When you’re searching for authorities on sleep apnea, we’re pretty sure TikTok influencers aren’t who you go to first. Yet, as digital-age generations grow older—the oldest millennials turn 42 this year—all kinds of health and wellness topics can be found on social media. You may even find Aeroflow Sleep joining the TikTok community someday! Nevertheless, we certainly won’t tell you to try every viral trend; mouth taping being one of them.
Today, we’ll walk you through what mouth taping is, how and when it can be healthy, and the dangers of when it isn’t. All of which will be backed by the medical advice of three sleep experts; including Teresa Power DeNike, Certified Sleep & Recovery Coach and founder of SleepBetterNYC, and Dr. Carleara Weiss, Sleep Science Advisor for Aeroflow Sleep.
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What Is Mouth Taping?
Mouth taping was first introduced by a Russian doctor in the 1990s. His method, the Buteyko Method, focused on how we breathe best: in and out of the nose. For mouth breathers, this doesn’t come naturally. Therefore, the best way to perform the Buteyko Method was by taping your mouth shut, forcing yourself to only breathe through the nose. Of course, you can’t tape your mouth shut all the time, which is how it finally became a way to improve your breathing and overall health overnight.
Fast forward thirty years, nearly one in five American adults live with a mental illness. Concentrating on nose breathing is one of the healthiest, easiest ways to control stress and anxiety. Not to mention, it helps asthmatics, athletes, and yes, CPAP users. Desperate to try anything to improve our health and wellbeing, you now have a resurgence in the popularity of mouth taping, “newly discovered” as a TikTok trend last year.
Is Mouth Taping Healthy?
Industry experts all agree, mouth breathing is not healthy. When you sleep with your mouth open, you expose your airways to bacteria, which can cause bad breath, gum disease, even cavities. You’re probably going to wake up with a dry mouth or sore throat too, because your saliva is evaporating more rapidly than it can be produced. This is especially true for people with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA;) more than 30% experience dry mouth.
The negative effects of mouth breathing are why mouth taping may seem healthy. However, Dr. Raj Dasgupta, an associate professor of clinical medicine at the University of Southern California's Keck School of Medicine, told CNN, "If you have OSA, [mouth taping] can be very dangerous."
Our very own, Dr. Carleara Weiss also reported on mouth taping for Healthline. She advised, the dangers of mouth taping are that "it can worsen sleep apnea by making breathing more difficult, putting the individual at higher risk for...heart attacks and death."
"[Mouth taping] can worsen sleep apnea by making breathing more difficult, putting the individual at higher risk for...heart attacks and death." - Dr. Carleara Weiss
For example, spring is right around the corner, which means allergens are in the air. If your sinuses become congested and you're mouth taping, your body will go into overdrive. Your will have to work harder to get oxygen to the brain, and your blood pressure will rise. It's even possible for people undiagnosed with OSA to suffocate in their sleep!
The Exception To The Rule
Although many see zero possible benefits of mouth taping, Dr. Weiss admitted, there may be benefits for people who snore but do not have sleep apnea.
Snoring is the vibration that’s caused when your upper airway is partially blocked, but a blockage doesn’t necessarily mean you have OSA (or health issues in general.) When you have OSA, the snoring will be accompanied by pauses in your breathing that last 10 seconds or more, multiple times in an hour. It can happen without snoring altogether too.
Teresa Power DeNike concurs: "Mouth taping can be incredibly beneficial for healthy adults and those without blocked nasal passages. The problem lies in using mouth tape to 'cover up' snoring when the underlying issue is an untreated sleep disorder requiring medical attention."
"Mouth taping can be incredibly beneficial for healthy adults and those without blocked nasal passages. The problem lies in using mouth tape to 'cover up' snoring when the underlying issue is an untreated sleep disorder requiring medical attention." - Teresa Power DeNike
So, when you snore but don't experience stops in breathing, mouth taping may help you achieve better sleep, and... "Many patients on overnight [mild] OSA therapy report that mouth taping helps prevent air leakage from their CPAP oral appliance," Teresa continues, "However, the research on this specific use is not conclusive." In fact, the FDA has not released a statement as to whether or not mouth taping is approved at this time.
Always speak to a health care provider before you try a new sleep medicine.
What Are The Side Effects Of Mouth Taping?
Regardless of whether you see mouth taping as healthy or not, there are side effects. We briefly touched on allergens causing you to have difficulty breathing. Other forms of nasal congestion you should be aware of are polyps and a deviated septum. Avoid mouth taping if you know you have any of the above.
Furthermore, the kind of tapes used range from surgical tape to duct tape. Leaving either on your skin for very long can cause skin irritation. Plus, some people can have an allergic reaction to adhesive tapes. Again, consult your doctor before application.
If you have trouble removing tape from your skin, try to wash the area with hand soap, essential oils, or petroleum jelly. This will help humidify and moisturize your skin, ultimately loosening the adhesive so the tape can be removed more easily.
What Can I Do Instead Of Mouth Taping?
Ultimately, taping your mouth does not help everyone to sleep better. Luckily, there are better alternatives out there! For snorers without sleep apnea, Aeroflow Sleep recommends nasal strips instead. Nasal strips still promote the Buteyko Method as it was intended—promoting nasal breathing—except they open the nasal passages and can reduce snoring without blocking the mouth.
If you have sleep apnea, you’re probably a CPAP user, and mouth taping is in no way healthy for you. Instead, continue your positive airway pressure (PAP) therapy. Using your prescribed APAP, BiPAP, or CPAP machine every night and while napping is the best thing you can do to treat your sleep disorder. And if you’re worried about being a mouth breather, there are PAP supplies that mitigate mouth breathing; such as a full-face mask or a chinstrap accessory.
Not sure if you have OSA? Ask your doctor if they think a sleep study is right for you. A sleep study is the test performed to determine if you have a sleep disorder. If you do and find yourself newly diagnosed, Aeroflow Sleep can help! We work with your insurance provider to cover all of your PAP equipment up to 100% through insurance. Give us a call when you’re ready at 1-800-480-5491, Monday through Friday, 8 AM - 5 PM or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Golan, Hadas, and Melanie Cole. “Podcast: The Buteyko Breathing Method.” Boston Medical Center, BostonMed Talks, https://www.bmc.org/podcast-buteyko-breathing-method.
“Mental Illness.” National Institute of Mental Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Mar. 2023, https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/mental-illness.
Oksenberg A, Froom P, Melamed S. Dry mouth upon awakening in obstructive sleep apnea. J Sleep Res. 2006 Sep;15(3):317-20. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2869.2006.00527.x. PMID: 16911034.
Rogers, Kristen, et al. “The TikTok Wellness Trends We Should And Shouldn't Take Into 2023, According To Experts.” CNN, Cable News Network, 28 Dec. 2022, https://www.cnn.com/2022/12/28/health/tiktok-trends-best-worst-2022-wellness/index.html.
Mayer, Beth Ann. “Mouth Taping: What to Know about This Dangerous TikTok Trend.” Edited by Dana K. Cassell, Healthline, Healthline Media, 19 Aug. 2022, https://www.healthline.com/health-news/mouth-taping-what-to-know-about-this-dangerous-tiktok-trend.
Lee YC, Lu CT, Cheng WN, Li HY. The Impact of Mouth-Taping in Mouth-Breathers with Mild Obstructive Sleep Apnea: A Preliminary Study. Healthcare (Basel). 2022 Sep 13;10(9):1755. doi: 10.3390/healthcare10091755. PMID: 36141367; PMCID: PMC9498537.