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Tumblr Asks The Most Important Question About Nostrils Ever

We went crazy trying to solve this Tumblr mystery.

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Tumblr user Stolenfruitsnack asked us this very important question that BLEW OUR MINDS:

OMG! Do we actually have a dominant nostril?

Yes — it's true! A lot of people have a dominant nostril that does most of the breathing.

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This is because of the nasal cycle, said David White, Ph.D., the senior lecturer and director at Auckland University of Technology's Design for Respiratory Health Lab and author of a 2015 paper about the nasal cycle. During the nasal cycle, one nostril is blocked (you're still able to breathe out of it, but you're only able to breathe around one-third to two-thirds of the normal airflow). The dominant nostril switches every 90 minutes or so, but the duration is different for every person.

Not everyone experiences a nasal cycle.

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White says that it's around 20% to 80% of the population, which isn't really a specific number. "The number varies in publications, mainly because the way people measure it is not accurate," he said. What's even more mind-blowing, however, is that people with some disorders like autism or schizophrenia don't demonstrate a nasal cycle at all.

We won't really notice the nasal cycle.

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Although you might be able to notice a dominant nostril if you're lying on your side, said White. If you do notice a sustained dominant nostril 24/7, then you might have a deviated septum, he said.

But there's still a way to check which nostril is dominant during the nasal cycle.

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All you have to do is block each nostril and see if there's any difference in airflow resistance, said White.

The nasal cycle happens because of erectile tissue in your nose.

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No, this doesn't have anything to do with a penis. LOL. So get that out of your mind. It's called erectile tissue because it fills with blood (just like an erection). When the tissue swells, it provides greater resistance to airflow, said White.

What the hell is the purpose of the nasal cycle?

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"This question has been bothering me for quite a while," said White. The truth is, there are a lot of different answers and studies that attempt to answer this question.

A 1999 Stanford University study claims the nasal cycle helps us smell better.

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Ironically, in the study, the congested nostril was able to smell certain things better than the dominant nostril and vice versa. White says the study is quite right, but we weren't able to find any other studies confirming or denying the claims.

Another hypothesis suggests that our nasal cycle gives our noses a chance to rest. White believes this is also true.

White believes the nasal cycle allows each of our nostrils to perform different functions.

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In White's study, he claimed that the dominant nostril performs the heating and humidifying duties, while the congested nostril does all of the "housekeeping duties" like transporting viruses and dust away.

Here's another crazy theory: White thinks the reason why we have two nostrils in the first place is because of the nasal cycle.

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If the nasal cycle didn't occur, then both airways would dry out and the nose wouldn't be able to perform its housecleaning duties.

In conclusion, nobody really knows for sure why we have the nasal cycle, but there are a lot of different guesses.

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"This is still a poorly understood physiological phenomena," said White.

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