There’s been a lot of talk online lately about mouth taping – the practice of taping one’s mouth shut in a bid to sleep better.
The idea is simple: it forces you to breathe through your nose rather than your mouth while you sleep, thus helping you snore less and generally sleep more solidly and peacefully through the night.
There are also some who claim that mouth taping is good for weight loss, but some doctors have warned against it, arguing that it can be dangerous for people with certain health conditions.
With so many people swearing by it online, we’re bringing you a deep dive on mouth taping, how to do it safely – and who should not be trying it.
What we know about mouth taping
Dr Deborah Lee, of Dr Fox Online Pharmacy, tells us that there’s not a wealth of official research into the benefits of mouth taping.
She says: ‘There is one medical research study which showed that mouth-taping improved snoring in those with mild sleep apnea. Otherwise, although mouth taping may be beneficial, this remains to be proven.’
With that being said, there are benefits to breathing through one’s nose instead of the mouth.
‘We humans were designed to breathe through the nose,’ Dr Deborah explains. ‘The mouth was meant for eating and drinking. Mouth breathing increases vascular resistance in the lungs and is less efficient for blood oxygenation.
‘When you breathe through your nose, you are breathing in warmer, moister air. Nasal breathing increases blood oxygenation by 10-20%.
‘Nasal breathing also leads to an increase in the production of nitric oxide within your sinus cavities. Humming has a similar effect. Nitric oxide has many vital functions in the human body. It is a powerful vasodilator, helping to regulate blood pressure and is important for cardiac function.
‘In the brain, nitric oxide also plays a vital role in cognition and memory. It’s essential for the immune system in that it helps regulate the immune response. It is also known to calm anxiety and helps induce sleep.’
Is mouth taping safe?
Although there’s not a lot of medical research into mouth taping for sleep, there are only a few specific instances in which doing so can be considered dangerous.
That being said, if you’re thinking of trying it, it’s best to chat to your doctor first to be 100% sure it’s safe and right for you.
Dr Deborah explains: ‘Proponents of mouth taping are keen to stress that for most people, this is perfectly safe.
‘Your body is designed to breathe through your nose, and it is a simple, and safe technique. In fact, there are no reports of death or serious injury from mouth taping. However, it should be used carefully, and avoided in certain situations.
‘Don’t tape the mouth of anyone who might vomit in the night.
‘You should never do anything that might obstruct the airway, so mouth-taping is not advisable for:
- Anyone who cannot breathe through their nose.
- Babies and small children.
- Those with sleep apnea – they need a proper sleep assessment first.
- Anyone with an allergy to the tape.
- Any acute disruption to breathing through the nose such as a bad cold or a severe bout of allergy such as hay fever.’
Before you give mouth taping a try, provided you don’t have a reason not to try it per Dr Deborah’s list above, you should always check whether you’re able to breathe through your nose.
She recommends: ‘Try taping your mouth in the daytime and practice breathing through your nose to get used to it, before trying to do this at night. It is not suitable for babies or small children.
‘Always use a medical tape such as micropore, which can be ripped off easily and is unlikely to give any type of allergic reaction.
‘If you have difficulty sleeping and are concerned, see your GP for a sleep diagnosis first. Sleep apnea is a condition that can have serious consequences, and it should be properly diagnosed and assessed before deciding on how to treat it.’
Dr Deborah also says that if you try mouth taping for a few weeks and it doesn’t work, you should talk to an ear, nose and throat medical specialist – same goes for people who find they can’t breathe through their nose.
‘Everyone should be able to breathe through their nose,’ she explains, ‘and if you can’t, this points to there being something wrong.
‘You can also help nighttime breathing by lying on your side. Put a tennis ball down your pyjama bottoms so you cannot roll on your back in your sleep. Alternatively, you could try applying nasal strips, designed to hold the nasal passages open.
‘If you suffer from allergies this can lead to disturbed sleep. If you have asthma, you need to work hard with your GP and/or respiratory consultant at getting the best control of your asthma symptoms. Be aware of what could be disturbing your sleep and get appropriate help.
‘It’s important not to waste time on mouth taping if you have serious symptoms that indicate worsening asthma.’
Does mouth taping work for weight loss?
There’s far less evidence to suggest that mouth taping works for weight loss the way some posters on social media seem to think, so don’t waste your time if that’s all you’re after.
Dr Deborah says: ‘The 2018 study quoted in one TikTok post was said to show an increase in metabolic rate in the group with diaphragmatic breathing, who had breathed in through the nose.
‘It should be pointed out that outside the study environment, just because you tape your mouth and breathe through your nose, it does not necessarily mean you are doing diaphragmatic breathing. So, I don’t think this study is relevant.
‘I would say that having a good night’s sleep is imperative for weight loss because the hormones leptin and ghrelin which control appetite, hunger, and help you feel full for longer, are produced while you are asleep. If you don’t sleep well, you are less likely to be able to successfully eat right and lose weight.
‘Mouth taping is believed to help you get a better night’s sleep, so it could help weight loss indirectly, but whether it actually does help you lose weight remains to be investigated.’
What are the possible side effects of mouth taping?
While it’s very unlikely to be dangerous to anyone who’s not on the above list, there are some possible side effects to mouth taping.
Dr Deborah says:
- ‘It can cause soreness or irritation at the site of the tape, or where the tape is ripped off in the morning.
- ‘It can hurt when the tape is removed as this also plucks at facial hair.
- ‘There may be difficulty breathing through the nose if there is any nasal obstruction.
- ‘It may cause disrupted sleep at least, to begin with.
- ‘Taping the mouth shut is unnatural and it may cause anxiety to start with until you get used to it.’
By way of anecdotal evidence, she adds: ‘I’m quite a supporter of mouth-taping. I have friends who do it regularly who feel it has helped them sleep better, snore less, and helped their marriages! It’s a simple, drug-free, inexpensive option, that people can opt to try to help themselves without bothering the doctor.
‘So long as it is done sensibly, with the above provisos, I think it’s a perfectly good technique to try at home, for those who do not sleep well or suffer from snoring or sleep apnoea, so long as this has been properly diagnosed. Make sure you use a lightweight tape which can be easily ripped off the mouth if needed.’
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