Keeping your mouth shut isn’t easy, but a viral TikTok trend is out to change your mind about that. Known as mouth taping, the idea is to literally tape your mouth closed while you sleep to improve snoring, allergies and bad breath brought on by sleeping with your mouth open. But does it work — and is it safe?
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Sleep medicine specialist Cinthya Pena Orbea, MD, talks about why you should be skeptical of mouth taping and when clinicians tend to put it to good use.
What is mouth taping?
Mouth taping is just what it sounds like — it’s the act of taping your mouth closed with skin-safe tape to force you to breathe through your nose instead of your mouth. But why would a mouth breather ever be interested in changing their habits?
Breathing through your nose may have various benefits that breathing through your mouth doesn’t have, including:
- Lowering blood pressure.
- Filtering allergens.
- Regulating the temperature of your breath.
- Humidifying the air you breathe and moisturizing your throat.
- Decreasing anxiety.
On the flip side, mouth breathing has various side effects, including:
Sometimes, people who are mouth breathers snore, which is a common symptom, along with restlessness and fatigue, seen in people with obstructive sleep apnea.
We usually breathe through our mouths as a backup for when we can’t breathe through our nose. Blockages can be caused by a few different conditions, including congestion from allergies or sinus infections, a deviated septum, enlarged tonsils or enlarged adenoids.
Does mouth taping actually help?
The goal of mouth taping is to reduce the negative side effects and reroute your breathing through your nose. But studies done so far appear inconclusive and the jury’s still out on whether or not mouth taping is beneficial.
One small study showed 30 patients snored less after mouth taping. But another study of 36 patients with asthma showed no signs of change in their condition after using mouth taping. And a 2022 study revealed that 10 patients continued to try mouth breathing even after their mouths had been taped, a phenomenon known as mouth puffing.
“Most of the evidence is anecdotal. There is not strong enough evidence to support that mouth tape is beneficial,” says Dr. Pena Orbea. “Mouth taping is not part of our current practice to treat any sleep disorder. Nonetheless, in patients with sleep apnea, we may recommend mouth taping or to wear a chin strap to decrease an air leak while you’re using a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine at night.”
Rather than rely on mouth taping, Dr. Pena Orbea suggests using alternative methods to address conditions like snoring and sleep apnea directly.
Causes of snoring vary, but the main reason it happens is that your airway becomes restricted and your tissues vibrate against one another as you try to force air through. If you’re having trouble snoring (or if your partner keeps you awake with their snoring), you can try a few solutions like:
- Sleeping on your side instead of your back.
- Using nasal strips.
- Taking decongestants.
“Snoring is something that you should consult with your doctor about because snoring can be a sign of other conditions like sleep apnea,” notes Dr. Pena Orbea.
Sleep apnea is a condition in which you stop breathing repeatedly while you sleep. This can be caused by an obstructed airway or because your brain has trouble signaling your muscles to help you breathe. One major treatment for sleep apnea is using a CPAP machine to help open your airway while you sleep.
“When patients wear a CPAP at night, some patients may swallow air during the night which causes them to feel bloated or have abdominal pain the next morning,” explains Dr. Pena Orbea. “By closing their mouth with mouth taping or a chinstrap, we can help alleviate these problems.”
Can you suffocate from mouth taping?
Taping your mouth shut impairs your ability to breathe in full, deep breaths. Plus, you could also experience skin irritation, an allergic reaction or rash from using the wrong kind of tape. It is never advised to use duct tape or any other kind of tape on your body for any reason.
“Mouth taping could cause an allergic reaction from the tape or a skin irritation or rash,” warns Dr. Pena Orbea. “Before starting this practice, you should talk to your doctor about this.”
Should you try mouth taping?
Mouth taping isn’t recommended because there’s not enough scientific evidence to support the anecdotal benefits behind this viral trend. If you’re concerned about improving your snoring, bad breath, sleep apnea or any other breathing or sleep-related conditions, you should talk to a healthcare provider to figure out safer alternative treatments.