Breath Book Summary - Breath Book explained in key points
Listen to the Intro

Breath summary

James Nestor

The New Science of a Lost Art

4.6 (706 ratings)
26 mins
Table of Contents

    Summary of 8 key ideas

    Audio & text in the Blinkist app
    Key idea 1 of 8

    It’s far more beneficial to breathe through your nose than your mouth.

    The author James Nestor’s blood pressure has risen by an average of 13 points over the past few days, greatly increasing his risk of heart attack or stroke. His pulse has quickened while his body temperature has plummeted, and – worst of all – he feels absolutely terrible.

    The cause of his misery? Five days ago, a doctor inserted silicone plugs into his nostrils and taped them shut. Since then, Nestor has been breathing exclusively through his mouth to experience his body’s response. In short? It’s been hell.

    The key message here is: It’s far more beneficial to breathe through your nose than your mouth.

    Some estimate that around 50 percent of us breathe mostly through our mouths. There are many reasons for this, including medical conditions, pollution, and even stress. The problem is, the more you do it, the worse it gets.

    Nestor’s plugs come out after ten days, and his nose is a disaster. It’s horribly blocked, and has to be cleared out with long cotton swabs. It’s also housing a bacterial infection that could have become serious. Tests reveal that mouth breathing has ruined his sleeping patterns – but, well, he knew that already. The worst was just how awful the experience made him feel.

    Nestor only managed to take a full breath through his nose hours after his plugs had come out. That first breath was a spectacular burst of freshness and relief.

    The nose does far more than you might realize. It doesn’t just take air in, but also cleans it out, heats it, and moistens it. It leads to a release of chemicals that lower blood pressure, regulate the heart rate, and much more. When you take in unprocessed air through your mouth, you get none of these benefits.

    A rather cruel experiment in the 1970s and 1980s had even starker results than Nestor’s own experience. Egil P. Harvold, an orthodontist and researcher, took a group of rhesus monkeys and closed their nostrils up with plugs. He monitored them closely, taking photographs, for up to two years.

    It’s painful even to look at the photographs. The monkeys’ dental arches narrowed and their teeth grew crooked. It didn’t just affect their health – it affected the whole shape of their heads. 

    But when the plugs were eventually removed, their faces returned to normal within six months. All because of how they were breathing.

    Want to see all full key ideas from Breath?

    Key ideas in Breath

    More knowledge in less time
    Read or listen
    Read or listen
    Get the key ideas from nonfiction bestsellers in minutes, not hours.
    Find your next read
    Find your next read
    Get book lists curated by experts and personalized recommendations.
    Shortcasts New
    We’ve teamed up with podcast creators to bring you key insights from podcasts.

    What is Breath about?

    Breath (2020) is the fascinating and unexpected story of the power of breathing. Western science has overlooked the amazing effects that different methods of breathing can have on our health.

    Who should read Breath?

    • Fans of popular science
    • People looking for simple ways to improve their health
    • Anyone keen to learn more about something we do unconsciously.

    About the Author

    James Nestor is a journalist based in San Francisco. He has written for publications including Scientific American, Outside Magazine, and the New York Times, and wrote the book Deep: Freediving, Renegade Science, and What the Ocean Tells Us About Ourselves.

    Categories with Breath

    Books like Breath

    People ❤️ Blinkist
    Sven O.

    It's highly addictive to get core insights on personally relevant topics without repetition or triviality. Added to that the apps ability to suggest kindred interests opens up a foundation of knowledge.

    Thi Viet Quynh N.

    Great app. Good selection of book summaries you can read or listen to while commuting. Instead of scrolling through your social media news feed, this is a much better way to spend your spare time in my opinion.

    Jonathan A.

    Life changing. The concept of being able to grasp a book's main point in such a short time truly opens multiple opportunities to grow every area of your life at a faster rate.

    Renee D.

    Great app. Addicting. Perfect for wait times, morning coffee, evening before bed. Extremely well written, thorough, easy to use.

    People also liked

    Start growing with Blinkist now
    28 Million
    Downloads on all platforms
    4.7 Stars
    Average ratings on iOS and Google Play
    Of Blinkist members create a better reading habit*
    *Based on survey data from Blinkist customers
    Powerful ideas from top nonfiction

    Try Blinkist to get the key ideas from 7,000+ bestselling nonfiction titles and podcasts. Listen or read in just 15 minutes.

    Start your free trial