Social media spawns all sorts of trends that seem to develop a life of their own. And Tik Tok in particular is the source of more than any one person could ever truly explore.
Some are harmless, but others do more harm than good. Case in point, the recent online fascination with "mouth taping." With claims boasting of better sleep, improved oral health and decreased snoring habits, this health fad has taken over the algorithms, but is there any merit to this new nighttime discovery? (Spoilers: not really!)
What is mouth taping?
There's not a lot to decipher here. As the name suggests, mouth taping is the practice of taping your mouth shut while you sleep. This is intended to promote nasal breathing, which is how we as humans are naturally designed to breathe.
However, it's important to know that not any tape will do. Rather than closing off your pie hole with duct tape or masking tape, mouth taping requires surgical tape, like Somnfix's Mouth Strips. This specialized adhesive is better in-tune with the sensitive construction of your lips and skin while still allowing partial airways at the corners.
What are the supposed benefits?
There are a handful of theoretical benefits to mouth taping — in addition to getting someone to stop talking. The most logical perk is the promotion of breathing through your nose during your sleep cycle. Nasal breathing is the more ideal form of air intake due to its production of nitric oxide. An influx of NO can help widen blood cells and improve circulation. Additionally, nose breathing can help filter allergens and dust better than oral breathing, as well as moisturize the air so your lungs can work more efficiently.
Another perceived benefit to mouth taping is a decreased risk of dry mouth. If you breathe through your mouth as you sleep, the constant airflow can leave your gums and oral crevices drier than a desert. This can lead to negatives like sore throat and bad breath, in addition to potential gum diseases and tooth decay.
Lastly, anecdotal testimony claims that mouth taping can help curb some common signs of sleep apnea like teeth grinding and snoring. Teeth grinding, after all, occurs as a natural response to force air through your airway. While this reaction is intended to, well, keep you alive, teeth grinding may also lead to extensive tooth damage. By closing off your mouth and forcing your body to breathe through your nose mid-sleep you can theoretically eliminate the chances of your teeth clattering against one another, saving that smile for further candids down the road.
What are the risks of mouth taping?
Okay, we get it, the benefits may sound enticing, but the version of the facts you'll get on social media tend to... mask the true details of the practice.
First, mouth taping is not a universal cure-all for better sleep, especially for those that suffer from sleep apnea. While roughly 30 million Americans suffer from the nighttime condition, only 6 million are diagnosed, meaning the issues you're attempting to fix with mouth taping might require a more serious solution than simply locking your mouth shut when it comes time to hit the hay.
Additionally, if you already have issues breathing through your nose as a result of a deviated septum or other nasal blockage, mouth taping could severely limit your air intake — think of a two-lane highway merging down to one. This restriction can lessen your ability to take full, healthy breaths, which can lead to plenty of tossing and turning throughout the night. If you're constantly waking up due to discomfort, then it's not really "helping."
You also need to pay attention to the tape itself when it comes to mouth taping. Your lips are an extremely sensitive area, and the wrong adhesive can leave you with unpleasant irritations and reactions. This is why surgical tape or specialty strips are essential if you decide to partake in this health trend despite the risks.
How to get better sleep without literally taping your mouth shut
If you're still wondering about how you can improve your snooze without forcibly closing your mouth through the night, there are safer, more practical solutions that don't require you to limit your air intake.
Upgrade your sleeping arrangements
An easy way to make for a better night's sleep is to improve your sleeping environment. You can invest in a quality pair of linen sheets. You can upgrade your pillow to a cooling model for chill-filled slumber. You can even nod off to the soothing sounds of white noise. Make going to bed a desired destination, and watch how your perception of falling asleep changes.
Create a bedtime routine
Another great way to boost your bedtime is by sticking to a schedule. Instead of scrolling through your phone or laptop — reading through the latest sleep trends — aim to unplug from your devices for an extended period before hitting the pillow. You can replace your digital time with a good book or a healthy meditation session. These actions can help your brain decompress while also being less of a strain on your eyes, which can help you lull into sleep quicker without any stress.
Additionally, try to stay consistent with your alarms and bedtime. Keeping things in a routine can help train your body to become tired at a given hour, which can program your senses to turn down quicker as the evening progresses. When it comes time to wake up, your body will become accustomed to the new circadian rhythm, which can lead to better mornings, too.
Lay off the booze
Alcohol can induce a sense of sleepiness, but these nightcaps might be doing more to hurt your sleep, even though it feels like they're carrying you off to dreamland. Alcohol has been known to delay sleep onset, meaning it takes longer for you to fall asleep properly, leaving you tossing and turning. Instead, opt for a soothing tea or glass of water as your final beverage for the evening. Or, you can go the non-alcoholic route, like Athletic Brewing's lineup of NA craft beers — of which we're big fans of.
As with any health concern, the best sleep solution is to speak with your doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment. While the above alternatives can be great solutions to start with, there may be underlying factors that only a medical professional can see. That said, though, they're better options than taping an airway closed before bed.
For a final note on mouth taping, it's best to leave this health trend on read, and look for advice on better sleep that's been around for longer than the last few weeks.