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Mouth taping is a home remedy that’s supposed to help treat mouth breathing when you sleep. Mouth breathing itself is associated with numerous health conditions, including snoring, allergies, and oral health.
While some people online swear by taping their mouths as a solution to mouth breathing, the science behind this technique is lacking. Furthermore, there may be some unintentional side effects to contend with.
If you’re wondering whether mouth taping is a viable fad, here’s what you need to know about the potential benefits and risks behind it.
The process behind mouth taping works exactly as it sounds: You literally tape your mouth shut before you go to sleep.
If you’re a regular mouth breather, then in theory, you should automatically breathe through your nose if you’re not able to through your mouth.
This is the exact reverse of what happens when you have nasal congestion, where you breathe through your mouth because you can’t breathe through your nose.
While you might need to breathe through your mouth occasionally during exercise or if you have nasal congestion, it’s important to breathe through your nose as much as possible. Nose breathing helps to:
- lubricate your nostrils and prevent your sinuses from drying out
- make the air you breathe in more humid, which can help chronic lung diseases like asthma
- balance out pH levels in your mouth, preventing dental decay, dry mouth, and gingivitis
- increase your intake of nitric oxide, which is crucial for brain function, cardiovascular health, and overall blood oxygen levels
- decreasing your chance of snoring
While sometimes marketed as a potential sleep apnea treatment, mouth taping itself may not help treat the pauses in breathing that are associated with this condition.
Instead, you might need more traditional sleep apnea treatments, such as oxygen therapy via continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines.
While the benefits of breathing through your nose have been well established, there are also potential side effects associated with mouth taping.
You also shouldn’t use this method if you have severe nasal congestion from allergies or illnesses.
Talk to a doctor about the following risks of mouth taping:
- skin irritation on your lips and around the mouth
- sticky residue left over the next day
- insomnia and sleep disruptions
It’s also important to remember that any benefits seen from mouth taping are based on anecdotal evidence only. To date, there haven’t been any clinical studies done to prove this technique treats any underlying health condition.
If you’re interested in trying mouth taping, talk to a doctor first to make sure it’s safe for you. Here’s how to get started:
- Apply petroleum jelly to your lips and the surrounding area of skin. This will help prevent skin irritation and residue from the tape.
- Next, take a piece of your desired tape and place it horizontally on top of your lips. Be sure that it covers the entire mouth area.
- For easier disposal the next morning, take a little extra tape so that it extends slightly beyond your mouth. Then, fold each end to create small handles.
Before taping your mouth before sleep, consider trying out this technique for a short time during the day to help acclimate yourself to the process. This can help you practice breathing through your nose during the day, too.
While mouth taping is a relatively modern fad, mouth tape itself is widely available. Several brands market their products as sleep tape, and they’re sold online and in drugstores.
If you’re not ready to commit to any brand-name sleep tape, you can also try out traditional surgical tape for the same purpose. You can find surgical tape at your local pharmacy.
Keep in mind that surgical tape may not be hypoallergenic, and so it may irritate your skin.
The thought of taping your mouth at night may cause some anxiety at first, but it’s thought that you may become accustomed to mouth taping with time. If not, there are many other ways you can prevent mouth breathing while you sleep.
OTC allergy medications
If allergies are to blame for your mouth breathing troubles, you can ask a doctor about over-the-counter (OTC) allergy medications.
When taken regularly, antihistamines such as cetirizine (Zyrtec) and fexofenadine (Allegra) can help prevent allergic reactions associated with seasonal allergies, pet dander, and dust mites.
Decongestants may help alleviate congested nasal passages from illnesses and hay fever. If allergies are the underlying issue, consider a dual product, such as Allegra-D or Zyrtec-D.
Guaifenesin (Mucinex) is another option for all causes of congestion.
Nasal strips won’t help breathing issues caused by sleep apnea, but they may help alleviate snoring.
Some lifestyle changes can also help improve mouth breathing at night. These include:
Quitting smoking can be difficult, but a doctor can help create a cessation plan that works for you.
If you’re overweight, losing weight may also help decrease your risk for sleep apnea.
Mouth taping forces you to breathe through your nose while you sleep. Another way to get used to nose breathing is through breathing exercises throughout the day.
Breathe deeply through your nose so that your belly rises, and then exhale out your nose while pulling your belly toward your spine.
The more you practice deep nasal breathing, the better the chance that you’ll be accustomed to these techniques while you sleep.
Overall, taping your mouth purportedly helps prevent some of the side effects of mouth breathing, including:
- asthma symptom exacerbations, such as nighttime coughing
- dental conditions, such as dry mouth, bleeding gums, teeth grinding, and cavities
- high blood pressure
- increased heart rate
- sleep apnea, which can then increase your risk of daytime drowsiness and cardiovascular diseases
- sleep disturbances, which may cause you to frequently wake up at night and miss out on much-needed deep sleep cycles
- sore throat
Mouth breathing is also said to increase inflammation in your body. Chronic inflammation is associated with long-term consequences, including:
- cardiovascular disease
- decreased cognitive function
- type 2 diabetes
- weight gain and obesity
Mouth breathing is a potentially serious medical concern, especially if you’re starting to notice ongoing symptoms.
Mouth taping may potentially help, but you should acclimate yourself to the process and have the right gear on hand.
Before getting started, it’s important to talk to a doctor. They may also refer you to a sleep specialist for further treatment.