What to know about whether mouth taping actually works, if it's safe, and more.
If you snore or are prone to waking up with your mouth wide open, you might have come across a phenomenon known as mouth taping, which is all over TikTok right now. Consider a video from influencer @Isabelle.Lux that has over 37,000 likes: “Let’s talk about why you should be taping your mouth shut every single night before you go to bed,” she says, after peeling a piece of tape from her lips.
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The influencer then goes on to say that breathing through your mouth can lead to bad breath, gum disease, cavities, brain fog and a weaker immune system. She claims that taping your mouth shut at night prevents this and also leads to better sleep. Another video by Tiktok user @laurynbosstick also promotes taping your mouth shut at night. “I wake up with so much more energy,” she says in the video. “Honestly you guys, I just have such a deeper sleep.”
But is mouth-taping really all it’s cracked up to be? Keep reading to find out what sleep doctors think of it.
Is Mouth Breathing Bad for Health?
The reasoning behind mouth taping is that breathing through the nose is healthier than breathing through the mouth. Dr. Megan Acho, MD, a pulmonologist and sleep specialist at University of Michigan Health, does say that mouth breathing at night can be a sign of an underlying health problem including nasal congestion, a deviated nasal septum or potentially sleep apnea.
“The nose is the humidifier of the body, so when air flows through the nose, the air is humidified, warmed and filtered. If the nose is bypassed, as in the case of mouth breathing, this can contribute to dry mouth, which can potentially give way to other problems like bad breath and dental or gum disease,” she explains. This means that there really is something to those TikTok claims about mouth breathing at night potentially negatively impacting health.
Is Mouth Taping the Answer?
While it’s true that breathing through your nose at night is healthier than breathing through your mouth, Dr. Alex Dimitriu, MD, who is double board-certified in psychiatry and sleep medicine and the founder of Menlo Park Psychiatry & Sleep Medicine and BrainfoodMD, says there is a major problem with mouth taping. “The issue with mouth taping is that most people who mouth breathe do so because they have nasal congestion, and don't breathe well through their nose,” he says, adding that this can be caused by allergies, nasal anatomy, nasal trauma or various infections.
“Mouth taping can become dangerous when you prevent mouth breathing while the nose is still not fully clear for free airflow,” Dr. Dimitrui says. The kicker is that he says this can result in worse breathing, actually making sleep apnea and snoring worse. Simply put, he is not a fan.
Dr. Acho doesn’t recommend it, either. “Importantly, if you have nasal congestion or a deviated nasal septum, you could potentially limit airflow if you tape your mouth,” she says. “This is one reason why we would definitely recommend avoiding mouth taping in people with known nasal disease and in children.”
Instead, Dr. Acho says it’s important to address the issue of why someone is breathing through their mouth at night in the first place. Do they have sleep apnea? A nasal disease? Instead of masking the problem with tape, she says it’s important to treat the cause.
What To Do Instead
Okay, so taping your mouth shut at night clearly is not the solution for getting your best sleep. What do sleep doctors recommend instead? First, if you do breathe through your mouth at night, as Dr. Acho says, it’s important to find out why. Meeting with a sleep doctor can be helpful for figuring out the underlying reason. Dr. Dimitriu says it can also be helpful to visit your doctor or an allergy specialist to see if allergies could be contributing to poor breathing at night.
“People should be aware of potential signs of obstructive sleep apnea including snoring, waking up at night time feeling as though you are choking or gasping, or experiencing pauses in your breathing during sleep. If you experience any of these symptoms, you should speak with your doctor about whether testing for sleep apnea might be appropriate,” Dr. Acho says.
Both doctors say there are also other ways to improve your sleeping at night that don’t involve taping your mouth shut. Dr. Acho says that sleeping on your side instead of your back, elevating your head while you sleep, and avoiding sedating medications and alcohol are all great lifestyle habits to try. If you are overweight, she says that weight loss can also be beneficial for breathing at night.
Long story short: Mouth taping is one TikTok trend to avoid. It prevents addressing the root cause of mouth breathing, and it's dangerous. Hopefully, this is one trend that won’t, well, stick.