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Mouth Taping for Sleep

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Jay Summer

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Dr. Anis Rehman

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Mouth taping is an increasingly popular home treatment used to encourage nose breathing during sleep. People who tape their mouths closed at night may do so to address issues ranging from snoring to bad breath.

Mouth taping for sleep has only been studied in a couple of small scientific experiments, so its purported benefits are largely anecdotal at this point. We discuss how mouth taping works, what existing research tells us about the practice, how to tape your mouth safely, and what alternative options exist to treat your sleep-related issues.

What Is Mouth Taping?

Mouth taping refers to the practice of taping your mouth closed at night before you fall asleep. People may try mouth taping because they believe that by forcing themselves to breathe through the nose, they can avoid negative effects associated with mouth breathing.

How Does Mouth Taping Work?

Mouth taping involves taking porous tape and affixing it over both the upper and lower lips, so a person cannot easily open their mouth. Taping the mouth shut before bedtime prompts a person to breathe through their nose while they sleep.

Does Mouth Taping Help With Snoring?

Mouth taping might be beneficial as a snoring treatment. In a study of people with mild obstructive sleep apnea, wearing a porous patch over the mouth caused all the participants to breathe through their nose, and it changed the angle of the palate and the tongue. These changes led to significantly less snoring and fewer instances of lapsed breathing.

Researchers have not yet examined if or how mouth taping impacts snoring in people who do not have obstructive sleep apnea. As a result, more research is needed to say with certainty whether mouth taping can effectively treat snoring due to other causes.

Benefits of Mouth Taping 

Anecdotally, people claim mouth taping eases a variety of problems, such as snoring, fatigue, concentration issues, bad breath, and excessive thirst at night. Most of these claims have not been scientifically studied. So far, research has only demonstrated one benefit of mouth taping: a reduction in snoring and tiredness in people with obstructive sleep apnea.

Despite the fact that nose breathing filters out allergens, adds resistance that benefits lung volume, and delivers warmer, more humid air to the lungs, studies on mouth taping for people with asthma have found no benefits. Nevertheless, proponents of mouth taping claim it may help reduce the negative effects thought to be associated with mouth breathing, including:

Further research on nighttime mouth taping and each of these issues is required before it can be credibly claimed that mouth taping effectively treats them.

Side Effects of Mouth Taping

Side effects of mouth taping have not yet been fully studied, but anecdotally reported side effects include:

  • Irritation on or around the lips
  • Pain when ripping off the tape, especially for those with facial hair
  • Disrupted sleep due to irritation from the tape or difficulty breathing through the nose
  • Anxiety, for those who feel uncomfortable having their mouth taped shut
  • Discomfort or difficulty breathing

Future research could uncover additional potential side effects related to mouth taping.

What Kind of Tape to Use for Sleep

If you decide to try mouth taping, use a porous tape intended for use on human skin. Trying duct tape, masking tape, or another tape not intended for use on the body might be more likely to cause irritation or an allergic reaction.

Some companies sell adhesive strips designed to be used for mouth taping during sleep. Most pharmacies also sell hypoallergenic tape, surgical tape, and athletic tape, which are porous and commonly used on human skin. The vast majority of people are not allergic to medically used adhesive tapes, though some may experience irritation or other reactions to medical tape.

    How to Mouth Tape Safely

    Since mouth taping is not considered a commonly accepted practice, speak to your doctor before trying it. Currently, there are no official guidelines outlining how to mouth tape safely. Also, the risks that come with mouth taping without a doctor’s advice are unknown.

    Before trying mouth taping for sleep, it is a good idea to test the mouth strips during the day. If you have difficulty breathing through your nose due to allergies, nasal polyps, or another reason, you should avoid mouth taping.

    You can minimize irritation and leftover stickiness by applying a food-safe gel or oil to the area around your mouth before sticking on the tape. When putting on the tape, consider folding it over at one corner for easier removal in the morning.

    Alternatives to Mouth Taping

    Alternatives to mouth taping vary depending on why you are interested in mouth taping.

    Side Sleeping

    If you want to reduce snoring, you might consider training yourself to sleep on your side instead of taping your mouth. Decades of research demonstrate that both people with and without obstructive sleep apnea snore less when they side sleep instead of back sleep.

    To make switching sleep positions more comfortable, you may want to consider purchasing a new mattress and pillow. The ideal bed setup promotes spinal alignment and reduces pressure points as you lie in your most common sleep position.

    Nasal Strips

    Nasal strips provide another option for snoring reduction. Nasal strips are adhesive devices placed on the nose to expand the nasal passage and encourage nose breathing. Studies of nasal strips have produced mixed results, with some showing an improvement in snoring and some showing no effect.

    Treating Allergies and Asthma

    Around 25% of people in westernized countries experience an allergic reaction to substances they breathe in, such as pollen. This reaction often involves nasal congestion, which can make breathing through the nose more difficult. If you have allergies and find yourself mouth breathing at night, try treating your allergies to see if that helps you breathe more comfortably through the nose.

    Similarly, people who live with asthma should work with a doctor to control symptoms by avoiding triggers and using medication where appropriate.

    Practicing Good Oral Hygiene

    Mouth taping interests some people because of promises that it can cure bad breath. An oral hygiene routine that includes regular tooth brushing, flossing, tongue cleaning, and gargling with mouthwash can also help protect against bad breath.

    Practicing Good Sleep Hygiene

    Some people claim mouth taping reduces daytime tiredness. There are multiple other sleep hygiene habits that can help you obtain the sleep you need, such as:

    • Going to sleep and waking up at the same time each day
    • Sleeping in a room that is free from light and noise
    • Avoiding looking at screens before sleep
    • Skipping alcohol and caffeine in the hours before bed
    • Exercising regularly

    When to Talk to Your Doctor

    In some instances, people interested in mouth taping might benefit from seeking medical help instead. Consider making an appointment with your primary care physician if you:

    • Have a sleep disorder or think you might have a sleep disorder
    • Experience severely bad breath
    • Have a child that breathes primarily through their mouth

    Sleep disorders are conditions that require professional diagnosis and treatment rather than home remedies. Trying mouth taping instead of visiting your doctor could delay the start of important treatment.

    Similarly, extreme bad breath could be due to an issue other than mouth breathing. For example, people can experience severe bad breath as a result of cavities, underlying sinus infections, and digestive problems like ulcers. Visits to your doctor and dentist can help you identify and treat potential underlying medical or dental issues.

    It is also important to see your doctor if your child has an issue with mouth breathing. Mouth breathing may slow growth in children, so it may require medical attention. Mouth taping in children has not been studied and should not be tried.

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    About Our Editorial Team

    author
    Jay Summer

    Staff Writer

    Jay Summer is a health content writer and editor. She holds a B.S. in psychology and master's degrees in writing and public policy.

    author
    Dr. Anis Rehman

    Endocrinologist

    MD

    Dr. Rehman, M.D., is a board-certified physician in Internal Medicine as well as Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism.

    About Our Editorial Team

    author
    Jay Summer

    Staff Writer

    Jay Summer is a health content writer and editor. She holds a B.S. in psychology and master's degrees in writing and public policy.

    author
    Dr. Anis Rehman

    Endocrinologist

    MD

    Dr. Rehman, M.D., is a board-certified physician in Internal Medicine as well as Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism.

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