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Breathing Bothers

By Annie Lane - | Sep 30, 2023

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.

Preparing Questions for Long Visits

Dear Annie: Finding topics of conversation can often be difficult during long visits. Since “Grinding My Teeth” feels that this may be the last time she and her husband will visit with these in-laws, why not take this opportunity to encourage these people to talk about their lives?

When they arrive, ask the in-laws if they would be willing to talk about memories from their younger years. The internet is full of suggestions of questions that will stimulate memories, so do a bit of research and type up a sheet of questions, maybe 30 or so, enough to have a question for each day. Everyone who has lived on this planet for a number of years has many stories to tell.

Too often we never get around to asking the meaningful questions before it is too late. Writing this letter has inspired me to write up a sheet of questions I now wish I had readily available when my difficult mother-in-law would visit my family for 6 months at a time. — Curious About Peoples’ Pasts

Dear Curious About Peoples’ Pasts: I love the suggestion of turning something that could seem like a chore into a learning experience. We are never too old to learn new things and in listening to peoples’ stories we can learn a great deal about them in the present. What a beautiful suggestion.

Dear Annie: I am 65 and a retired attorney, and I read your column every day in our local paper. I like history, ancient primary source history, financial philosophers, martial arts, healing through natural medicine, and studying anything and everything that piques my metaphysical curiosity.

Your column regarding the man whose wife asked everyone for advice on everything was extremely prescient and had profound personal resonance. I, too, have a wife who asks everyone everything. She asks the sales clerk in the store: “Should I buy it? Does it look good on me?”

And I, too, have a wife who was an abused child of an alcoholic parent and has low self-esteem. After 40 years of marriage, I am learning to give my wife the love and understanding she deserves.

And in your column about the mom with multiple sclerosis, your advice was spot on.

And, even though I have read more books than were contained in the long-destroyed Library of Alexandria, my social skills are not always on par with my intellect.

I enjoy your column and most often concur with it because you reveal good judgment and wisdom.

Nowadays, people are quick to criticize from the anonymity of the internet. They destroy good people and businesses for minor faux pas and fail to live by the Golden Rule.

I figured you could use some admiration and commendation. You are wise beyond your years. Keep on being the counselor you are, like a wise uncle or aunt. — A Big Fan

Dear Big Fan: Your letter makes me feel so good! A million thanks for taking the time to write.

Babysitter Blasts on Social Media

Dear Annie: I consider myself to be a self-aware social media poster. However, there is a family member on Facebook who posts her childcare needs at least once a week. She posts the day and time she needs and has said the names of the children who need a sitter. She has three children.

Her circumstance is difficult as she is going through a divorce. I am not particularly close with her, but not in a bad way.

I, too, have been a single mother and know how difficult it can be to find cheap, reliable childcare. There is part of me that wants to message her to tell her how unsafe it is to continually post when her children will be alone with a sitter, but I guess this is her business. Annie, should I bring up my concerns with her? — Worried for the Kids

Dear Worried for the Kids: She is a family member, and you are both single mothers. Yes, by all means bring up your concerns with her. Kids come first, and if you think that what she is doing is unsafe for them, then say something sooner rather than later.

Maybe even offer to help take care of her kids when she is in a pinch so that she is not so desperate to post it on social media. Perhaps you could offer her some of the ways you found a sitter without announcing it to everyone on social media.

Dear Annie: I was fortunate to have found a wonderful quiet condo in a very expensive tourist town. Although I’m renting, I have done repairs and spent money on my new “home,” as I was planning to make this my last move. I’m 70.

Everything was great, including the semi-retired neighbors and the office and maintenance staff. It felt like a community. Then the elderly next-door neighbor moved and a young working lady moved in. The problem is that she is obese. Her footsteps can be heard and felt in my unit. She wakes between 4 and 5 a.m.

Because of the floor plan, our bedrooms and bathrooms are adjoining, and I am woken up when she gets up. I’ve left felt pads for her bathroom cabinets hoping that may be a hint, but it seems to have made it worse.

How do I tactfully tell her that I hear everything, including her bathroom use (even the vomiting… bulimia?) It’s not like a noisy neighbor with loud music.

I don’t want to move again, but I’m very stressed about this. — Hearing Too Much

Dear Hearing Too Much: It is understandable that you are stressed out about this. Hearing someone going to the bathroom, no matter how much they weigh, is disgusting. And that’s not something your new neighbor can help. It sounds like it could be a building issue and that the building is not properly soundproofed. For the time being, invest in some good earplugs along with a sound machine. After that, speak with management and tell them what is going on. Here’s hoping they will have a solution. If not, it might be time to pack up and move.


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