Can a Piece of Tape Help You Sleep?

There are a lot of strange things on the internet now like swishing with oils for 30 minutes or brushing with charcoal, but taping your lips really may be helpful to you. The purported benefits of mouth taping, a simple life hack that involves gently placing a piece of skin-friendly tape over your lips to keep them shut while sleeping to encourage breathing through your nose, have taken social media by storm.

open mouth maleBreathing through your mouth can increase your stress responses. Mouth breathing not only reduce the quality of your sleep, but it disrupts the balance of your oral microbiome and makes you more prone to tooth decay. Many dentists believe mouth breathing is the number one cause of cavities — even ahead of eating tablespoons of sugar or not brushing your teeth. Sleeping with your mouth agape may cause you to wake up with a dry mouth, bad breath, a hoarse voice and dry, cracked lips.

If you stop breathing through your mouth you will breathe through your nose. It seems like a minimal change, but the health benefits are significant. Nasal breathing increases nitric oxide production in the sinuses, which has been linked to reduced inflammation, improved sleep, improved memory, and an overall increase in immune system function. It is a more efficient, effective way of breathing than inhaling and exhaling through your mouth because it humidifies and filters the air. It activates the lower lungs, letting you take deeper, fuller breaths. When you breathe mainly through the nose, you wake up feeling more rested, without a dry mouth or a sore throat.

open mouth femaleMouth taping has not been extensively studied. A few small trials have investigated whether mouth taping can alleviate snoring in people with pre-existing sleep conditions.In one small study in people with mild obstructive sleep apnea, for instance, researchers found that among 20 patients who slept with their lips taped shut, 13 snored less with the tape than they did without it. In another study, including 30 patients with mild obstructive sleep apnea who tended to breathe through their mouths while sleeping, researchers found that they snored less severely, on average, when they wore a patch over their mouths than they did when they didn’t.

Not everyone is a good candidate for mouth taping. If you struggle to breathe through your nose or can hear yourself when you attempt to nasal breathe throughout the day, you should not try mouth taping. Instead, get evaluated by an ear, nose, and throat doctor. An anatomical issue like a deviated septum, or allergies, sinusitis, or chronic congestion, may explain any difficulty breathing through your nose.

And if you regularly snore or wake up feeling more tired than refreshed, consider seeing a sleep specialist before reaching for mouth tape. A condition like sleep apnea can cause snoring and fatigue during the day, so it’s important to understand the root of your problem first. Even if you do not have obstructive sleep apnea, you should consult with a doctor before trying mouth taping.

tape lipsIf you do decide that you want to try it, it is important to use the right tape. Don’t reach for duct tape or anything that isn’t easily removable. The tape should be able to effortlessly come off, without any tension or resistance, like surgical tape. The goal of mouth taping isn’t to seal your lips shut — it’s to remind your muscles to relax. Ease into the practice by starting during the day. Place the tape over your mouth for about 10 minutes at a time, and then work up to 20 minutes or so the next day. After a few weeks, your body may acclimate to breathing through the nose, and you can try out mouth tape while you sleep.

If you would like to discuss mouth taping with Dr. Katie Bell or members of our team, call the office to schedule an appointment at 301.620.8869.