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Is Mouth Taping a Safe Choice for Better Sleep?

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A young woman with closed eyes and taped lips

If someone in your house has a problem with snoring, you (or they) may have considered mouth taping, a trend that has received quite a bit of attention recently. The goal is to keep the mouth shut to stop the snoring and encourage nose breathing. But is mouth taping safe? And does it work?

“Snoring is common and breathing through the nose is best for healthy sleep. But there’s a lot you should know before taping your mouth shut for better sleep,” says University Hospitals otolaryngologist and craniofacial surgeon Thomaz Fleury Curado, MD, who specializes in the treatment of upper airways and sleep apnea.

What’s Wrong With Mouth Breathing?

Air quality suffers. Nasal breathing filters, warms and moisturizes the air, preparing it for the lungs. Mouth breathing delivers air to the lungs in a less-than-ideal condition. Mouth breathing is associated with worsened asthma, allergies and other pulmonary conditions.

Oral problems can result. Mouth breathing results in dry mouth which causes bad breath, cracked lips, mouth sores, tooth decay and other oral problems.

Snoring interrupts sleep. The tongue’s normal and healthy position – when not in use for eating or speaking – is to rest in contact with the upper palate. During nighttime mouth breathing, the tongue incorrectly lies on the lower palate, becomes floppy and can roll back in the mouth. It blocks the airway causing snoring and sleep apnea, interrupting healthy sleep. Snoring is the first sign of poor sleep. If breathing stops intermittently, it’s a sign of sleep apnea. But good quality sleep is vital to overall health, especially cardiovascular, neurological and metabolic health, as well as memory and mood.

Facial growth and anatomical changes can occur. In children who breathe through their mouth, the tongue’s improper position can lead to the abnormal growth and development of facial bone and tissue. Abnormal development can cause problems with dental alignment, swallowing and speech. Mouth breathing and the development of facial structure can be easily corrected in children and can prevent future problems or the need for surgery. Without intervention and/or treatment, these anatomical changes can affect adult oral health and cause sleep apnea.

Is Mouth Taping Safe & Effective?

If nasal breathing is best and mouth breathing causes problems, why not simply tape the mouth? A few extremely limited studies have shown that mouth taping can help reduce snoring and improve mild sleep apnea. But taping can be extreme. Taping that prevents movement limits your ability to breathe. And it can cause skin irritation and allergic reactions as well.

Address the Real Problem

“Simply taping the mouth doesn’t address the real problem. It’s important to see a doctor about your mouth breathing to determine the reason for it and get professional treatment. For many mouth breathers, taping won’t be enough of a solution and can actually create problems,” Dr. Fleury says.

Get answers. Many causes of mouth breathing are easy to treat. If you’re having significant problems with nose breathing as a result of congestion, allergies or anatomy, see a specialist. An ear, nose and throat specialist or speech pathologist can diagnose abnormalities and provide appropriate clinical or surgical treatment. You can also request a sleep study which can be done in a sleep lab or in the comfort of your own home.

Alternatives to Mouth Taping

  • Sleep on your side to reduce mouth breathing and improve sleep. Special pillows and other products can help your sleep position.
  • If temporary sinus congestion prevents nasal breathing, try a nasal saline flush or nasal strip. Use nasal decongestants sparingly. The body can easily become dependent on them for clear breathing, and when they’re stopped congestion may be worse.
  • Check into speech therapy that can retrain your tongue and lips to reduce mouth breathing.

“Mouth taping is safe in some conditions, but I don’t recommend patients do this on their own without a doctor’s care,” says Dr. Fleury. “If you choose to try mouth taping, use only a narrow piece of gentle hypoallergenic elastic tape applied vertically to allow some movement and the passage of air if necessary.”

Related Links

University Hospitals offers a full range of treatment options to help improve your sleep and enhance your quality of life. Learn more.

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