Mouth taping dental home remedy sleep fact-check

‘Mouth taping’ at night is a TikTok trend that’s been promoted to provide better sleep, but not everyone should try this, and you shouldn’t just use scotch tape.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends adults aged 18 to 60 get at least seven hours of sleep per night. 

A TikTok trend has gone viral, claiming a home remedy can help achieve that amount of sleep without snoring – by taping your mouth shut. Not only can it help you stop snoring, but it also is a solution for better oral health and helps with bad breath, these TikTokers say.

The VERIFY team researched whether this is a real – and safe – sleep treatment. 

THE QUESTION

Is ‘mouth taping’ a real home remedy for sleep-related issues?

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

Yes, mouth taping is a real home remedy used to treat some sleep-related problems. But experts say there are some risks and more scientific studies are needed to confirm the purported benefits of the practice.

WHAT WE FOUND

Before we dive into the claims about the practice of mouth taping, let’s be clear – this is done with a special tape made for sleeping and not with adhesive tapes like duct tape or scotch tape.

In addition, before trying any new treatment, you should consult your doctor. Do not take medical advice from social media without confirming with a medical professional that it’s a good idea. 

Mouth taping refers to the practice of taping your mouth closed before you fall asleep at night with a porous tape intended for use on skin, says the Sleep Foundation, an organization that studies sleep health. This helps with snoring and could provide some other health benefits.

But, the Sleep Foundation says there haven’t been many scientific studies on the effects of mouth taping, and many of the beneficial claims are anecdotal, or based on personal accounts rather than facts or research. 

Taping the mouth shut before bedtime prompts the person to breathe through their nose while they sleep. Mouth taping is not something new and it’s been a more commonly used practice for the last five to seven years, sleep specialist Michael Breus, Ph.D., told VERIFY. 

“The reason people have started mouth taping is because of this basic concept: Your nose is meant for breathing and your mouth is meant for eating,” Breus told VERIFY. 

“So why would somebody ever want to tape their mouth? It turns out that quite a few people have nasal congestion. And when their nose is stuffed up, their mouth naturally drops open in order for air to come in,” Breus said. “The very first thing I tell people is before you start taping your mouth shut, the first thing you need to do is look at nasal congestion. If you’ve got nasal congestion, solve that problem [before attempting mouth taping].”

People also need to find out if they have undiagnosed sleep apnea before mouth taping, Breus told VERIFY. He said mouth taping with sleep apnea is a “terrible, terrible idea” because sleep apnea is frequently undiagnosed, and mouth taping can actually mask your symptoms and make it harder to know that something is wrong.

Symptoms of sleep apnea include: snoring at night, sleepiness during the day, waking up with a headache, emotionally up and down. All of these things are common, but when they come together, specialists suspect sleep apnea, Breus said.

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What should you do if you want to start mouth taping?

First, you should talk to a doctor to see if you have undiagnosed sleep apnea, and ask your doctor whether they think this is the appropriate treatment for you. Then, if you don’t have sleep apnea, you find the right tape. Once you do that, you have to know how to properly apply the tape. 

There are brands that allow someone to cover the mouth horizontally over the top and bottom lips, but are porous that still allow for the flow of oxygen. But Breus recommended only placing the tape vertically and in the center of your mouth for better access to oxygen.

People who use mouth taping do experience better, deeper sleep, Breus said. But that’s not the only benefit. 

“When you tape your mouth shut, your snoring usually goes away, which means your bed partner is pretty happy about all of that. So that’s another area that you can consider. But also oral health turns out to be a big factor as well,” he said. “You keep your mouth lubricated. By sleeping with your mouth open, it dries your mouth out, this can have an effect on your salivary glands, it can increase bacteria in your mouth, and it can give you bad breath. So there’s a lot of reasons to keep your mouth shut when you sleep”

Breus says taping your mouth shut can present some unpleasant side effects, and potentially some real dangers. Some of these may include:

  • Pain while removing the tape— especially if you have facial hair
  • Irritation on or around your lips
  • Anxiety 
  • Difficulty breathing— especially if you’re experiencing any nasal congestion

Breus recommends these alternatives for better sleep if you don’t feel comfortable taping your mouth:

  • Physical exercise can improve your sleep quality
  • Breathing exercises to strengthen your lung capacity, help lower your blood pressure and reduce sleep apnea symptoms
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol before bed
  • Decongest using a saline solution or neti pot before bed
  • Sleep on your side

More from VERIFY: No, there’s no evidence that drinking lettuce tea helps induce sleep in humans

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