By Esther Walker and Sean Lee
Esther Walker (SDBC p/b Emerald Textiles and UCSD Cycling), a Cat 2 rider who races track and road, and Sean Lee (SDBC p/b Emerald Textiles), a Cat 4 rider who also races track and road, tested out Sleep Right Breathe Aid, a performance device to help cyclists with breathing while on the bike.
During the Vuelta, Chris Froome sported a breathing aid called the Turbine, which claims to increase oxygen flow (and as a result, they claim, your power output) by a significant margin. The Sleep Right Intra-Nasal Breathe Aid is a similar device. However, unlike the Turbine, it is not marketed for sports, but claims to increase airflow to relieve congestion and reduce snoring during sleep. I was already a little doubtful of the Turbine’s claims, so, when I was first asked to review the Sleep Right device for use while cycling, I was skeptical.
The Sleep Right box contains two small breathing aids, each about the size of a quarter, as well as a handy-dandy plastic carrying case (though after removing the device covered in nose slime, my first thought definitely wasn’t to save it for another use).
Nose ring bling
The device is relatively easy to put on, though to bystanders, it may just look like you’re really digging for something good in your nose. Aesthetically speaking, with the device on, it appears as if you are wearing a small nose ring (too bad a shiny gold and diamond version isn’t available….). Once the aid was in my nose, it did indeed feel like I was less congested and that it was easier to breathe through my nose.
However, the wings of the device pushing against my nostrils made it feel like I had two walls of solid boogers lining the inside of my nose. While riding, I never really got used to the feeling of the device in my nose. The device definitely felt as though it had opened up my nasal passages a bit.
Breathing patterns and snot rockets
However, whether this translates to any sort of increase in cycling performance is a whole other issue that needs to be addressed with real science (and not introspection). When I started harder efforts on the bike, the presence of the device became even more evident and wearing it made me more aware of my breathing patterns, which can definitely be helpful at times. But, at other times during the efforts, I felt like my heavy breathing might shoot the entire thing out of my nose, though the device did sit securely in my nose for the duration of the ride.
One of the worst parts about wearing the device was that once my nose started running (as it inevitably does during exercise), I couldn’t simply wipe the snot away with my glove, for fear that I might rip the device out. And say goodbye to the tried-and-true “snot rocket” technique with this baby lodged up your nose. Instead, you have to gingerly dab around the protruding nosepiece, which was a bit irritating.
The takeaway: While I’m sure the devices are great for their marketed purpose (during sleep), I’ll personally be keeping my nose breathing aid-free during my rides. Its discomfort and irritating middle nosepiece far outweighed any perceived potential benefit for me on the bike. However, if the device is comfortable for you and your nose and it makes you feel good on the bike, then go ahead and use it while riding! Even if its perceived effects are just due to placebo, placebos can be very powerful things.
The nasal dilator, Sleep Right, is a non-adhesive device that is designed to improve the efficiency of one’s breathing by expanding their nostrils. Now, if one were suffering from a deviated septum, I could see benefits of trying their luck with the Sleep Right; however, if one were attempting to contest the maillot jaune for the Tour de France, the Sleep Right is no bueno in terms of marginal gains.
Better served as a ‘faux-stache
My initial impression when opening the packaging was how awesome the Sleep Right would be if it served as faux-stache. With curled tips and a clamp designed to position itself on the septum, one could totally bust it out at parties and easily score points in the manscaping department.
It was then to my horror that I realized the wingtips of the device were to penetrate my nostrils and expand them. Not only did I feel violated nasally, but I felt much discomfort due to how tight the device clamped around my septum. I can only imagine how horrifying it must be for the person who sneezes while wearing this device.
While I did experience increased airflow within my nostrils, it also increased the booger and runny nose factor which was a pain to clean up. The old “wipe your nose on a sleeve” did not work due to the clamp. Every time I needed to wipe my nose, I had to carefully brush the outskirts of my nostrils in order to avoid pushing the nasal dilator further up my nose. I found myself having to remove the device from my nose frequently in order to fully clean my nose.
The device was very secure and there were very few times that I had to adjust the clamp. In addition, I did find it was easier to breathe through my nose; however, for those who are traditionally mouth-breathers, one would think that the device would not have any positive influence on their overall performance.
Not recommended for long distance
Overall, I would not recommend this product. The discomfort and temperamentality created by the device would not justify the benefits it supposedly yields for athletes looking to increase the efficiency of their air intake. I could see the Sleep Right becoming advantageous for those who may be competing in a 200m dash or another short-distance event, but for those who planned on using the Sleep Right for a longer event I would strongly advise against it.