The Weird Benefit Of Mouth Taping That You Should Know About
If you're like most people, the idea of taping your mouth shut while you sleep might sound a little…well, alarming. But as it turns out, mouth taping might just be the key to a restful night of sleep and so much more. For instance, would you be surprised to know that using mouth tape might help improve your breath, reduce or even reverse cavities, and improve your heart health?
Helping your nose breathe (rather than mouth breathe) during the night accomplishes a goal you might not even know exists. It greatly increases the amount of nitric oxide circulating in your blood, which has a range of benefits.
Why nitric oxide production is so important to your health.
Nitric oxide is a molecule that occurs naturally in your body and plays a bunch of important roles in your health. There are two basic ways nitric oxide gets to your blood. The first is by eating nitrate-rich foods, like nutrient-rich vegetables, and the second is through the various ways your body creates its own nitric oxide, mainly exercise and nose breathing. While you have control over your diet throughout much of your life, your body's natural ability to produce nitric oxide through exercise and nose breathing decreases as you age. That's why it's vital to develop good nose-breathing habits as early as possible—and not allow your body to fall into bad patterns again.
Science tells us that some of the major drawbacks of decreased nitric oxide from mouth breathing include:
On the other hand, improving your nitric oxide intake can help to not only improve your heart function, blood pressure, cognitive function, immunity, and inflammation but also:
How to tell if you're a nighttime mouth breather.
So what are the signs that you're a nighttime mouth breather? The kicker here is that most people who mouth breathe at night don't realize it's happening.
Mouth breathing can be a silent, slow-moving detriment to your oral and overall health. No matter how much you practice nose breathing throughout the day, you could still be mouth breathing at night without knowing it.
Recognize any of these things happening to you on a regular basis? If the answer is yes, you might be a closet mouth breather:
- Getting up in the middle of the night to pee
- Tossing and turning through the night
- Nasty breath in the morning
- Gingivitis and or bleeding gums
- Signs of teeth grinding
- Drool on your pillow
If you know you have some form of sleep-disordered breathing, like sleep apnea, it's almost certain you're mouth breathing through the night.
How mouth taping can help with NO production and nighttime mouth breathing.
Feeling a little overwhelmed? Don't worry—I won't leave you without the fix to your mouth-breathing issues. For several years, I've kissed my wife goodnight and then reached to my nightstand for mouth tape to put across my lips.
As I mentioned, many people hear "mouth taping" and have some horror story image pop up immediately. But your body evolved to breathe through the nose except in a few circumstances, like extreme physical exertion, stuffy sinuses, or while talking. Unfortunately, modern developments in sleep, like comfy beds, combined with the common underdevelopment of the airways from a lack of vitamin K2 (and nitric oxide, in fact), have led to a much higher number of people who mouth breathe at night.
Taping your mouth shut is a great way to make sure you nose breathe throughout the night. Bonus: If you wake up every morning without tape on your mouth, it's a good diagnostic tool to recognize frequent mouth breathing.
Many people who start taping notice an improvement in their sleep within just the first few nights. That's because mouth breathing often correlates with interrupted sleep—just enough to kick you out of deep sleep but not usually to the point you remember waking. But once you start mouth taping, these interruptions will probably go way down, providing you with deep sleep and a fresh start to the morning. I've even seen patients with mild sleep apnea reverse the condition, just by mouth taping!
How to start mouth taping for better overall health.
To start mouth taping, look for a specifically made mouth tape or surgical micropore tape (you can find both on Amazon). The latter is less expensive but may leave you with some residue in the morning. These two options are the safest to use on the sensitive skin of your lips. Never use duct tape or any other tape not specifically made to be used on the skin.
Pucker up and watch for mustaches and beards. Provide your mouth tape with the largest surface area of the lips to attach to. Especially if your lips are a bit thin, a good pucker will help the tape stay on. If you have facial hair, try adhering the tape below the hairline. Avoid using face creams and lip balm right before bed. These can make it harder to adhere mouth tape to your lips, so try using these 30 to 60 minutes before bed.
If you don't make it all night with tape, don’t give up yet! It’s pretty common to take several nights to adjust to this new habit. I’ve been mouth taping for a long time and still occasionally wake up without tape on my lips. If you’ve been having the same problem and trying to mouth tape for a couple of weeks, you may need to look into why your body has to resort to mouth breathing. Common culprits are sinus infections, allergies, a dusty bedroom, or a deviated septum. It's also possible you've got a more severe form of sleep apnea that requires a CPAP or APAP machine to treat.
Common questions about mouth taping—answered.
I suggest mouth taping to a lot of my patients, and they always have a slew of questions. Here are some of the most common ones:
1. If my nose gets stuffy during the night, will mouth tape make me suffocate?
No! While taping the mouth shut can sound scary, it's not able to overcome your body's natural desire to keep breathing. If your brain picks up on an inability to breathe because of a stuffy nose or any other issue, it'll force your teeth to grind and wake you up. Often, you'll remove the tape on your mouth without consciously realizing you're awake.
Pro tip: Somnifix's Sleep Strips, $17.99, come with a mouth vent to give your nose a "backup," especially for situations where your sinuses might become congested. It's also a great way to reduce the fear some people experience the first time they mouth tape since it doesn't completely cut off the mouth from airflow.
2. Are there people who shouldn't mouth tape?
To date, there are no contraindications for mouth taping, which means anyone should be safe to mouth tape. I don't recommend this for babies or young children, but for older children or teenagers and older, mouth taping should be perfectly safe.
Actually, the signs of sleep-disordered breathing in children are nearly identical to the signs of ADHD. If your older child's or teenager's dentist, pediatrician, or ENT suspects sleep-disordered breathing may be the cause of behavioral or cognitive problems, mouth taping might be one way to help.
3. How long should I mouth tape?
As I said, I've been mouth taping for many years now. While you may train your body into a better habit after several weeks or months of taping, there's no real reason to stop taping. However, there's no set amount of time it takes for mouth taping to reset this habit—it will be different for each person.
Mark Burhenne, DDS, isn't your average dentist—he believes that the mouth is the gateway to health in the rest of the body. His blog Ask the Dentist is dedicated to helping people understand the mouth-body connection. He is the author of the No. 1 best-seller, The 8-Hour Sleep Paradox and is a practicing sleep medicine dentist in California, where patients come to see him from all over the world. He is a TEDx speaker, and his advice regularly appears on media outlets such as CNN, CBS, Yahoo! Health, the Huffington Post, Prevention, and Men's Health. He received his degree from the Dugoni School of Dentistry in San Francisco and is a member of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine.