One of the latest health and beauty trends involves taping your mouth shut while you sleep. It’s become so popular that there are even mouth tape for sleep brands called “Hostage Tape.” Proponents of this trend claim all kinds of health benefits: an improved jawline, better oral health, better sleep, and so on. Being unable to snore when you tape your mouth shut is an added bonus that believers point to. However, are these benefits supported by science?
The benefits of breathing through the nose
The fundamental benefit of mouth tape for sleep involves how it gets you to breathe through the nose. It’s a healthier way of breathing because the nose is equipped to filter and humidify air going in, and nasal breathing works the lower lungs better to allow effortless deep breathing for greater relaxation as you sleep.
Nasal breathing is also great for a different reason: nitric oxide. Nasal breathing activates the ability of the sinuses to produce nitric oxide to relax the blood vessels and lower blood pressure.
In addition, avoiding breathing through the mouth prevents a dry mouth, which can harm oral health and cause breath issues… another benefit to using mouth tape for sleep.
Researchers to date haven’t spent much time studying the benefits of mouth tape for sleep. Nevertheless, a few small studies exist. Two studies – here and here – that looked at patients with mild obstructive sleep apnea discovered that mouth taping offers limited benefits.
Mouth tape for sleep isn’t promoted as a cure for sleep apnea; rather, it may be a way to manage it. The fact that it discourages snoring means that both the mouth taper and their bed partner are able to sleep more soundly, as well.
Is there anything unsafe about mouth tape for sleep?
Mouth tape for sleep may not be safe for everyone. Some people suffer from anatomical deformities such as a deviated septum that make nasal breathing hard. Allergies and other conditions that lead to stuffy noses can make breathing through the nose difficult, as well. When you have one of these conditions, taping your mouth makes it very hard for you to breathe, leading to a dangerous lack of oxygen. It’s important to be aware of the fact that the videos promoting mouth taping rarely mention the dangers involved. You should be wary about following advice that doesn’t give you both sides of the picture.
Understanding how to go about taping your mouth
The aim with mouth tape for sleep isn’t to block the oral airway so that you have no choice but to breathe through the nose. Rather, taping ensures that your oral muscles relax and remind your respiratory system to use the nose, instead. You don’t want to use very strong tape like duct tape; rather, you want to use medical grade tape that’s safe for the skin and is designed to easily come off. When you start, ease yourself in. Try taping your mouth shut 10 minutes at a time in the beginning, then increase your tapings to 30 minutes, an hour, and overnight, over a few days.
While mouth tape for sleep may be a recent introduction to mainstream TikTok viewers, it’s a practice that’s been in use for decades among parents trying to get their children to breathe through the nose while they sleep. Young children who fall back on mouth breathing tend to develop a deformity of the jawline that gives them something called a mouth-breathing face: a narrow, receding jaw. Some parents have long tried mouth taping, with some success. Whatever your reasons for trying mouth tape for sleep, it’s important to keep the potential risks in mind, talk to your doctor about it, and ease yourself into the practice while telling your bedmate to keep an eye on you.