What to Know About Mouth Taping, TikTok’s Latest Sleep Hack

What to Know About Mouth Taping, TikTok’s Latest Sleep Hack

Snoring is a common issue among many sleepers. It can also be annoying to your partner or a symptom of a larger issue, like sleep apnea. But recently, social media is claiming to have found a fix: mouth taping. TikTok users swear by the benefits mouth taping, claiming the practice does everything from helping you to get better oxygen to improving your sleep altogether. Some swear it’s the easiest solution to stop snoring. But, of course, this is TikTok — not a legit medical source.

So what’s the truth about mouth taping for sleep? Can mouth taping really offer all of those benefits or is mouth taping dangerous? Sleep medicine doctors break down the truth once and for all to ensure that your sleep habits are healthy and safe.

What Is Mouth Taping?

Mouth taping is as simple as it sounds: You use tape to close your mouth, typically putting one piece of tape in the middle of your mouth to keep it shut. It’s usually used during sleep, although some people do this during exercise or running to try to force themselves to breathe through the nose, says Chris Winter, MD, a neurologist, sleep expert, and host of the “Sleep Unplugged with Dr. Chris Winter” podcast. “Individuals who engage in this practice generally do so because of the impression that it improves sleep,” he says.

Breathing through your nose all night is the main goal of mouth taping, says James McGuirk, MD, assistant professor of sleep medicine at Vanderbilt Neurology. “The idea behind this is that when your mouth is closed while sleeping, your oropharyngeal anatomy stays together and tends to help support itself better so that the airway closes off less,” he says. “This can potentially help with snoring as well as mild obstructive sleep apnea.”

Mouth Taping Benefits

This is a little tricky. TikTok is packed with people who swear by mouth taping for a slew of reasons, but “only a few have been actually validated with any sort of research,” Dr. McGuirk says.

Mouth taping might help with mild snoring or mild obstructive sleep apnea, Dr. McGuirk says. Beyond that, the benefits are really unclear.

“Although there are studies of mouth taping, the research involves very few patients — most of the studies are not well done,” says Ulysses Magalang, MD, director of the sleep disorders program at The Ohio State University College of Medicine.

Case in point: One small 2014 study found that those who taped their mouths snored less, but it only involved 30 people. Another small study of 50 people mouth taping showed no real effect in asthma control in people with the condition.

It’s clear that mouth taping does not work for everyone and may not work for you at all. A study of 10 people with sleep apnea found that some continued to try breathing through their mouths, even when they were taped shut.

“There are a few studies that seem to suggest that mouth taping can indeed decrease snoring,” Dr. Magalang says. “But the effect on moderate or severe sleep apnea and other conditions isn’t clear.”

Is Mouth Taping Dangerous?

It can be. Dr. Winter points out that there is an aspiration risk (meaning, you could breathe in something you shouldn’t) and that mouth taping could mask more serious sleep problems. Taping your mouth shut may also cause anxiety, Dr. McGuirk says. You could even potentially suffocate. “If you tape your mouth and you have an obstruction in the nose, we don’t know what the effect would be,” Dr. Magalang says. On less severe level, tape used for mouth taping has the potential to irritate your skin, Dr. McGuirk points out.

Best Mouth Tape for Sleeping

There is no one tape that TikTokers or doctors recommend for mouth taping. Some reviews suggest makeup tape; others use sports tape. If you’re going to try mouth taping, “you should look for tape that is medical or surgical tape,” Dr. McGuirk says. “The tape should be just big enough to bridge over the lips and should not cover the entire mouth.”

But, again, doctors really don’t suggest that you try this sleep hack. “I do not generally recommend it,” Dr. Winter says. “I think everyone considering the practice should consider a sleep study prior to doing so and working with a qualified sleep clinician.”

Dr. Magalang, agrees, urging people to see a doctor if they have symptoms of sleep apnea, which includes excessive snoring, feeling tired during the day after you got a good night’s sleep, someone noticing that you stop breathing during sleep, or you have morning headaches.

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