MB (mouth breathing) promotes the occurrence of sleep-disordered breathing even in non-apnoeic subjects. Considering that MO (mouth opening) contributes to an increase in UA (upper airway) collapsibility independently of MB, the aim of the present study was to assess the influence of breathing route on UA dynamics in the presence of MO. Bilateral anterior magnetic phrenic nerve stimulation was performed 2 s after expiratory onset in 12 healthy male subjects during wakefulness (age, 50±5 years; body mass index, 27.8±2.4 kg/m2) during MB through a mouthpiece and during exclusive NB (nasal breathing) with the same mouthpiece in place. Twitch-induced V̇I (instantaneous flow), Pph and Pes (pharyngeal and oesophageal pressures respectively) were recorded and the corresponding resistances were measured. A polynomial regression model, V̇I=k1Pd+k2Pd2, was used to characterize flow–pressure relationship and to determine the Pd value at which UA collapses. There was no difference in UA dynamic properties between NB and MB when UA collapse occurred above the pharyngeal catheter. For twitches where UA collapse occurred lower in the UA, pharyngeal resistance decreased from NB to MB (2.0±0.3 and 1.5±0.2 cmH2O·l−1·s respectively; P=0.02; values are means±S.D.), whereas closing pressure increased (−25.7±10.1 and −18.0±3.0 cmH2O respectively; P=0.04). We conclude that (i) in the presence of MO the dynamic properties of the proximal UA free of phasic activity do not differ between NB and MB, and (ii) MB decreases the upstream resistance and increases collapsibility of the distal UA.

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