I was aware of some of this, but this 36-minute interview and article from NPR goes into the reasons why breathing well is so important.
Journalist James Nestor became interested in the respiratory system years ago after his doctor recommended he take a breathing class to help his recurring pneumonia and bronchitis.
While researching the science and culture of breathing for his new book, Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art, Nestor participated in a study in which his nose was completely plugged for 10 days, forcing him to breathe solely through his mouth. It was not a pleasant experience.
"I went from snoring a couple of minutes a night to, within three days, I was snoring four hours a night," he says of the forced mouth-breathing. "I developed sleep apnea. My stress levels were off the charts. My nervous system was a mess. … I felt awful."
Nestor says the researchers he's talked to recommend taking time to "consciously listen to yourself and [to] feel how breath is affecting you." He notes taking "slow and low" breaths through the nose can help relieve stress and reduce blood pressure.
"This is the way your body wants to take in air," Nestor says. "It lowers the burden of the heart if we breathe properly and if we really engage the diaphragm."