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Can Mouth Taping Help You Sleep?

by Jimmy Leonard | Updated 26 Jan 2024

Sueño Labs does not provide medical advice. See our terms and disclaimers.

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You may have seen on social media that taping your mouth shut is a way to reduce snoring, treat sleep apnea, and fall asleep faster. You can even buy specially designed mouth tapes online.

But does this really work? Is it safe? As it turns out, doctors aren’t thrilled about people going adhesive on the chops right before bed. Here’s what taping your mouth shut is supposed to do and why medical professionals lean away from it.

Does Taping Your Mouth Shut Help You Sleep?

The Goal of Mouth Tape for Sleep

I couldn’t find a source for this online, but I’m reasonably sure this viral sleep hack was invented by a woman in her mid-50s who, after three decades of hearing her husband snore all night, finally snapped and strapped duct tape over his jaw.

Actually, credit where credit’s due, Somnifix breathable mouth strips caught the attention of Mark Cuban on a 2019 episode of Shark Tank, and social media gym bros have been posting videos of their hardcore wellness routines capped with 50 knuckle push-ups, a neon green nootropic protein shake, and a mouth-taped-shut 9 pm bedtime ever since.

The goal of mouth tape is to force yourself to breathe through your nose. Picture how horrible it is to sleep when your nose is congested and you can only breathe through your mouth. The reverse of that is why nasal breathing is so important to quality sleep. Breathing through your nose humidies incoming air and increases the oxygen flow to your lungs and, ultimately, your blood vessels and brain. More airflow through your nose has also been shown to decrease snoring and lead to a better night’s rest.

But while the benefits of nasal breathing are clear, is taping your mouth shut the best way to make it happen? 

A Poor Man's CPAP?

For people who struggle with sleep apnea, doctors recommend a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine to create continuous ventilation in the air passages while sleeping. In other words, we already have a line of medical devices designed to open up nasal breathing, so do we need a rudimentary fix on top of that? While sleep apnea and CPAP research is pretty extensive, we don’t have the same clinical trials for mouth tape.

Most evidence is anecdotal, and randomized studies have tended to use small test groups and yielded inconclusive evidence. One 2009 study — before this was a viral TikTok trend — found that mouth taping had no noticeable effect on asthma control. If anything, mouth tape may actually make breathing worse. Harvard Health doctors advise that mouth tape can lead to hampered breathing and disrupted sleep.

All things considered, if you have a medical condition that’s making it difficult to get a full night’s sleep, it’s best to talk to your doctor — and it’s unlikely your doctor will recommend mouth tape.

Other Side Effects

Medical professionals also warn that mouth tape could have other side effects. A common one is skin irritation or even a potential allergic reaction, which checks out. Facial skin is sensitive (cue flashbacks of middle school acne breakouts), and pressing a foreign substance onto your skin for eight hours a day will certainly risk some itchiness or even a rash.

Some potential side effects are even less pleasant to think about. As Colorado-based sleep medicine specialist Kathryn Palmer points out, acid reflux with your mouth taped shut could cause stomach contents to enter your lungs, which is not good. If you’re congested or have a cough and you tape your mouth shut, you can end up with some seriously obstructed breathing.

Lastly — and maybe this is just me — but it’s sort of claustrophobic, right? I don’t need the extra anxiety of trying to fall asleep while feeling like my lips are trapped.

So Should You Try It?

In summary, medical evidence is inconclusive, and experts warn that the potential side effects outweigh the possible benefits. The most natural way to improve your sleep is to develop healthy sleep habits and allow yourself time to wind down and relax in the evening. For medical conditions, it’s best to seek advice from a specialist.

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Jimmy Leonard

Jimmy Leonard

Jimmy is a marketing content strategist and copywriter who moonlights as the editor of Sueño Labs. He prefers to sleep with all air passageways un-taped.

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