and this is now a little or a lot of buildup in your nasal passageway can hurt your health over the long run.

There's no doubt in my mind that sleep disruption from partial nasal passageway blockage is a contributing cause of ill-defined health challenges like chronic fatigue, problems maintaining mental focus and attention, and increased risk of physical injury. Bottom line: When your tissues are not properly oxygenated, a lot can go wrong.

I take this matter very seriously, especially with our children. Every night before story time, our routine is to take a bath if needed, floss, brush teeth, wash face, clean out nasal passageway, change into clean underwear and pajamas, then jump into bed for some good books. On the few nights here or there where circumstances cause us to miss nasal passageway cleaning, almost always, there is noticeably more tossing or turning - we know this because we all sleep together on a sea of mattresses in the same room.

Of course, there are factors that affect how much buildup occurs in the nasal passageway. During colder months when we have to use dry furnace heat to help keep warm, there is more dust floating around, which increases buildup in the nose. When one of us has a cold and associated running discharge from the sinuses and nose, there tends to be more buildup.

In case you're not sure how to thoroughly clean your nasal passageway, here's a simple protocol:

  1. Stand over your bathroom sink, get a stream of warm water running, and cup your hands together to form a basin-like shape that allows the water to pool.

  2. Bring your nostrils down to your hands so that both nostrils are filled with water. You can inhale very gently to ensure that water goes as far back in your nasal passageway as is comfortable. Hold this position for up to 3-5 seconds.

  3. Move your hands to the side and allow the water to drain from your nasal passageways. As the water runs out of your nostrils, you can cover one side up at a time while blowing gently through the other side. This will help remove any mucous and waste materials that are in your nasal passageway.

  4. Repeat the steps listed above two to three times or until you feel that your nasal passageway is completely clear of debris.

In helping our boys with this, we have them stand on a footstool and lean their heads over the sink while we go through each step. Our younger son still doesn't enjoy the feeling of having water in his nasal passageway, but we can usually coax him through the process by encouraging him to aim for a target when blowing out, the target usually being my glasses as I bend over awkwardly and peer right up his nostrils to make this fun for him. Usually, debris will just pop out of his nostrils and remain right against the area of skin between his nostrils and upper lip, which makes it easy to wipe the debris away.

Since our boys don't love this process, before going through it, we go through a test to see if it's even necessary. We have them close their mouths and breathe out through their nostrils. If there is any whistling or any other sounds of obstruction, it's time to clean things out, no excuses.

If, after cleaning your nasal passageway, you still feel somewhat blocked or congested and can't see any debris in your nostrils, you may be intolerant to something that you're eating. Some food intolerances (dairy is a common one) can increase congestion throughout your sinuses and nasal passageway, as well as within the blood vessels that line your nasal passageway, and all of this congestion can partially obstruct air flow, thereby taking away from health potential.

I hope these thoughts on cleaning the nasal passageway to help ensure optimal sleep quality prove to be helpful.

For more suggestions on how to sleep better, have a look at:

How Much Sleep Do You Really Need To Be Healthy?

Please consider sharing this post with family and friends. Thank you.

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