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Does Mouth Taping for Sleep Really Work?

June 26, 2023

If you're in search of a good night's sleep - or maybe just a solution for chronic snoring - you may have seen ads or videos touting the benefits of mouth taping. The premise is simple: Tape your lips together with special medical-grade tape before going to sleep to treat sleep apnea and reduce issues like snoring, drooling and dry mouth. But does it work? And more importantly, is it safe? We asked Steven Thau, MD, a Hartford HealthCare pulmonary and sleep specialist in Westport, for his expert opinion. [insert-cta-small id=43127]

More of a gimmick than a treatment.

According to ads and testimonials, mouth taping encourages you to breathe through your nose, eliminating issues like snoring. The problem, Dr. Thau says, is that it isn’t as easy as it seems to do all your breathing through your nostrils. “It might work somewhat for people who snore a little, but not anyone with sleep apnea,” he notes. “And many people don’t realize that you can still have significant sleep apnea without any snoring at all.” > Related: Are You a Night Owl? How to Get Better Sleep in an Early-Bird World

Mouth taping could actually be dangerous for those with sleep apnea.

If you have sleep apnea - a common disorder that causes your breathing to stop or get very shallow - mouth taping could actually cause you harm. “This just masks a symptom and doesn’t treat the underlying problem," says Dr. Thau. The result? Prolonged episodes of apnea and duration of low oxygen levels. And for those who have sleep apnea and don't know it, mouth taping can keep you from getting diagnosed and treated.

If you have sensitive skin, anxiety or acid reflux, there could be other issues.

Any kind of tape can cause skin irritation - mouth tape included. Imagine waking up feeling as if you can’t breathe and instinctively ripping the tape off your mouth in a panic, Dr. Thau says. Even the best product, and they exist, will tear at sensitive skin on the lips and any surrounding facial hair. Mouth tape could also spur anxiety. The Sleep Foundation, he says, points to potential anxiety from blocking the mouth. For anyone with acid reflux, taping can magnify anxiety caused by a flare or even exacerbate the reflux. Want more health news? Text StartHere to 85209 to sign up for text alerts

Still want to try mouth taping? Try this at home.

Dr. Thau recommends anyone interested in trying this trend to first test themselves while awake. To do that, he says:
  • Close your mouth.
  • Press one nostril closed with your fingers and breathe through the other for two minutes.
  • Switch nostrils, closing the other with your fingers, for two more minutes.
“If one nostril is occluded and dominant, you’ll have a problem breathing through the other. This happens in people with a deviated septum or allergies,” Dr. Thau explains. “You want flow of air to be comfortable and not noisy.” If you pass this test, he suggests choosing hypoallergenic paper tape that is gentler on skin, and applying food-safe gel to the area first as an added layer of protection. “There are no real guidelines for this, so you should speak with your primary care provider before trying it,” he says.

Ayer Neuroscience Institute Sleep Care Center