You may have seen social media posts that hype the benefits of mouth taping. If their claims are to be believed, taping your mouth closed—so you have to breathe through your nose when you sleep—could change your life. They say it will stop you from snoring, give you more energy, deepen your sleep, boost your immunity, lower your blood pressure and even improve your appearance.
Mouth taping is designed to encourage you to breathe through your nose rather than your mouth. And there are some proven benefits of breathing through your nose:
- It can help filter allergens from the air
- It adds humidity to the air you breathe, so your mouth and throat aren’t as dry
- It helps moderate the temperature of the air you breathe
- It can help keep your gums healthy since your gums can become inflamed when they get dry from breathing through your mouth
Plus, when you breathe through your mouth, you’re more likely to have bad breath or develop a sore throat. And snoring can go hand in hand with mouth breathing.
Is mouth taping safe?
“Mouth taping is not a safe way to improve nasal breathing,” said Kathryn Palmer, a sleep medicine specialist with Banner Health in Colorado. “There is not enough scientific evidence to support benefits from mouth taping, and it can be dangerous.” That’s because mouth breathing is a backup—if you can’t breathe through your nose while you’re sleeping, your mouth will naturally open so you can take in the air you need.
What are the dangers?
With mouth taping, you’re at risk for:
- Blocking your airflow, making it harder for you to breathe while you’re sleeping
- Sleep apnea
- Skin irritation or allergic reaction from the tape
- Aspiration—if you vomit or have acid reflux when your mouth is taped, the stomach contents could go into your lungs. “This can lead to serious consequences such as pneumonia and even death,” Palmer said.
Why is it hard to breathe through your nose when you’re sleeping?
Many medical conditions could prevent you from breathing through your nose at night and could contribute to snoring:
- Nasal congestion from allergies or illnesses
- Sinus congestion
- A deviated nasal septum
- Nasal polyps
- Enlarged tonsils or adenoids
- Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)
What are the alternatives to mouth taping?
It’s crucial to have a sleep specialist evaluate your nighttime mouth breathing or snoring, so you can treat these conditions medically rather than trying to alleviate symptoms with mouth taping.
“Whether your concern is snoring, mouth dryness, difficulty breathing through the nose or a sleep-related breathing disorder, your doctor can help you find solutions that effectively address the underlying condition safely,” Palmer said.
It’s crucial to seek evaluation if you might have obstructive sleep apnea, which increases your risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, heart failure, abnormal heart rhythms and stroke. If your doctor suspects sleep apnea, they may recommend a sleep study for diagnosis. You may need a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine to help you breathe properly at night.
[Learn more about your risk for sleep apnea? Take our free sleep assessment.]
If you’re snoring but don’t have obstructive sleep apnea, your doctor will likely look for other causes. To reduce snoring, they may recommend weight loss, quitting smoking, avoiding alcohol for several hours before bedtime, sleeping on your side, using nasal strips or an oral appliance, or other strategies.
The bottom line
When you see social media posts or online articles about mouth taping for sleep, it may sound appealing. But there’s not much science to back its benefits, and experts say there are safer ways to treat your mouth breathing during sleep.
Need help diagnosing and treating sleep disorders?
Schedule an appointment with a primary care provider.
Schedule an appointment with a sleep medicine specialist.