It’s no secret that a bad night’s sleep can cause a cascade of health issues, especially for us autoimmune warriors. I’ve never been a good sleeper. For decades, long before I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Disease, I was a sleep talker and sleepwalker (a trauma coping mechanism I developed as a kid). And until recently, I was also a mouth breather. I woke up exhausted every morning with a dry mouth, bad breath, and drool on my pillow. Not exactly the sexy morning look I was going for to keep my marriage hot after almost 25 years. Plus, my poor sleep quality (regardless of how many hours I actually spent in bed) made me … let’s just say, not the nicest to be around the next day. But then mouth taping came into my life. The sleep hack I learned about on TikTok changed my sleep — and my life.
Before we talk about mouth taping — what it is, if it’s safe, and if it’s a real sleep hack or just a social media fad — we need to first talk about the importance of good sleep and the difference between mouth breathing and nose breathing.
Why is sleep so important?
In the medical community, sleep is considered to be one of the main pillars of good health, along with diet/nutrition, exercise/movement, stress management, and human connection. During sleep, your body repairs itself at the molecular level. Cells are replaced, hormones are processed, and toxins are released. Energy is restored, blood pressure is lowered, and both immune health and brain function is strengthened.
Studies have shown a strong correlation between sleep deprivation/poor sleep quality and a host of health issues, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and depression. Additionally, poor sleep can trigger inflammation, a major contributor to autoimmune disease. That is why good, restorative sleep (on a consistent basis) is so important for us autoimmune sisters.
One way to have restorative, restful sleep is to establish good bedtime routines. Read my fellow Autoimmune Sister’s recent blog post [here] about epigenetics and sleep, and learn a few of her favorite sleep hacks. Then consider adding one more to her list — mouth taping.
What is mouth taping?
I’m not usually one to follow silly social media trends, but I was intrigued by mouth taping. As an autoimmune warrior, I’m all about exploring complementary practices to improve my health, but I also always do my research first and then consult my functional medicine doctor (which I strongly advise you to do as well).
Mouth taping is as straightforward as it sounds: It’s the act of sealing your lips together with porous, skin-safe tape to force you to breathe through your nose, rather than through your mouth.
Mouth breathing v. nose breathing: Why is breathing through your nose at night important?
Breathing is an involuntary action directed by our autonomic nervous system. There are times when you need to breathe through your mouth (like when you need more oxygen while exercising), but it’s more beneficial for your health to breathe through your nose. Why? Because your nose acts as an air filter that blocks allergens and humidifies the air you breathe. It also lowers your blood pressure by producing nitric oxide.
Nose breathing is particularly important while you sleep because nose breathing reduces the risk of snoring and sleep apnea through increased oxygen uptake and circulation. It also improves your immune system. The result is better quality, more restorative sleep, which sets you up for a better, more productive day.
Even if you aren’t a mouth breather, Autoimmune warriors living with Sjögren’s disease or Behcet Syndrome, as well as people living with type 2 diabetes and Parkinson’s disease, are more susceptible to developing sleep apnea. Mouth taping may be worth discussing with your doctor if you have any of these chronic conditions.
Is mouth taping safe?
It can be; it depends on the person and the method. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Use only medically-approved tape. The tape should be porous and skin-safe. Surgical tape works well and is cheap, but there are also tapes on the market made just for mouth taping, such as SomniFix, among others. DO NOT use scotch tape, duct tape, or electrical tape.
- Cover only a portion of your lips. Apply a small piece to the center of your closed clips. The purpose is to train your lips to remain closed at night, but allow a slight space for air to flow in and out at the corners.
- Try it first during the day. If you’re anxious or concerned that you might panic at night, consider trying this technique during the day when you can easily remove the tape if it becomes too much to handle.
- Don’t mouth tape if you are congested. If you have trouble breathing through your nose because of allergies, a sinus infection, enlarged adenoids, a deviated septum, or enlarged tonsils, do not mouth tape.
- Always consult your doctor first. Better safe than sorry.
Is mouth taping a good sleep hack or just a silly social media fad?
Mouth taping may be the social media fad du jour, but it’s also a good sleep hack (with the safety caveats listed above) for some people. Me included.
While there’s no scientific research yet to prove the effectiveness of mouth taping, my own experience tells me it works. At least it does for me. After two months of mouth taping, I now wake up feeling rested — something that I haven’t felt in over a decade. My mouth isn’t dry, my breath doesn’t stink, and there’s no drool on my pillow. I’m still not the sexy Hollywood vision of a woman waking up in the morning (mouth taping doesn’t prevent bedhead), but at least I wake up with the energy to crush my morning workout and whatever else the day has in store for me.
Doctor-approved mouth taping has improved my sleep and, dare I say it, my life. Yes, mouth taping is a social media fad, but it’s also a real sleep hack that works for me. That said, we are all unique individuals, so it may not be right for you. Do your research and talk with your doctor before trying it. Getting a good night’s rest may be as simple as keeping your mouth shut.